Court of Appeals coming to UTM

The Western Section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals will hear four cases at Watkins Auditorium in the Boling University Center on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.

The court will hear the arguments for four cases, occurring at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. The panel will include Judges Steven Stafford and Brandon Gibson of the Tennessee Court of Appeals, and sitting as special judges on the panel are Circuit Court Judge Jeff Parham and Chancellor Michael Maloan, both of the 27th Judicial District. Stafford, Parham, and Maloan are all UTM alumni.

These four cases were previously tried at courts in Crockett and Shelby counties.

The Franklin Square Towne Homeowners, Inc. v. Kyle case will be heard during the 10 a.m. session. The dispute involves a construction of a driveway onto a homeowners association’s property. The trial court previously ruled that the driveway was intentionally constructed onto a homeowners association’s property and constituted an encroachment, and that removing the driveway would decrease the value of properties of both parties. The defendants’ driveway was allowed to remain in place.

The 11 a.m. session will consider the Kocher v. Bearden case. The dispute involves a family’s son who was struck by a truck while riding his bicycle to school. The lawsuit in state court cited that the driver’s negligent driving caused the accident, and the case was resolved by a confidential settlement.

The Steven J. Thomas, et. al. v. Jeffrey M. Thomas, et. al. v. Delmus L. Thomas, et. al. case will be heard during the 1 p.m. session. This lawsuit involves a family farm dispute among the parents and each of their two sons.

At 2 p.m., the Town of Collierville v. Abbington Center case will be reviewed. This dispute involves the town of Collierville alleging Abbington Center of violating an ordinance that prohibits erection of any new billboards. This ordinance is subject to the “grandfather clause,” which allows billboards that were legally in existence at the time of the ordinance was passed to continue to exist.  Billboards can be reconstructed under this clause, if necessary.

Court of Appeals hearings do not involve juries, witnesses or testimonies. Attorneys from both sides either present oral or written arguments directly to the judges. Each side will be allowed 15 minutes for arguments and the judges have agreed to use the remainder of each hour answering questions from UTM students.

“It is a rare honor for UTM to be able to host the Court, and we encourage students, faculty, and staff to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to see the court in action,” said Dr. Chris Baxter, professor of Political Science.

Tennessee has two intermediate-level appellate courts, the Court of Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court of Appeals, created in 1925, hears civil and administrative cases from trial courts along with certain boards and commissions. The Court has 12 members who sit in panels of three and meet monthly in Nashville, Knoxville and Jackson. It may also meet occasionally in alternate locations.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals last heard cases at UTM in September 2015.

Baxter hopes to see large crowds at each of the cases and asks that attendees be respectful and quiet during oral arguments. Attendees must also remain seated until after oral arguments and the judges’ comments have concluded.

For more information about the court, visit

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