Mark L. Hayes, Judge

Biography

Reports of Cases Reviewed by Appellate Courts – Beginning Jan. 1, 2022

Text is the appellate court’s summary of the opinion.

Scroll down for important information.

 

Johnson v. Rose, Warden, No. W2023-01056-CCA-R3-HC (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 9, 2024).  Petitioner, Larry Johnson, appeals from the Lake County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, in which he alleged that he received an illegal sentence. We conclude Petitioner has failed to timely appeal or to follow procedural requirements, and the interest of justice does not require waiver of the requirements. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

 

State of Tennessee v. Locust,  No. W2022-01026-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 28, 2023). Defendant, Willie Locust, was convicted after a bench trial in Count 1 of possession of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver, a Class B felony; in Count 2 of possession of more than 0.5 grams of methamphetamine with the intent to sell or deliver, a Class B felony; in Count 3 of simple possession of Xanax, a Class A misdemeanor; in Count 8 of unlawful possession of brass knuckles, a Class A misdemeanor; in Count 9 of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony; and in Count 10 of possession of a firearm by a convicted violent felon, a Class B felony. For these convictions, Defendant was sentenced to an effective twenty-eight years in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred by denying his pretrial motions to suppress the evidence obtained from a search of  his hotel room; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; and (3) the trial court erred by ordering partial consecutive service of his sentences. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, because the trial court erroneously merged Counts 9 and 10, we order the trial court to reinstate the judgment in Count 9 and to impose a sentence on that count. We also remand for correction of a clerical error in the judgment in Count 3 to show the conviction offense as Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-418 rather than section 39-17-417.

 

Moore v. State of Tennessee, No. W2023-00798-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 11, 2023). The pro se petitioner, Henry Moore, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction or habeas corpus relief, which petition challenged his guilty-pleaded conviction of evading arrest, alleging that the stop and seizure of his vehicle was unlawful, that his guilty plea was involuntary, that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, and that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Because the petitioner’s claims are not cognizable in a habeas corpus proceeding, the trial court properly denied habeas corpus relief. Because, however, some of the petitioner’s claims are cognizable in post-conviction proceedings and because the petition was not untimely, the trial court erred by summarily dismissing the petition as one for post-conviction relief. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further post-conviction proceedings.

 

State of Tennessee v. Simpson,  No. W2022-01806-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Nov. 15, 2023). Defendant, Tailor James Simpson, appeals the trial court’s order revoking his probationary sentence for aggravated burglary and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell or deliver. Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Johnson v. Genovese, Warden, No. W2022-00752-CCA-R3-HC (Tenn. Crim. App. June 8, 2023).  Marcus Johnson, Petitioner, sought habeas corpus relief for the third time after his convictions for one count of felony murder, one count of especially aggravated robbery, and one count of aggravated assault.  See State v. Marcus Johnson, No. W2002-00987-CCA-R3-CD, 2003 WL 22080778, at *14 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 4, 2003), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 26, 2004); Marcus Johnson v. State, No. W2007-02664-CCA-R3-PC, 2008 WL 4866817, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 10, 2008), no perm. app. filed.  The petition was dismissed without a hearing after the habeas corpus court determined that Petitioner was merely raising issues that had previously been litigated.  We determine that the habeas corpus court properly dismissed the petition and affirm the judgment of that court.

 

Burns v. Ford Construction Co., No. W2022-00492-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 18. 2023).  Appellant/employee brought this retaliatory discharge case against Appellee, his former employer. Appellant alleged that he was fired in retaliation for claiming workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer, finding that Appellant failed to meet his burden to show a causal connection between the filing of his workers’ compensation claim and the termination of his employment. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

 

State of Tennessee v. Turner,  No. W2022-00584-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 6, 2023).  Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Roderick Turner, was convicted in the Dyer County Circuit Court of three counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony, and one count of convicted felon in possession of a handgun, a Class E felony. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender to ten years for each aggravated assault conviction and four years for the convicted felon in possession of a handgun conviction and ordered that the sentences be served consecutively, for a total effective sentence of thirty-four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his aggravated assault convictions and that the trial court erred in ordering consecutive sentences. Based on our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. We remand for the entry of corrected judgments in counts one and two to reflect that the Defendant’s convictions for misdemeanor assault were merged into the aggravated assault convictions involving the same victims.

 

Bennett v. Genovese, Warden,  No. W2021-01507-CCA-R3-HC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 14, 2022).  The petitioner, Cortez Bennett, appeals the summary denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged his Lake County Circuit Court Jury convictions of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery, arguing that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief on grounds that the sentence imposed for his conviction of first degree murder was imposed in direct contravention of a statute, that the count alleging attempted first degree murder was void, and that his convictions of especially aggravated robbery violate double jeopardy principles. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Understanding the Limitations and Use of the Information Found in This Book

Tennessee’s trial judges resolve hundreds of thousands of legal and factual issues in tens of thousands of cases every single year.  No appeal is filed in the vast percentage of those cases, indicating that while the “losing” party may not like a ruling on a particular issue, that party understands there was an appropriate reason for the judge’s decision or, at a minimum, the judge was acting within his or her discretion.

 

Of course, a small number of decisions of trial judges do result in an appeal. Experienced trial lawyers know that the number of cases appealed out of a particular trial judge’s court does not, in and of itself, reveal much about the trial judge. For example, some judges hear more complex cases than others, and those cases are more likely to be appealed. Convictions in child sex abuse cases are frequently appealed, as are many criminal cases resulting in long sentences. There are a large number of parental rights termination cases that find their way to the appellate courts.  Judges who routinely try those types of cases will, other things being equal, see more of their cases reviewed by appellate courts than judges who do not see such cases.

 

Second, certain litigants (and certain lawyers) are more likely to appeal a case than others.  Thus, judges who have those litigants or lawyers regularly appear in their courtrooms will find more cases reviewed by the appellate courts.

 

For these and other reasons, the reader is cautioned not to read too much into the number of cases appealed from a court.  Stated differently, there is no reason to believe that a judge who has ten cases reviewed by an appellate court in a single year is a “worse” judge than one who has one case appealed, or that a judge who has three cases appealed is a “better” judge than one who has nine cases appealed.

 

Next, the number of times a judge’s ruling is reversed by an appellate court is not necessarily indicative of the quality of his or her work. For example, experienced lawyers know that there are “holes in the law,” i.e., cases where there is no law directly on point and the judge is forced to predict what an appellate court would rule on the issue. The fact that a judge decided an open legal issue one way and an appellate court decided it another way does not mean that the trial judge was “wrong” or does not understand the law. It simply means that the trial judge had a different view of what the law should be than the appellate court that decided the issue. A trial judge is not blessed with a crystal ball that can with 100 percent accuracy forecast how an appellate court will rule on an undecided legal issue.

 

In addition, the trial court is sometimes not provided with the same in-depth legal arguments and law that is supplied to the appellate court by the parties, or which is provided by law clerks at the appellate level (many trial courts do not have law clerks). The trial judge may have reached the same conclusion as the appellate court if he or she had been supplied with additional law or argument.

 

Finally, the law changes constantly, and the trial judge may rule on a case based on today’s law, which may evolve between the time of that ruling and the issuance of an opinion of the appellate court. In such cases, the reversal of the case by the appellate court is a question of timing of the original court decision as compared to changes in the law, not one of error by the trial court.

 

So, what is the value of this book?  How can the trial lawyer use it to help his or her clients given the limitations expressed above? Permit me to digress slightly.

 

You have seen the coffee cups or t-shirts that proclaim, “A good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer knows the judge.”

 

Some read this phrase as suggesting that the “great lawyer” is one who has an improper relationship with the judge – that he or she can use a personal relationship to improperly influence the judge.  But most lawyers know better.  Most lawyers understand that “knowing the judge” means knowing the judge’s background, preferences concerning the presentation of evidence (including exhibits), arguments of motions, drafting of proposed orders, and given that experience, how he or she is likely to rule on a particular issue.  “Knowing the judge” also means knowing the local rules, local forms, local customs, and what things irritate the judge (and every judge is irritated by at least one thing that lawyers or litigants may do).

 

Many lawyers, particularly those in more rural areas of the state or who limit their practice to one area of law, understand the personality and preferences of the judges they see on a regular basis. Many of these lawyers may have a fair advantage appearing before that judge. (The advantage is “fair” because it results from experience and knowledge.)  That advantage – knowing how the judge thinks and his or her preferences – is not outcome-determinative, but it still may be an advantage, similar to a sports team playing on their home field.

 

Why did I say it “may” be an advantage, given what I said earlier about the benefits of “knowing the judge?”  Because simply knowing the judge’s thought processes and preferences is not enough. You still need to have the law and the facts on your client’s side.  And you need to be prepared to be able to give the judge what he or she needs to know to make a ruling.

 

So, the purpose of “The Book” is to give Tennessee lawyers case-related information to help them understand the trial judge who will rule on their client’s case or preside over a jury trial. By looking at past appellate court rulings arising from cases decided by the trial judge, anyone unfamiliar with a judge can get a “feel” for the judge. The case data contained herein does not compare with daily or weekly appearances in front of the judge on issues like a given case, but it is readily available information that give you an idea of how the judge has ruled in the past on a variety of matters.

 

The cases included are those originally decided by the trial judge that were in appellate court opinions released on or after January 1, 2022.  Note that there are a substantial number of judges who first took office in 2022 and thus it is reasonable to assume that there will be no appellate decisions for such judges until late 2023 or 2024.

 

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