TN Court of Appeals Denies Rocky Houston Case for Untimely filing

On May 17, 2012, a jury entered a $5,000,000.00 verdict against Appellant Rocky Joe Houston in favor of Appellee Pat Brown in her wrongful death lawsuit. Ms. Brown is the mother of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Mr. Houston. Mr. Houston is currently incarcerated. To collect her judgment, on July 12, 2012, Ms. Brown filed a lien on real property (the “Property”) owned by Mr. Houston. The Property was originally transferred from Mr. Houston’s parents to him and his then-wife, Nancy Crabtree, as a
tenancy by the entirety. Following the filing of the lien, on February 11, 2013, Mr. Houston and Ms. Crabtree executed a quit claim deed by which they purported to dissolve the tenancy by the entirety and vest the fee simple in Ms. Crabtree.

On September 22, 2015, Ms. Brown filed suit against Mr. Houston and Ms.
Crabtree to set aside the February 11, 2013 quit claim deed as a fraudulent conveyance.

After several delays, the trial court heard the case on June 11, 2019. The trial court entered an order on July 16, 2019 (the order was file stamped July 17, 2019), wherein it held that the conveyance of the Property “was made and contrived with the knowledge that a sizeable judgment . . . had been entered in favor of [Ms. Brown] against . . . Rocky Houston” in an effort to “hinder [Ms. Brown’s] collection of her judgment against . . .
Rocky Houston.” As such, the trial court concluded that the transfer was fraudulent and set aside the February 11, 2013 quit claim deed. Mr. Houston filed a notice of appeal in this Court on September 3, 2019.

As noted above, the order appealed was entered on July 17, 2019 and Mr.
Houston’s notice of appeal was filed on September 3, 2019, which was well outside the 30-day time period set out in Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a), supra. We are, however, cognizant of the fact that Mr. Houston was incarcerated at the time he filed his appeal. As such, Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 5.06, i.e., the so-called Prisoner
Mailbox Rule, is triggered. The Rule provides, in relevant part: If papers required or permitted to be filed pursuant to the rules of civil procedure are prepared by or on behalf of a pro se litigant incarcerated in a correctional facility and are not received by the clerk of the court until after
the time fixed for filing, filing shall be timely if the papers were delivered to the appropriate individual at the correctional facility within the time fixed for filing.

The Prisoner Mailbox Rule serves to protect inmates from untimely filings when prison officials are late mailing documents—not when inmates are late requesting and submitting documents. Here, Mr. Houston’s notice of appeal states:

Notice is hereby given that Rocky Joe Houston, the petitioner in the above
named case, hereby appeals to the Court Of Appeals At Knoxville
Tennessee For Eastern District Of Tennessee from the final judgment and
order dismissing the petitioner’s petition on 16th day of July 2019. On this
day 28 of August 2019. Based on the fact that Mr. Houston signed his notice of appeal on August 28, 2019, we may reasonably infer that the notice was still in his possession at that time and, as such, was not “delivered to the appropriate individual at the correctional facility” until August 28, 2019 or later. Therefore, even giving Mr. Houston the benefit of the mailbox rule, we cannot conclude that he tendered his notice of appeal for mailing
within the applicable 30-day time period. As such, Mr. Houston’s notice of appeal is untimely, and this Court lacks jurisdiction over the appeal. Flautt, 285 S.W.3d at 869.

As a final matter, we note that, although Mr. Houston submitted his appeal on brief, on November 10, 2019, he filed a motion with this Court requesting oral argument. Having dismissed Mr. Houston’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction, his motion for oral argument is rendered moot. Norma Faye Pyles Lynch Family Purpose, LLC v. Putnam Co., Tennessee, 301 S.W.3d 196, 204 (Tenn. 2009) (citations omitted) (“A moot case is one that has lost its justiciability either by court decision, acts of the parties, or some other reason occurring after commencement of the case.”). As such, we deny the
motion.

For the foregoing reasons, the appeal is dismissed and Appellant’s motion for oral argument is denied. The case is remanded for such further proceedings as may be necessary and are consistent with this opinion. Costs of the appeal are assessed against the Appellant, Rocky Joe Houston. Because Mr. Houston is proceeding in forma pauperis in this appeal, execution for costs may issue if necessary.

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/houston_v._brown_e2019-1563.pdf

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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