Tammy M. Harrington, 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.


The Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County v. Tennessee Department of Education,  No. M2022-01786-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 10, 2024) (Chancellor Anne C. Martin; Judge Tammy M. Harrington; Judge Valerie L. Smith). This appeal concerns a lawsuit challenging the Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program, Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-2601, et seq. (“the ESA Act”). A group of parents and taxpayers from Davidson and Shelby Counties (“Plaintiffs”) sued state officials (“State Defendants”) in the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”). In their operative amended complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that the ESA Act violates the Tennessee Constitution and state law by diverting taxpayer funds appropriated for public schools in Davidson and Shelby Counties to private schools, resulting in unique harm to these localities. A group of parents with children eligible for the ESA Act (“Bah Defendants”) and another group (“Greater Praise Defendants”) (all defendants collectively, “Defendants”) intervened in defense of the ESA Act. Defendants filed motions to dismiss, which the Trial Court granted on grounds that Plaintiffs lack standing and their claims are not ripe for judicial review. In reaching its decision, the Trial Court found that the ESA Act has not caused the affected counties any unequal hardship. Plaintiffs appeal the dismissal of their first, second, and sixth causes of action only. We conclude that the Trial Court erred by deciding factual disputes over the impact of the ESA Act on Plaintiffs at the motion to dismiss stage. Plaintiffs alleged enough in their amended complaint to establish standing both as parents and taxpayers. Plaintiffs’ claims also are ripe for judicial review. We, therefore, reverse the judgment of the Trial Court as to Plaintiffs’ first, second, and sixth causes of action and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Hill v. Hill, No. E2021-00399-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 26, 2023).  This appeal stems from a lengthy and acrimonious divorce, wherein the trial court, inter alia, divided the parties’ marital assets and debts, established a permanent parenting plan and child support obligations, and declined to award alimony to the husband. Entry of the trial court’s divorce decree did not occur for approximately twenty-two months following the trial, however, which the husband argues on appeal constituted a due process violation. Husband also appeals the trial court’s valuation of certain assets, its division of the marital estate, its imputation of income to him for child support purposes, and its failure to join his mother as a necessary and indispensable party. Following our review, we affirm the court’s classification of the parties’ marital residence as marital property. We also affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the husband’s contempt petition, its denial of the husband’s motion to join his mother as a party, and its imputation of income to the husband due to his voluntary unemployment. We vacate the trial court’s valuation of the parties’ retirement accounts and its division of marital property, and we remand those issues to the trial court for further proceedings consistentwith this opinion.


Lovelady v. Lovelady, E2023-00020-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 10, 2023).  Because the order appealed from does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.


State of Tennessee v. Banning, E2022-00188-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Oct. 18, 2022).  The Defendant, Justin M. Banning, was originally sentenced to a term of four years and placed on probation. Thereafter, the Defendant committed a new criminal offense, engaged in unlawful substance use, and violated a no-contact order with the victim. As a consequence, the trial court revoked the suspended sentence and ordered that the Defendant serve the original four-year sentence in custody. On appeal, the Defendant contends the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his suspended sentence in its entirety. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. Bean, E2021-01492-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Oct. 3, 2022). The Defendant-Appellant, Ethan Newton Bean, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault in case number C-26054 and one count of aggravated assault in case number C- 26203. The Defendant received consecutive five-year sentences for each count, to be served under supervised probation. He concedes on appeal that the trial court properly revoked his probation but contends that it abused its discretion in ordering the remainder of his sentence to be served in confinement. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. McMillian, E2020-00610-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 23, 2022).  Defendant, Franklin Monroe McMillan, was convicted by a jury of two counts of rape of a child and was sentenced by the trial court to a total effective sentence of eighty years. On appeal, Defendant contends that the forensic interview of the child victim was erroneously admitted, that the trial court improperly denied his motion to exclude DNA evidence, and that the prosecutor made improper statements during closing rebuttal argument. Following our review of the entire record, the briefs of the parties, and the arguments of counsel, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. S.L. E2021-00418-COA-R3-JV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 1, 2022). A juvenile was adjudicated delinquent in juvenile court, as well as circuit court on de novo appeal, for rape of a child and incest. On appeal to this Court, the juvenile argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he committed those offenses. 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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