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In re Estate of Miller

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 27, 2018

IN RE ESTATE OF JAMES E. MILLER

          Assigned on Briefs Date: April 12, 2018

          Appeal from the General Sessions Court for Monroe County No. 2010-117 Dwaine Thomas, Judge

          This accelerated interlocutory appeal is taken from the trial court's denial of Appellant's motion for recusal. Because we find no evidence of any bias that would require recusal under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10B Interlocutory Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court is Affirmed and Remanded.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and W. Neal McBrayer, J., joined.

          John M. Lawhorn, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mechelle Miller.

          John William Cleveland, Sweetwater, Tennessee, for the appellee, Vickie C. Miller.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE

         I. Background

         This case arises from a restated motion to recuse that was filed in the trial court following the release of In re: Estate of James E. Miller, No. E2016-01047-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 2820084 (Tenn. Ct. App. June 29, 2017) ("Miller I"). James E. Miller, Decedent, died intestate on July 17, 2010. Vickie Miller, ("Appellee, " or "Widow") petitioned the trial court for letters of administration. At issue was the ownership of Jim Miller Excavating Company, Inc. ("the Corporation"), the company operated by the Decedent. Widow argued that she was the owner of all 1, 000 shares of stock the Corporation issued to "Jim Miller and Vicky [sic] Miller JTROS" shortly after the company's incorporation in April 1990. Id. at *1. Mechelle Miller ("Appellant") and Jamie L. Shannon, Decedent's daughters and heirs of the estate, argued that the stock certificate was invalid and that the Corporation's assets should be part of Decedent's estate. The daughters filed a copy of the Corporation's bylaws, which stated that Decedent was the sole shareholder. Id. The trial court granted Widow's motion for summary judgment. Mechelle Miller appealed. In Miller I, we held that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Corporation's directors and incorporators intended the company to be owned by Decedent and Widow as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Id.

         Following remand, Appellant filed a restated motion to recuse, in which she alleged that the trial court's order granting summary judgment "demonstrated bias/prejudice, prejudged legal issues, and misapplied legal principles to such an extent and degree that recusal is warranted." On March 22, 2018, the trial court entered an order denying Appellant's restated motion to recuse. The trial court's order states in relevant part, that Appellant's motion to recuse

shows no basis under statutory or case law, further, the court finds that it is common practice for cases to be remanded from the Court of Appeals to the trial court for correction or with instructions contrary to the trial court's original decision. Without showing of a reason recognized by statute or case law, recusal from a case merely because of a remand from a superior court creates a 'slippery slope' that could needlessly delay the administration of the courts and allow forum shopping by litigants.

         On April 11, 2018, Appellant filed a timely appeal. After reviewing the petition and supporting documents, we have determined that an answer, additional briefing and oral argument are unnecessary. Accordingly, we will act summarily on the appeal in accordance with Tenn. Sup.Ct. R. 10B, §§ 2.05 and 2.06.

         II. ...


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