William (Bill) K. Rogers, 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.

 

Schanzenbach v. Alethea Skeen, No. E2023-00457-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 28, 2024). This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of a petition for an order of protection based upon allegations of stalking. This is one of four cases in which the petitioner sought an order of protection against four women. We affirm the trial court’s denial of the petition in this case. Dissenting Opinion.

 

Schanzenbach v. Rowan Skeen, No. E2023-00458-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 28, 2024). This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of a petition for an order of protection based upon allegations of stalking. This is one of four cases in which the petitioner sought an order of protection against four women. We affirm the trial court’s denial of the petition in this case. Dissenting Opinion.

 

Schanzenbach v. Denise Skeen, No. E2023-00459-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 28, 2024). This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of a petition for an order of protection based upon allegations of stalking. This is one of four cases in which the petitioner sought an order of protection against four women. We affirm the trial court’s denial of the petition in this case. Dissenting Opinion.

 

Schanzenbach v. Hanzlik, No. E2023-00455-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 28, 2024). This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of a petition for an order of protection based upon allegations of stalking. This is one of four cases in which the petitioner sought an order of protection against four women. We affirm the trial court’s denial of the petition in this case. Dissenting Opinion.

 

State of Tennessee v. Notaro,  E2022-01642-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct 17, 2023). Michael Notaro, Defendant, pled guilty to three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor with an agreed-upon sentence of 10 years for each conviction, to be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of 30 years at 100% in exchange for the State agreeing not to seek further prosecution for any other offenses under investigation. Defendant did not seek a direct appeal of his sentence. Instead, Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure in which he argued that his sentence was illegal. The trial court dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. Defendant appeals. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Collier,  E2022-00146-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.  Crim. App. Aug. 7,  2023).  The Defendant, Danny Lynn Collier, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s ordering him to serve a four-year sentence in confinement after revoking his probation, arguing that the trial court should have elected to place him back on supervised probation. Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Weaver, Jr. v. State of Tennessee, No. E2022-00228-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. May 3, 2023). The petitioner, Harry Clint Weaver, Jr., appeals the denial of his petition for postconvictionrelief, which petition challenged his 2019 Sullivan County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, three counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and aggravated domestic assault, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in allowing trial counsel to remain in the courtroom while the petitioner testified during the evidentiary hearing and that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

 

Schanzenbach v. Hanzlik,  E2020-01195-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug 26,  2022).  This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of a petition for an order of protection based upon allegations of stalking. This is one of four cases in which the petitioner sought an order of protection against four women. We vacate the trial court’s determination and remand for sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to facilitate appellate review.

 

Schanzenbach v. Hanzlik,  E2020-01199-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug 26,  2022).  This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of a petition for an order of protection based upon allegations of stalking. This is one of four cases in which the petitioner sought an order of protection against four women. We vacate the trial court’s determination and remand for sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to facilitate appellate review.

 

Schanzenbach v. Hanzlik,  E2020-01198-COA-R3-CV (Tenn.  Crim. App. Aug 26,  2022).  This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of a petition for an order of protection based upon allegations of stalking. This is one of four cases in which the petitioner sought an order of protection against four women. We vacate the trial court’s determination and remand for sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to facilitate appellate review.

 

Schanzenbach v. Hanzlik,  E2020-01196-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug 26,  2022).  This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of a petition for an order of protection based upon allegations of stalking. This is one of four cases in which the petitioner sought an order of protection against four women. We vacate the trial court’s determination and remand for sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to facilitate appellate review.

 

State of Tennessee v. White-McCray,  E2020-01735-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. July 18,  2022).  The Defendant, Jamee White-McCray, was convicted in the Sullivan County Criminal Court of facilitation of attempted first degree premeditated murder and facilitation of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and received an effective ten-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by not imposing a sentence of split confinement. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

Moosman v. State of Tennessee, No. E2021-00639-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. June 21, 2022).  The petitioner, Anthony Lee Moosman, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, which petition challenged his guilty-pleaded convictions of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, especially aggravated burglary, attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and unlawful carrying of a weapon, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were not entered knowingly and voluntarily. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of postconviction relief.

 

State of Tennessee v. Green, No. E2020-00968-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 30, 2021).  The Defendant pleaded guilty to several drug offenses stemming from a 2006 arrest, and the trial court sentenced him to a fifteen-year sentence. The Defendant appealed, it was denied, and he filed multiple motions challenging his convictions. Most recently, he filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence or correct a clerical error, contending that he had not received 128 days of pretrial jail credits. The trial court denied the motion, finding that it did not have jurisdiction to amend his sentence and that any alleged error in calculating time should be directed to the Tennessee Department of Correction. It is from that judgment that the Defendant now appeals. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

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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