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Winder v. Winder

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 18, 2019

DONALD EUGENE WINDER, III
v.
KARA ELIZABETH WINDER

          Remanded by the Supreme Court on October 21, 2019

          Appeal from the General Sessions Court for Meigs County No. D1738 Casey Mark Stokes, Judge

         This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B. Wife sought the trial judge's recusal on the ground of bias, alleging, among other things, that her husband-an attorney-appeared regularly in front of the trial judge and that the two men were friends. The trial judge's order denied wife's allegations and their factual basis and denied the motion to recuse. Finding no evidence of bias that would require the trial judge's 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 Affirmed and Remanded

          Rom Meares and Martha Meares, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kara Elizabeth Winder.

          Robert Jolley, Jr. and Emma M. Steel, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Donald Eugene Winder, III.

          Arnold B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., joined.

          OPINION

          ARNOLD B. GOLDIN, JUDGE

         Background and Procedural History

         This case is before this Court on remand from the Supreme Court of Tennessee in order to consider the Order Denying Recusal entered on September 24, 2019 by the Domestic Relations Court for Meigs County, Tennessee (the "trial court"). Kara Winder ("Wife") had filed a motion to recuse in the trial court on August 21, 2019, alleging, among other things, that Donald Winder ("Husband"), a practicing attorney, regularly appeared before the trial court judge, Judge Casey Stokes, and that they were good friends. Winder v. Winder, No. E2019-01636-COA-T10B-CV, 2019 WL 4702625, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 25, 2019) (hereinafter, "Winder I"). On August 22, 2019, Judge Stokes denied the motion to recuse in an order in which he failed to set out his basis for doing so. On September 11, 2019, Wife filed a Petition for Recusal Appeal with this Court. Id. On September 25, 2019, based on the August 22, 2019 order in the record before us at the time, we vacated the trial court's judgment and remanded the case back to the trial court, concluding that Judge Stokes made insufficient findings as to his reasoning for denying Wife's motion as required by section 1.03 of Supreme Court Rule 10B. Id. at *2.

         On October 16, 2019, pursuant to section 2.07 of Rule 10B, Wife sought permission to appeal this Court's September 25, 2019 order to the Tennessee Supreme Court. In her Accelerated Application for Permission to Appeal, Wife included the trial court's September 24, 2019 Order Denying Recusal, in which Judge Stokes did set out his detailed findings as to why he denied the motion to recuse and which, as the Supreme Court correctly noted in its order of remand, "was not before the Court of Appeals[, ]" in the initial appeal as it was not included in the record of Wife's previous September 11, 2019 Petition for Recusal Appeal. The Supreme Court granted Wife's Accelerated Application for Permission to Appeal on October 21, 2019 and remanded the case to this Court "to consider the trial court's September 24, 2019 Order Denying Recusal." Having now reviewed the trial court's order of September 24, 2019, and, for the reasons hereafter stated, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Standard of Review

         The only issue before the Court in this appeal is whether the trial court erred in denying Wife's motion to recuse. As we explained in Winder I, the standard of review applicable to Rule 10B petitions is as follows:

The 2012 adoption of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B requires appellate courts to review a trial court's ruling on a motion for recusal under a de novo standard of review with no presumption of correctness. Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10B, ยง 2.01. The party seeking recusal bears the burden of proof, and any alleged bias must arise from ...

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