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Roberson v. Lindamood

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 26, 2017

TIMOTHY ROBERSON
v.
CHERRY LINDAMOOD, ET AL.

          Assigned on Briefs April 3, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Wayne County No. 2015-CV-5581 Stella L. Hargrove, Judge

         An inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction filed this lawsuit against three prison employees seeking to recover certain personal property. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice based on the inmate's failure to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-805, which requires inmates wanting to proceed in forma pauperis to submit to the trial court a complete list of every previous lawsuit or claim filed by the inmate. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed and Remanded

          Timothy Roberson, Clifton, Tennessee, Pro se.

          James I. Pentecost, J. Austin Stokes, and Jonathan D. Buckner, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, Cherry Lindamood, Bruce L. Woods, and Wanda Spears.

          Arnold B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and John W. McClarty, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ARNOLD B. GOLDIN, JUDGE.

         I.

         Timothy Roberson is an inmate at South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tennessee. On September 15, 2015, Mr. Roberson filed a complaint against three employees of that facility in the Wayne County Chancery Court, alleging that they were responsible for his loss of legal documents related to his criminal trial and conviction. Along with the complaint, Mr. Roberson submitted a Uniform Civil Affidavit of Indigency stating his inability to pay the costs of the litigation pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-12-127 and a certified copy of his trust fund account statement pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-807. He did not, however, submit a list of his previous lawsuits and claims pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-805. On October 15, 2015, the defendants filed an answer in which they generally denied the allegations of Mr. Roberson's complaint.

         On July 15, 2016, the defendants filed a motion seeking the dismissal of Mr. Roberson's complaint based on his failure to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-805. Mr. Roberson responded by filing an affidavit purporting to contain information setting forth all of the lawsuits and claims that he had previously filed. The affidavit contained information for two previous lawsuits: a legal malpractice action filed in Davidson County Circuit Court and a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim filed in federal court. In response, the defendants then asserted that Mr. Roberson's affidavit was insufficient because it failed to list all of his prior lawsuits. In support of their contentions, the defendants submitted records from two habeas corpus lawsuits not disclosed in Mr. Roberson's affidavit.

         Following a hearing, the trial court granted the defendants' motion and dismissed Mr. Roberson's complaint without prejudice. Mr. Roberson timely filed a notice of appeal to this Court.

         II.

         On appeal, Mr. Roberson contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his complaint based on noncompliance with the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-805. Our resolution of that issue will necessarily involve the interpretation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-805. When determining the meaning of a statute, our primary objective "is to carry out legislative intent without broadening or restricting the statute beyond its intended scope." Ellithorpe v. Weismark, 479 S.W.3d 818, 826 (Tenn. 2015). We must look first to the text of the statute and give the words used in the statute "their natural and ordinary meaning in the context in which they appear and in light of the statute's general purpose." Mills v. Fulmarque, Inc., 360 S.W.3d 362, 368 (Tenn. 2012). When the words of the statute are clear and unambiguous, "we apply the plain meaning without complicating the task and enforce the statute as written." Ellithorpe, 479 S.W.3d at 826 (citations omitted). Finally, we may presume that the ...


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