Tennessee appellate courts “grade the papers” of trial judges. This book collects excerpts of Tennessee appellate court decisions which set forth the writing court’s statement of the standard of review it is applying to each issue in each case. It is limited to criminal cases. Issues which arise in the civil courts are addressed in a separate book.
The book does not critique the statement of the standard of review stated by the court. It does not evaluate whether the articulated standard of review was appropriately applied. It does not attempt to reconcile differing statements from our appellate courts about the standard of review on any given issue. It does not attempt to articulate what the standard of review should be on a particular issue. Rather, it merely repeats what the appellate court said it was applying as the standard of review to a particular issue in a particular case.
So what is the value of this book? In the absence of a book in Tennessee that undertakes to answer the questions raised in the proceeding paragraph (and no book does so in Tennessee), a more modest book is as good as it needs to be for the use of trial lawyers who do not handle appeals. Stated differently, what is important to the working trial lawyer is what the courts say the standard of review is, not what it should be. Nor does the working trial lawyer need to engage in a debate about the fine points of disagreement between different panels of the intermediate appellate courts or the language used by the supreme court in the Jones case as contrasted with the Smith case. Such is the stuff of law of professors and appellate lawyers.
I do not mean to suggest that such questions and the answers to them are not important. They are. But they are not in the day-to-day concern of working trial lawyers. What the trial lawyer needs to know is this: (1) If I win (or lose) this issue, what is the standard of review likely to be applied by Tennessee’s appellate courts? (2) How does the applicable standard of review impact the decisions I make during the course of litigation and the advice I give to my clients?
So, this book gathers the standards as stated by Tennessee’s appellate courts. The book includes statements of the standard of review by the Tennessee Supreme Court from January 1, 2019 and by the intermediate appellate courts from January 1, 2022 through no more than seven days before the date you look at the book. A good faith effort has been made to include every court decision within the stated time periods, with the following exceptions. First, the book does not include any citation to memorandum opinions. Second, it does not include any decision where, in the author’s judgment, the standard of review was not clearly stated. Third, attorney discipline cases are not included. Fourth, opinions released by the Special Worker’s Compensation Panel are not included.
The period covered by the book means that the only issues addressed as those which came before the appellate courts in the stated time periods for which a standard of review was clearly stated. The coming months will bring cases involving additional issues and thus this book will be expanded to include the standard of review on those issues.