Failure to Prosecute

Unless otherwise indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals

State v. Turner, No. M2020-01729-CCA-R3-CD, p. 18 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 6, 2022). 

We review a trial court’s ruling on a motion to dismiss the indictment for an abuse of discretion. State v. Harris, 33 S.W.3d 767, 769-70 (Tenn. 2000). “A trial court abuses its discretion when it applies incorrect legal standards, reaches an illogical conclusion, bases its ruling on a clearly erroneous assessment of the proof, or applies reasoning that causes an injustice to the complaining party.” State v. Phelps, 329 S.W.3d 436, 443 (Tenn. 2010).


Caraway v. State of Tennessee, No. W2021-00360-CCA-R3-PC, p. 12 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 18, 2022).

As to the Petitioner’s challenge to dismissal based on an abuse of judicial process, a trial court has inherent authority to dismiss a petition for post-conviction relief with prejudice based on a petitioner’s failure to prosecute. Link v. Wabash R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630-33, 82 S. Ct. 1386, 1388-90, 8 L. Ed. 2d 734 (1962) (noting that the inherent power of the court to do so is “of ancient origin, having its roots in judgments of nonsuit and non prosequitur” and necessary to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases and to avoid congestion in court calendars); Fred Hodges v. Att’y Gen., 43 S.W.3d 918, 921 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000) (“Trial courts possess inherent, common-law authority to control their dockets and the proceedings in their courts. Their authority is quite broad…”); Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41.02 (authorizing the court to dismiss plaintiff’s claim if he fails to prosecute the claim, to comply with the Rules of Civil Procedure, or to comply with any order of the court). In addition, “[t]rial courts may, on their own motion, dismiss cases for lack of prosecution, but this authority should be exercised sparingly and with great care.” Fred Hodges v. Att’y Gen., 43 S.W.3d at 921 (citing Harris v. Baptist Mem’l Hosp., 574 S.W.2d 730, 731 (Tenn.1978)).5 Because decisions to dismiss for failure to prosecute are discretionary, reviewing courts will second-guess a trial court only when it has acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, or unconscionably. Id. at 921 (internal citations omitted).



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