Supreme Court Holds Personal Signature Of Party Appealing In Parental Termination Case Not Required

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
The Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that a father’s notice of appeal, signed by his attorney, but not the father personally, satisfies the statutory signature requirement for appeals in parental termination cases.  The Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of the father’s appeal on the merits. 
 
In this parental termination case, the trial court terminated the father’s parental rights of his minor child.  The father filed a timely notice of appeal, which was signed by his attorney but not by the father personally.
  The Court of Appeals ordered the father to show cause why his appeal should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because of his failure to personally sign the notice of appeal based on Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-124(d): “Any notice of appeal filed in a termination of parental rights action shall be signed by the appellant.”

The father filed a response to the show cause order, which included a challenge to the constitutionality of the statute at issue.  The Tennessee Attorney General filed a notice of intent to defend the statute’s constitutionality.
 
The Tennessee Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction over the case upon its own motion, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 16-3-201(d)(3), which allows the Court to assume jurisdiction over undecided cases pending before an intermediate state appellate court due to a compelling public interest.  In assuming jurisdiction, the Court ordered the parties and the Tennessee Attorney General to address whether a party’s failure to sign the notice of appeal results in a jurisdictional defect and whether the statute at issue is unconstitutional on the grounds of separation of powers, due process, and/or equal protection.  
 
In a unanimous opinion, the Court carefully reviewed the specific language of the statutory provision at issue in this case and compared that language to existing language in other current relevant statutes and court rules.  Based on this analysis, the Court determined that Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-124(d) does not require the party appealing the trial court’s decision to personally sign a notice of appeal.  In this case, the timely notice of appeal signed by the father’s attorney satisfied this statutory signature requirement.  As a result, the Court held that the father’s case was not subject to dismissal and remanded it to the Court of Appeals for consideration on the merits.  The Court’s holding as to the interpretation of the statutory signature requirement rendered the constitutional issues moot.
 
To read the Supreme Court’s opinion in In re Bentley D., authored by Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, go to the opinions section of TNCourts.gov



New NorthShore Salon Is First In Chattanooga To Be Environmentally Certified

A new environmentally-conscious salon with a unique approach to hair and beauty services has opened in the 10/North development in Chattanooga’s NorthShore district. Pasha Salon is the first salon in Chattanooga to receive a GreenCircle certification, which is a designation achieved only by salons committed to recycling and repurposing upwards of 95 percent of all chemical, metal, ... (click for more)

State Supreme Court Upholds Current Standard For When Statute Of Limitations Begins To Run In Legal Malpractice Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court extensively analyzed when the statute of limitations begins to run in legal malpractice cases. While the Court declined to change current Tennessee law or adopt a new doctrine, it held that both the trial court and appellate court were incorrect as to when the plaintiffs’ cause of action accrued, and it reversed the earlier summary judgment granted in ... (click for more)

Overflow Crowd Attends Latest Signal Mountain Meeting On Leaving County Schools

The December meeting of the Signal Mountain Town Council was for the most part devoted to giving citizens another chance to voice their opinions and ask questions about forming a new school district separate from Hamilton County. More people interested in the subject came than could be admitted to the council room because of fire capacity and the crowd overflowed into the lobby. ... (click for more)

Haslam Appoints Kyle Hedrick Circuit Court Judge

Governor Bill Haslam on Monday appointed Kyle E. Hedrick of Chattanooga as Circuit Court Judge for the 11th Judicial District.  He replaces Judge W. Neil Thomas III, who has retired. The 11th Judicial District serves Hamilton County.   Mr. Hedrick and attorney Glenna Ramer have practiced together since 1994 and formed the law firm Ramer & Hedrick in Chattanooga ... (click for more)

All I Want For Christmas Are Digitized Newspapers For 2018 - And Response

With recent news of the Public Library investing in their own StoryCorps-ish effort with the Chattanooga Memory Project, it got me thinking about digitizing local newspapers again.   It's been two and a half years since the Chattanooga Public Library committed to sending out a request for proposals to digitize the local newspapers they have on microfilm. Back in ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Top Of My Desk

I am always pleasantly amused when people ask me how I can come up with something different to write about each day. The truth is that it is a rare day indeed when there isn’t something I want to share. As I sat down at my desk yesterday and looked about, I laughed at myself because there were several stacks each worthy of a story so please allow me to present “the best of” the ... (click for more)