Larry J. Wallace, 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. Rich, M2022-00435-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 8, 2023).  Defendant, Deirdre Marie Rich, appeals from her conviction for first degree premediated murder, for which she received a sentence of life imprisonment. Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction; (2) the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on self-defense; and (3) the trial court erred in admitting entries from the victim’s ex-wife’s journal in violation of Defendant’s right to confrontation. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Clark v. Givens, No. M2022-00341-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 2, 2023). A homeowner, displeased with the work performed by a handyman, brought suit, seeking damages and relief under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The handyman counterclaimed for the value of the oral contract for services, asserting the homeowner breached the contract by improperly terminating it. The circuit court denied relief to both parties, and the parties appeal. We conclude that the circuit court did not err in determining that there was no enforceable contract, precluding relief for the handyman. Likewise, the homeowner is not entitled to relief because the evidence does not preponderate against the circuit court’s finding that there was no misrepresentation and that the handyman rendered services to earn certain prepaid amounts. The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.


State of Tennessee v. Perry, M2022-00643-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 21, 2023).  A Cheatham County jury convicted the Defendant, Charles D. Perry, of two counts of rape of a child, and the trial court entered an agreed effective sentence of fifteen years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the prosecution was time-barred because it was commenced outside the statute of limitations; (2) his verdict was not unanimous; (3) the trial court deprived his right to present a defense by limiting expert testimony; (4) the trial court erred when it admitted character evidence in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); (5) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; and (6) the cumulative effect of the trial court’s errors entitles him to a new trial. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


In Re Estate of Ervin Jack Quinn, No. M2022-00532-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 7, 2023).  A surviving spouse brought this action against the estate of her deceased husband and his ex-wife and children. The surviving spouse sought to set aside the decedent’s inter vivos transfer of three properties to the ex-wife and children and/or to have the value of the transferred property included in the decedent’s net estate under Tennessee Code Annotated § 31-1-105, which applies when a decedent transferred property “with an intent to defeat the surviving spouse’s elective or distributive share.” The decedent conveyed the properties within three days of his death by quitclaim deed for no consideration other than love and affection. One of the deeds was executed by the decedent, and the other two deeds were executed by the decedent’s attorney-in-fact, his daughter. The chancellor referred all issues in dispute to a special master who found that the properties conveyed by the attorney-in-fact were conveyed with the intent to defeat the plaintiff’s elective share but that the third tract, which was conveyed by the decedent, was not. The chancellor adopted the report and recommendations of the special master. This appeal followed. After considering the factors identified in Finley v. Finley, 726 S.W.2d 923 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1986) and the totality of the circumstances, we hold that all three properties were conveyed with the intent to defeat the plaintiff’s elective share. Thus, we reverse, in part, the judgment of the trial court and remand for entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion, including a recalculation of the surviving spouse’s elective share based on a net estate that includes all three properties at issue.


State of Tennessee v. Primm, M2021-00976-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 13, 2023). Defendant, Isiah J. Primm, was convicted after a jury trial of two counts of first degree felony murder; two counts of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, a Class A felony; and one count of conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony; and sentenced to an effective life plus forty years in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the jury should have been instructed on self-defense, facilitation, and attempt as lesser-included offenses of first degree murder; (3) the jury should have been instructed on the State’s duty to gather and preserve evidence; (4) the State committed a Brady violation by waiting until the morning of trial to provide Defendant with a copy of Mr. Tidwell’s cell phone report; (5) the State knew or should have known that one of the victims introduced false testimony; (6) the trial court should have excluded evidence of drugs found in the apartment where Defendant was staying; (7) Defendant’s Fourteenth Amendment right was violated because the jury venire contained no African American jurors; and (8) the trial court erred by imposing partial consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court; however, because the trial court did not sign three of the judgments, we remand the case for entry of amended judgments.
Andreacchio v. Hamilton,  M2021-01021-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 13, 2022).  This appeal involves a claim of intentional or, alternatively, negligent infliction of emotional distress.  Christian Andreacchio, son of Todd and Rae Andreacchio (“Plaintiffs”), died in Meridian, Mississippi.  The Meridian Police Department ruled Christian Andreacchio’s death a suicide.  Plaintiffs contend that, contrary to the official conclusion, their son was murdered.  Joseph (aka Joel) Hamilton (“Defendant”) created a Facebook page to express his own opinions on the matter.  Defendant has argued publicly in favor of the Meridian Police Department’s conclusion.  Plaintiffs sued Defendant and John Does 1-100 in the Circuit Court for Dickson County (“the Trial Court”) for distributing Christian Andreacchio’s autopsy photographs online.  The photographs were public records released by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.  Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Trial Court granted.  Plaintiffs appeal.  Plaintiffs argue that Defendant exceeded the bounds of constitutionally protected speech by distributing their son’s autopsy photographs online.  The undisputed material facts show that the information Defendant is alleged to have shared is truthful information, public records, concerning a matter of public significance.  We hold, as a matter of law, that Plaintiffs cannot prevail on their claims.  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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