W. Mark Ward, Judge (Service Ended August 31, 2022)


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. Young, No. W2020-01173-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 14, 2022). A jury convicted the Defendant, Corey Young, of possession of three hundred grams or more of methamphetamine with the intent to sell in a school zone, a Class A felony; possession of three hundred grams or more of methamphetamine with the intent to deliver in a school zone, a Class A felony; two counts of possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, a Class D felony; and two counts of possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony drug offense, a Class C felony. He received an effective sentence of forty-one years. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and asserts that his right to confront witnesses was violated. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions and remand for correction of the judgment forms.


Phillips v. State of Tennessee, No. W2019-01927-SC-R11-PC (Tenn. June 10, 2022).  In this post-conviction matter, we clarify the appropriate burden of proof and legal standard to be applied when a criminal defendant claims ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to move to suppress evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds. The Petitioner, Tommie Phillips (“Petitioner”) was convicted of several offenses, including felony murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping, and especially aggravated burglary. The Court of Criminal Appeals modified the especially aggravated burglary conviction to aggravated burglary. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, asserting, among other things, that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective by failing to seek suppression of various statements he made to police on Fourth Amendment grounds. The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the decision of the post-conviction court. We granted the Petitioner’s application for permission to appeal and directed the parties to discuss the applicable standard of review in this case. Specifically, the Court sought to clarify the petitioner’s burden to establish prejudice when he or she alleges counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress on Fourth Amendment grounds. Upon our review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that to establish prejudice with this type of claim, the petitioner must prove that “his Fourth Amendment claim is meritorious and that there is a reasonable probability that the verdict would have been different absent the excludable evidence.” Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 375 (1986). In applying this standard to the case before us, we conclude that the Court of Criminal Appeals properly affirmed the post-conviction court’s denial of relief. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.


Henry Lee Jones v. State of Tennessee, No. W2020-01347-CCA-R10-PD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. March 1, 2022). Henry Lee Jones, Petitioner, filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief with the assistance of the Office of the Post-Conviction Defender (“OPCD”). The post-conviction court determined that the petition stated a colorable claim and appointed the OPCD to represent Petitioner. Shortly thereafter, the effects of COVID-19 began to impact and impede the day-to-day operations of parts of the Tennessee court system. The OPCD, citing the voluminous record and inability to fully investigate potential claims because of the impact of COVID-19, sought several extensions of time in which to file an amended petition. Seven months after the OPCD was appointed to represent Petitioner, the post-conviction court removed the OPCD from representation and appointed private counsel to represent Petitioner without notice or a hearing. The OPCD sought an extraordinary appeal to this Court pursuant to Rule 10 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure. This Court granted the application and directed the parties to address the following issues: (1) “whether the post-conviction court abused its discretion in removing the [OPCD] as counsel of record;” and (2) “whether the [OPCD] has the authority to act as counsel of record for [Petitioner] in this Court.” After review, we determine that the OPCD had the authority to appeal the removal and that the post-conviction court improperly removed the OPCD from the case. As a result, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


State of Tennessee v. Marcus Malone, No. W2020-00364-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 24, 2022). The Defendant, Marcus Malone, appeals as of right from his convictions for second degree murder, attempted first degree murder, five counts of attempted second degree murder, twelve counts of aggravated assault, six counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, for which the trial court imposed an effective sentence of one hundred thirty-three years. The Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress his police statement; (2) the trial court erred by failing to inquire into the Defendant’s request for substitute counsel; (3) the trial court erred by instructing the jury on criminal responsibility and by failing to instruct the jury on facilitation or self-defense; (4) the evidence was insufficient to establish his identity as the shooter; (5) his sentence is excessive; (6) the trial court erred by imposing partial consecutive service; and (7) his aggregate sentence is unconstitutional in light of his status as a juvenile at the time of the offenses. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.


Travis Seiber v. State of Tennessee, No. W2020-01649-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 2, 2022). The petitioner, Travis Seiber, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of aggravated robbery, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.


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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