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Clayton v. Herron

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 20, 2015

MARK CLAYTON
v.
ROY HERRON, et. al.

January 27, 2015 Session

Direct Appeal from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 14-C-1743 Thomas W. Brothers, Judge

Mark Clayton, Pro se.

James Gerard Stranch, III, Benjamin A. Gastel, and Seamus Timothy Kelly, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Roy Herron, J. Gerard Stranch, IV, Mark Epps, Alan Secrest, County Party Development Committee, Sylvia Woods, Jay Bailey, Jeanette Jackson, Keith Jackson, Terry Lee, Dr. Geeta McMillan, and Barbara Wagner.

Brandon O. Gibson, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Arnold B. Goldin, J., and Kenny Armstrong, J., joined.

OPINION

BRANDON O. GIBSON, JUDGE.

I. Facts & Procedural History

Mark Clayton ("Plaintiff") filed this lawsuit against Roy Herron, J. Gerard Stranch, IV, Mark Epps, Alan Secrest, County Party Development Committee, Sylvia Woods, Jay Bailey, Jeanette Jackson, Keith Jackson, Terry Lee, Dr. Geeta McMillan, and Barbara Wagner ("Defendants") on April 29, 2014. According to Plaintiff's complaint, he is "a two-time Democratic candidate and one-time nominee for U.S. Senate in the Tennessee Democratic Party." Plaintiff claimed that the Defendants falsely stated that Plaintiff "is not a 'real Democrat'" and misappropriated funds to wage a third-party write-in campaign against him. According to Defendants, this litigation arose out of the Tennessee Democratic Party's decision to disqualify Plaintiff from appearing on the August 2014 democratic primary ballot for the office of Governor of the State of Tennessee. In any event, Plaintiff's thirty-page pro se complaint asserted numerous "causes of action" against the defendants, including violations of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 39-16-702 and/or 703 (criminal statutes regarding perjury and aggravated perjury); section 39-13-302 (a criminal statute regarding false imprisonment); section 2-19-104 (part of the Title governing elections, which makes it a Class C misdemeanor to make false statements with the purpose of misleading a person in the performance of such person's official duties); section 2-19-113 (stating that any election official or member of a board or commission holding office under this title who willfully or fraudulently violates any of the provisions of this title made for the protection of elections commits a Class A misdemeanor); section 29-35-101 (providing that an action lies in the name of the state against a person or corporation engaging in certain corporate misdeeds); and section 29-39-102(h)(2) (addressing the amount of damages recoverable if a defendant intentionally falsified, destroyed or concealed records containing material evidence with the purpose of wrongfully evading liability in a case).

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing that Plaintiff cannot prosecute alleged criminal acts via a civil action and that the Defendants and the Tennessee Democratic Party had a Constitutional right to freely choose their nominee for political office. After oral argument on the motion, the trial court entered an order granting Defendants' motion to dismiss on July 3, 2014. The trial court found that it was without authority to grant any relief on the criminal counts and that the complaint failed to otherwise state a claim for relief, as it "utterly fail[ed] to detail the factual basis upon which relief could be granted under the counts as plead." Plaintiff timely filed a notice of appeal.

II. Discussion

Our ability to review the merits of this appeal is hindered by the state of the brief submitted by Plaintiff. Briefs submitted to the Tennessee Court of Appeals are governed by Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, which provides:

(a) Brief of the Appellant. The brief of the appellant shall contain under appropriate headings and in the order here indicated:
(1)A table of contents, with references to the pages in the brief;
(2) A table of authorities, including cases (alphabetically arranged), statutes and other authorities cited, with references to the pages ...

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