State Supreme Court Rules Post-Conviction Relief Not Available In Contempt Finding

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Friday that persons found in criminal contempt under the general contempt statute have not been convicted of a criminal offense and may not obtain post-conviction relief from such criminal contempt findings.

Persons convicted of offenses defined as crimes by state statutes may seek relief in the courts from constitutional errors in their convictions by filing a petition under a state law called the Post-Conviction Procedure Act. Generally, those seeking post-conviction relief have been convicted of a crime, are in custody under a sentence of a state court, and have the automatic right to file one petition for post-conviction relief.

The case concerns Tracy Rose Baker, a Sumner County woman who, in 2010, admitted willfully violating court orders arising from her divorce case on 18 occasions. As punishment for these instances of criminal contempt, she agreed to maximum sentences of 10 days on each of the 18 counts. Initially, she was placed on probation for six months. She was later found to have violated the terms of the probation and ordered to serve the entire 180-day sentence in the Sumner County Jail. Ms. Baker appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reduced the total sentence to 30 days.

Ms. Baker did not appeal from the Court of Appeals’ decision. Instead, she returned to the trial court and filed a petition for post-conviction relief to overturn the 2010 order in which she agreed to the 18 contempt findings. The trial court denied Ms. Baker’s petition. Ms. Baker appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the trial court, explaining that post-conviction relief is not available to persons found to be in criminal contempt under the general contempt statute.

The Supreme Court in its Opinion today upheld the Court of Criminal Appeals decision, noting the distinction between a conviction of a criminal offense and a finding of criminal contempt under the general contempt statute. While both may result in a punishment of jail time, Tennessee law does not define contempt as a criminal offense, or equate a finding of criminal contempt with a conviction of a criminal offense.

In the Opinion, Justice Cornelia A. Clark writes contempt laws “are not intended to punish conduct proscribed as harmful by the general criminal laws. Rather, they are designed to serve the limited purpose of vindicating the authority of the court” as it relates to judicial proceedings. Thus, Ms. Baker was not entitled to seek post-conviction relief from the criminal contempt findings.

To read the unanimous Opinion in Tracy Rose Baker v. State of Tennessee, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.


Former City Attorney Randy Nelson Goes On Disability Status

 By Order of the Tennessee Supreme Court entered February 17, 2017, the law license of Randall Lee Nelson was transferred to disability inactive status pursuant to Section 27.3 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. Mr. Nelson cannot practice law while on disability inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the Tennessee Supreme Court ... (click for more)

Local Utilities Raise Awareness Of Utility Worker Imposters

Chattanooga Gas, EPB and Tennessee American Water officials will have a joint media event to share tips on how consumers can protect themselves from utility worker imposters and other utility-related scams. The event will take place on   Tuesday, February 21 at  10:30 a.m. in the  cul-de-sac in front of Tennessee Aquarium, 1  Broad Street. (click for more)

Man, Child Killed In Crash On Highway 136 In Walker County; 2nd Child Seriously Injured

  A man and an unrestrained five-year-old child were killed when a vehicle went out of control on Highway 136 in Walker County on Saturday. A 10-year-old in the car was seriously injured. The driver was thrown from the van and was dead at the scene. The four-year-old was trapped in the vehicle and also died at the wreck site at Ponder Creek Road. The Georgia State ... (click for more)

2 People Shot After Domestic Dispute In Brainerd; Corey Moon Taken Into Custody On Saturday Night

Two people were shot during a domestic dispute in Brainerd late Friday night.   Chattanooga Police responded at 11:17 p.m. to the 4700 block of Rogers Road on a shooting. The following are the preliminary facts of that investigation.   Officers were able to locate two victims, Cortez Moon, 23, and Terri Dossett, 45, suffering from non-life threatening gunshot ... (click for more)

Rhonda Thurman: Speaking The Truth About CSLA - And Response

One parent called me a “Liar” during Thursday’s Facilities meeting. Others from CSLA have been a bit more creative saying that I spread “misinformation”, “falsehoods” and “spread inaccurate statements”. Then there were more descriptive terms- “arrogant”, “uninformed”, “unprofessional”- if these CSLA parents don’t stop, they are going to hurt my feelings. In this letter, I will attempt ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It Ain’t Gonna Work

In the last seven days, there have been seven different people who have been shot in separate incidents in Chattanooga. On Tuesday, the City Council approved a total $223,656 in street cameras and accessories to take pictures of our gangstas when the cops already know them by first names. Late last month it was announced the Chattanooga Police Department would double our gang violence ... (click for more)