Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Leaks v. State

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 4, 2018

RUSSELL LEAKS
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs November 1, 2017

          Appeal from the Tennessee Claims Commission No. T20152889 James A. Hamilton, III, Commissioner

         This appeal involves a suit filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission against the State of Tennessee. The claimant alleged that he was seized without a warrant or probable cause, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. The State sought dismissal, alleging that the Claims Commission did not have the requisite jurisdiction to hear such a claim. The Claims Commissioner agreed and dismissed the claim. The claimant appeals. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Tennessee Claims Commission Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Russell Leaks, Memphis, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; and Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Pamela S. Lorch, Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S. and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

          JOHN W. McCLARTY, JUDGE.

         Russell Leaks ("Claimant") was provided a conditional release from the Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") on June 19, 2014, following his voluntary completion of a TDOC program. Thereafter, on July 3, 2014, TDOC officials returned Claimant to custody, the reasons for which are unclear from the record.[1]

         On June 26, 2015, Claimant filed a "Claims for Damages" with the Tennessee Division of Claims Administration. Claimant sought damages for his illegal seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The claim was transferred to the Tennessee Claims Commission ("the Claims Commission") with James A. Hamilton, III serving as the Claims Commissioner. Claimant then filed a "Claim for Damages" in which he again maintained that he was illegally seized and that his subsequent detention was in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The State filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the Claims Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction to entertain such a claim. Claimant objected, citing Tennessee Code Annotated section 9-8-307, which governs actions based upon the "negligent care, custody, and control of persons." He also requested a default judgment based upon the State's failure to file a response within 30 days of the filing of his "Claim for Damages."

         The Claims Commission dismissed the claim, finding that it did not have the requisite authority to hear claims asserting an alleged violation or deprivation of Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. The Claims Commission also denied Claimant's motion for default judgment, finding that the complaint was never served upon opposing counsel.[2] Lastly, the Claims Commission denied any allegations based upon section 9-8-307 because Claimant failed to plead the action in his complaint. Further, Claimant asserted that the actions at issue were intentional, not negligent.

         Claimant filed a timely appeal in this court. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-403(a)(1) ("The decisions of the individual commissioners or, when rendered, decisions of the entire commission regarding claims on the regular docket may be appealed to the Tennessee court of appeals pursuant to the same rules of appellate procedure which govern interlocutory appeals and appeals from final judgments in trial court civil actions[.]"). The trial court's grant of a motion to dismiss a case based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction is a conclusion of law. Blackburn v. Blackburn, 270 S.W.3d 42, 47 (Tenn. 2008); Button v. Waite, 208 S.W.3d 366, 369 (Tenn. 2006) (citing State v. Cawood, 134 S.W.3d 159, 163 (Tenn. 2004)). The trial court's conclusions of law are subject to a de novo review with no presumption of correctness. Blackburn, 270 S.W.3d at 47; Union Carbide Corp. v. Huddleston, 854 S.W.2d 87, 91 (Tenn. 1993).

         The Tennessee Constitution provides that "[s]uits may be brought against the State in such manner and in such courts as the Legislature may direct." Tenn. Const. art. 1, § 17. "This constitutional provision reflects sovereign immunity, the notion that a sovereign governmental entity cannot be sued in its own courts without its consent." Northland Ins. Co. v. State, 33 S .W.3d 727, 729 (Tenn. 2000) (citations omitted); Stewart v. State, 33 S.W.3d 785, 790 (Tenn. 2000). "The rule of sovereign immunity in Tennessee is both constitutional and statutory. It is not within the power of the courts to amend it." Jones v. L & N Railroad Co., 617 S.W.2d 164, 170 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1981).

         The legislature has waived its sovereign immunity as to certain actions brought before the Claims Commission. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-301, et seq. The relevant code section provides that "[t]he commission or each commissioner sitting individually has exclusive jurisdiction to determine all monetary claims against the [S]tate based on the acts or omissions of '[S]tate employees'" that fit within one of several categories. Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(a)(1). "Outside of these categories, no jurisdiction exists ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.