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Whitaker v. Devereaux

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 5, 2018

TONIANN WHITAKER
v.
JAMES B. DEVEREAUX

          Assigned on Briefs March 1, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Jefferson County No. 25015 Ben W. Hooper, II, Judge

         After Appellant's son violated an order of protection entered against him, Appellant sought relief from the trial court. Although the trial court ruled on some of the issues raised by Appellant, not all of her claims were adjudicated. We therefore dismiss the appeal due to the absence of a final judgment.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed

          Elizabeth R. McClellan, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Toniann Whitaker.

          James B. Devereaux, appellee. [1]

          Arnold B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Andy D. Bennett and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [2]

          ARNOLD B. GOLDIN, JUDGE.

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In January 2017, the Appellant Toniann Whitaker ("Ms. Whitaker") petitioned the Jefferson County Circuit Court for an order of protection against her son, James Devereaux ("Mr. Devereaux"). A temporary order of protection was entered following the filing of the petition, and a hearing was set for February 13, 2017. That hearing date was later continued to March of the same year. On March 6, 2017, the trial court entered an order of protection against Mr. Devereaux, finding, among other things, that he had "Abused/Threatened to Abuse" Ms. Whitaker. The present litigation soon followed.

         On May 4, 2017, Ms. Whitaker filed a "motion" for contempt against Mr. Devereaux alleging that he had violated the temporary order of protection, as well as the "permanent"[3] order of protection entered following the March hearing. The petition chronicled alleged incidents in which Mr. Devereaux had contacted Ms. Whitaker via Facebook and also detailed an alleged incident in which Mr. Devereaux had made "direct contact" by driving near her property. In addition to requesting that Mr. Devereaux be found in contempt, Ms. Whitaker prayed that the trial court would extend the order of protection, that it would find Mr. Devereaux guilty of a Class A misdemeanor offense, that it would order Mr. Devereaux to pay costs and attorney's fees pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-3-617, and that it would require Mr. Devereaux to pay the bond mandated by Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-3-610(b). Under this latter statute, a judge "shall require" a bond of not less than $2, 500 upon finding that an order of protection has been violated. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-610(b)(2).

         Following a hearing on August 14, 2017, the trial court entered an order resolving some of Ms. Whitaker's claims. Although the trial court found Mr. Devereaux guilty of three counts of criminal contempt, it declined to impose the bond mandated by Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-3-610(b) and also declined Ms. Whitaker's request to extend the order of protection. This appeal followed.

         DISCUSSION

         Although Ms. Whitaker's appellate brief presents a number of issues for our review, Rule 13(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure mandates that we first consider whether we have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(b); Person v. Kindred Healthcare, Inc., No. W2009-01918-COA-R3-CV, 2010 WL 1838014, at *2 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 7, 2010). In connection with this duty, we are required to consider whether the order appealed from is a final judgment. Indeed, it is well-settled law that, "[u]nless an appeal from an interlocutory order is provided by the rules or by statute, appellate courts have jurisdiction over final judgments only." Bayberry Assocs. v. Jones, 783 S.W.2d 553, 559 (Tenn. 1990) (citation omitted); see also In re Estate of Henderson, 121 S.W.3d 643, 645 (Tenn. 2003) (noting that an appeal as of right may be taken only after the entry of a final judgment). A final judgment is one that completely defines the parties' rights and leaves nothing else for ...


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