Procedure for Appealing Juvenile Court Ruling Examined in Franklin, Tennessee: Stine v. Jakes

July 11, 2022 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Mother and Father are the never-married parents of Child. Once parentage was established, Father’s parents petitioned for grandparent visitation.

After hearing, the juvenile court magistrate entered two orders: one for Father’s parenting time, and the other awarding Father’s grandparents visitation rights separate and distinct from Father’s parenting time.

Mother requested a de novo hearing before the juvenile court judge.

The juvenile court entered an order saying that, instead of “retrying the case,” the parties agreed to submit the matter on briefs. The juvenile court judge noted that it cannot make factual findings without conducting a de novo trial and advised the parties that “a rehearing is not mandatory and a direct appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals is a remedy for either party.” Mother declined the de novo trial and proceeded directly to the Court of Appeals. Thus, the juvenile court judge affirmed the magistrate’s decision.

Mother appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-107(d) provides that a party may request a de novo hearing by the juvenile court judge within 10 days after the entry of the magistrate’s order.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-107(e) says if no hearing before the judge is requested, and no one appeals the magistrate’s order, the magistrate’s order then becomes the order that can be appealed to the Court of Appeals per Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-159.

The Court found the trial court erred by not conducting a de novo hearing:

When the magistrate’s order becomes the final order of the juvenile court, appeal to this Court is governed by the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure unless otherwise provided by Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-159. Under the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, a notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of entry of the trial court’s judgment. Accordingly, absent proceedings before the juvenile court judge, any direct appeal of the magistrate’s order in this case would have been untimely when Mother filed her notice of appeal in this Court….

In this case, however, Mother exercised her rights under § 37-1-107(d) to request a de novo hearing before the juvenile court judge. A hearing under this section is not an “appeal.” Rather, the section requires “a traditional de novo hearing.” A de novo hearing requires a new trial on both issues of law and fact as if no other trial had occurred. The juvenile court judge must decide the issues without deference to the magistrate’s actions. The de novo hearing is not a review of the record or proceedings before the magistrate. The hearing before the judge requires a full evidentiary trial, including the testimony of witnesses. Further, briefs and unsworn statement[s] of counsel constitute neither testimony nor trial.

When Mother requested a de novo hearing [], it was incumbent on the juvenile court judge to conduct an evidentiary trial. Although it appears the juvenile court offered Mother the opportunity to set the matter for a de novo hearing after unsuccessfully attempting to decide the matter on the argument of counsel, it also informed her that she could wave a hearing and appealed the magistrate’s order to this Court. The juvenile court then affirmed the magistrate’s order without a hearing.

Section 37-1-107(e) permits a direct appeal of the magistrate’s order to this Court in two instances. First, a direct appeal may be filed in this Court within the time permitted by Rule 4 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure if no hearing before the judge is requested within 10 days of entry of the magistrate’s order. Second, a direct appeal to this Court without a de novo hearing before the juvenile court judge may be maintained if the right to the hearing is expressly waived by all parties within the specified time period. The time period specified by § 37-1-107(d) is 10 days.

We consistently have held that when a party requests a de novo hearing under § 107(d) and the juvenile court fails to conduct an evidentiary trial, the judgment of the juvenile court will be vacated and the matter remanded for a de novo hearing as contemplated by the statute.

The Court vacated the juvenile court order and remanded the case for a de novo hearing before the juvenile court judge.

K.O.’s Comment: What could have been a 3- to 4-page opinion on a procedural issue was, for reasons I can’t understand, turned into a 16-page opinion that included a detailed recitation of the factual history that did not pertain to the procedural issue on which the case was decided. I wish the Court realized that more lawyers would read these opinions if they were more succinct. And more lawyers reading these opinions would result in better service and representation for Tennessee litigants.

Stine v. Jakes (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, June 27, 2022).

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Procedure for Appealing Juvenile Court Ruling Examined in Franklin, Tennessee: Stine v. Jakes was last modified: July 11th, 2022 by K.O. Herston

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