James F. Goodwin, Judge


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.


State of Tennessee v. Parker, No. E2023-00149-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 22, 2024). Defendant, James Leon Parker, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his motion for resentencing pursuant to the Drug Free Zone Act (“DFZA”). Defendant was convicted in 2008 of several drug-related offenses, including one count of
sale of .5 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school (Count 6) and one count of delivery of .5 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school (Count 7). The trial court merged Counts 6 and 7 and imposed a sentence of 25 years on those counts, which the court ordered to run consecutively to his effective eight-year sentence in the other counts, for a total effective sentence of 33 years. In 2022, Defendant filed a pro se motion for resentencing under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-432(h), and the trial court appointed counsel. While Defendant’s motion was pending in the trial court, Governor Bill Lee granted Defendant executive clemency, ordering that Defendant’s 25-year sentence in Counts 6 and 7 be commuted, which allowed Defendant to immediately become parole eligible on those counts. Based on Governor Lee’s commutation order, the trial court determined that Defendant was ineligible for resentencing and dismissed Defendant’s motion “without a hearing due to that ineligibility.” Defendant appeals that dismissal and asks this Court to review it under as a writ of certiorari. Following our review, we grant certiorari and reverse and remand for a hearing on Defendant’s motion.


State of Tennessee v. Taylor, No. E2023-00791-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 9, 2024). The Defendant, Anthony Lynn Taylor, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his effective four-year sentence in confinement. On appeal the Defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion by finding that he absconded from probation and that the trial court failed to place sufficient findings on the record to justify placing his sentence into effect. Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. DoxtaterNo. E2023-00261-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Dec. 1, 2023). The Defendant, Duane R. Doxtater, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his effective ten year probationary sentence for multiple convictions stemming from two separate global guilty plea agreements. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by fully revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. WilliamsNo. E2023-002-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 31, 2023).  Editor’s Note:  no summary readily available.  Parole issue.


State of Tennessee v. CarpenterNo. E2022-01352-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 31, 2023).  The Defendant, Jermaine R. Carpenter, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his second motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.


State of Tennessee v. WoodsNo. E2022-00-CCA-R3-CD758 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 9, 2023). The Defendant, Douglas Wayne Woods, was convicted by a Sullivan County Criminal Court jury of two counts of perjury, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. § 39-16-(a)(1) (2018) (subsequently amended). The trial court imposed an effective sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. CavinNo. E2020-01333-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 8, 2023). The primary issue presented is whether a criminal restitution order is a final and appealable order under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3 when the order directs a defendant to pay a set amount of restitution without payment terms. A trial court ordered the defendant who had pleaded guilty to burglary and theft to pay $5,500 in restitution during his probationary period. The Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the appeal, holding that the restitution order was not a final and appealable order because it lacked payment terms. We hold that the restitution order was a final order. Tennessee’s criminal restitution statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-304, allows—but does not require—trial courts to specify payment terms. Here, the trial court’s restitution order resolved all issues, was reasonable, and appropriately considered the victim’s pecuniary loss and the defendant’s ability to pay.  Concurring Opinion:  I concur in the Court’s judgment reversing the Court of Criminal Appeals, and I agree with much of the majority opinion’s analysis, including its determination that the trial court did not err in ordering Johnny Cavin to pay restitution. I also agree with the majority’s conclusion that the restitution order here was final and appealable, but I reach that conclusion by way of a slightly different analysis. I write separately to explain how my reasoning differs from that of the majority. While the majority asks whether the trial court’s judgment satisfied the statutory requirements for restitution orders, I would focus instead on whether the record shows that the trial court thought it was finished with the case. In my view, the restitution order here was final because nothing in the record or on the face of the order suggests that the trial court believed there was more to be done, not because it did everything it was supposed to do.


State of Tennessee v. ConleyNo. E2022-00237-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 31, 2023).  Defendant, Hopie Conley, pled guilty to two counts of aggravated assault, one count of reckless aggravated assault, and one count of reckless endangerment, with an agreed sentence of six years, split confinement, with Defendant serving 180 days incarcerated and the remainder of her sentence on supervised probation. Following a restitution hearing, the trial court ordered Defendant pay $83,366.68 in total restitution through monthly payments of $500. On appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred in determining the restitution amount because the total amount awarded could not be satisfied prior to the end of her sentence, Defendant lacked the financial ability to pay the ordered monthly restitution amount, and the State failed to prove the victim’s pecuniary loss. The State concedes that the trial court erred in ordering a monthly restitution payment schedule that would not satisfy the total restitution award prior to the end of Defendant’s sentence. However, it contends the trial court properly determined the monthly restitution amountand submits that the matter does not need to be remanded. After reviewing the record, the briefs and oral arguments of the parties, and considering the applicable law, we reverse the judgments of the trial court in part and remand for a new restitution hearing consistent with this opinion.


State of Tennessee v. JohnsonNo. E2020-00098-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 19, 2022). The Defendant-Appellant, Marlon J. Johnson, Jr., appeals the revocation of his six-year probationary sentence for two counts of aggravated burglary, domestic assault, misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor theft, and misdemeanor false imprisonment. The Defendant conceded the probation violation before the trial court and on appeal. Accordingly, the sole issue presented for our review is whether the trial court erred in ordering the Defendant to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Upon review, we affirm.


State of Tennessee v. JonesNo. E2021-00701-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 19, 2022) (memorandum opinion). The pro se Appellant, Daniel H. Jones, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s orders summarily dismissing his motions to recuse the trial judge and motion for relief from final judgment. See Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02. The State has filed a motion to affirm the trial court’s judgments pursuant to Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Following our review, we conclude that the State’s motion is well-taken and affirm the judgments of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. Hogan, No. E2020-01496-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 22, 2022).  The Defendant, Michael Ray Hogan, appeals as of right from the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of the remainder of his four-year sentence based upon his committing new offenses, failing to report his arrests to his probation officer, and for failing to report to his probation officer. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by: (1) finding that the Defendant violated his probation because the firearm and suspected marijuana were seized in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights; (2) considering proof that occurred after the violation warrant was filed; (3) and requiring the Defendant to serve the balance of his sentence in custody. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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.


"The Book" - Information on Tennessee Trial Judges Copyright © 2023 by BirdDog Law, LLC. All Rights Reserved.