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Clovis v. Hatter

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 8, 2018

QUINTON CLOVIS
v.
RAQUEL HATTER, COMMISSIONER, TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES

          Assigned on Briefs September 1, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 16-967-II William E. Young, Chancellor

         Quinton Clovis ("Plaintiff") appeals the February 7, 2017 order of the Chancery Court for Davidson County ("the Trial Court") ordering, inter alia, that the Tennessee Department of Human Services ("the Department") reinstate Plaintiff's food stamp benefits. We find and hold that Plaintiff is not an aggrieved party, and thus, lacks standing to appeal. We, therefore, dismiss this appeal.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Dismissed Case Remanded

          Quinton Clovis, Nashville, Tennessee, pro se appellant.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; and Ellison M. Berryhill, Assistant Attorney General for the appellee, Raquel Hatter, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Human Services.

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which ANDY D. BENNETT and KENNY W. ARMSTRONG, JJ., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Plaintiff filed suit seeking review of the Department's decision to discontinue Plaintiff's food stamp benefits. The Trial Court heard the case and entered its order on February 7, 2017 finding, inter alia, that "the record demonstrates that [Plaintiff] is exempt from the work requirement under two separate provisions of the Department's Food Stamp Program policy, " and ordering the Department to reinstate Plaintiff's food stamp benefits. Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal to this Court.

         In his brief on appeal, Plaintiff asks this Court "for a reversal of the Trial Court Judge's orders, " among other things. The Department, in its brief on appeal, argues that Plaintiff is not an aggrieved party and lacks standing to pursue this appeal.

         As this Court has explained:

Standing is a judge-made doctrine used to determine whether a party is entitled to judicial relief. Knierim v. Leatherwood, 542 S.W.2d 806, 808 (Tenn. 1976). It requires the court to decide whether the party has a sufficiently personal stake in the outcome of the controversy to warrant the exercise of the court's power on its behalf. Browning-Ferris Indus., Inc. v. City of Oak Ridge, 644 S.W.2d 400, 402 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1982). To establish standing, a party must demonstrate (1) that it sustained a distinct and palpable injury, (2) that the injury was caused by the challenged conduct, and (3) that the injury is apt to be redressed by a remedy that the court is prepared to give. Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 752, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 3325, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984); Morristown Emergency & Rescue Squad, Inc. v. Volunteer Dev. Co., 793 S.W.2d 262, 263 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1990) ("Standing requires not only a distinct and palpable injury but also a causal connection between the claimed injury and the challenged conduct."); 13 Charles A. Wright, et al. Federal Practice and Procedure § 3531.4, at 418 (2d ed. 1984) ("Wright").
The primary focus of a standing inquiry is on the party, not on the merits of the claim. Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 454 U.S. 464, 484, 102 S.Ct. 752, 765, 70 L.Ed.2d 700 (1982); Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 99, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1952, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968); City Communications, Inc. v. City of Detroit, 888 F.2d 1081, 1086 (6th Cir. 1989); National Fed'n of Fed. Employees v. Cheney, 883 F.2d 1038, 1041 (D.C. Cir. 1989). Thus, a party's standing does not depend on the likelihood of success of its claim on the merits. Hill v. City of Houston, 764 F.2d 1156, 1159-60 (5th Cir. 1985).

Metro. Air Research Testing Auth., Inc. v. The Metropolitan Gov't of Nashville and Davidson Cty., 842 S.W.2d 611, 615 (Tenn. Ct. ...


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