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.


GDOL To Help Express Employment Professionals Recruit In Lafayette

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) will help Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency, recruit at least 50 employees for two Rock Spring and one LaFayette locations. The event will be held on  Wednesday, Oct. 12 , from  9 a.m. to 12 p.m.  at the LaFayette Housing Authority located at 300 Oak Street in LaFayette. GDOL staff will be onsite to ... (click for more)

New Hamilton County Businesses

Here are the new business licenses from the County Clerk's office: 2 THE POINT 1004 MCLEAN AVE SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, TN 37377 901 LINDSAY 901 LINDSAY ST CHATTANOOGA, TN 37402 AUSTIN ENTERPRISE LLC 14307 OLD DAYTON PIKE SALE CREEK, TN 37373 BALDREE'S HOME IMPROVEMENT 1350 NORTH CONCORD CHATTANOOGA, TN 37421 BILLIE'S SWEET TREATS 9453 BRADMORE LN ... (click for more)

DA Pinkston Files Petition To Declare 2 Gangs A Public Nuisance

District Attorney General Neal Pinkston filed a petition on Monday asking that two Chattanooga gangs, the Gangster Disciples and the Grape Street Crips, and their members be declared public nuisances. General Pinkston is also "asking that injunctive relief be given to the law-abiding residents of East Lake by establishing a Safety Zone that covers most of their neighborhood." ... (click for more)

Woman With Ankle Injuries Rescued On Walden's Ridge

Emergency Service personnel responded to an injured runner on the Mabbit Trails on Signal Mountain on Monday morning. At 10 a.m. , a 39-year-old female called 911 reporting she had injured her ankle. Walden's Ridge Emergency Services, HCEMS and Signal Mountain Fire Department responded and set up a command post to Wilson Avenue and Summerbrook Lane. At 10:30 a.m. , ... (click for more)

Patrol Cars Donation To Kevin Muhammad's Nation Of Islam Sets A Dangerous Precedent

Re: City Police donating two patrol cars to Kevin Muhammad's Nation of Islam: While I know it's unpopular to mention the wisdom of separation of church and state, this sets a dangerous precedent and should meet with concern from everyone who values religious and secular freedom. What's next? Southern Baptists getting old city parking scooters to patrol church parking lots ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Pitch Called ‘The Defector’

When Jose Fernandez was killed early Sunday morning in a boating accident, he was 24 years old yet had already lived a life much larger than almost all old men. He had spent part of a year in an unimaginably cruel Cuban prison, this when he only 14 years old and sandwiched in an inhumane cell among grown criminals. There were murders daily – in his very cell -- and nobody cared. ... (click for more)