News

‘State of Juvenile Court’ Focuses on Family Trauma

At the second annual State of the Juvenile Court Address today, Shelby County Judge Dan Michael said the court is making significant progress on reforms mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice. He also called on the community to help break the cycle of trauma that lands young people in state custody. “I’m a juvenile court judge. I’m not the parent of these children. If I have a good parent or parents, I rarely see their children in court,” he said. WMC News 5 has the story.

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TBJ Covers Immigration, Child Sexual Abuse, Family Law, Humor

Companies’ hiring of employees using work visas is a tedious business, but Nashville lawyer Dan E. White details it in the January Tennessee Bar Journal. Since the printing of the issue, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) increased filing fees by an average of 21 percent. Read the article online, which now includes the specifics on the updated fees. Also in this issue, John Day writes about child sexual abuse victims, and Marlene Eskind Moses and Benjamin Russ explain the doctrine of “inconvenient forum.” Bill Haltom looks at the flip side of “absence of malice.” Read the January TBJ.

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Help Needed Tomorrow for Memphis Veterans’ Clinic

A free legal clinic for veterans will be held Tuesday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Memphis Veterans Center, 1407 Union Ave., 11th floor. Volunteers are still needed, especially in the practice areas of criminal defense, family law and employment law. The clinic is co-sponsored by the Memphis Bar Association and Memphis Area Legal Services and takes place the second Tuesday of the month to assist veterans with legal advice. For more information and to volunteer, contact Jake Dickerson, 901-577-8236.

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Wrong Address Given for Law Firm

A story in yesterday’s issue of TBA Today contained an incorrect suite number for the new Cordell & Cordell law office opening in Chattanooga. The firm issued a corrected press release today, noting that its address will be 200 W. Martin Luther King Blvd., Suite 1000, Chattanooga, TN 37402.

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New Law Requires Mandatory Minimum Sentences

A new Tennessee state law means people who are convicted of three or more domestic violence crimes will be charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor, and those found guilty of a third felony burglary or drug charge will face a mandatory minimum sentence. The law also sets the mandatory minimum period of time to be served to at least 85 percent of time sentenced. With the state prison system at 90 percent capacity, the law may pose challenges for some facilities. News Channel 9 looks at several, however, that claim they will not be affected.

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643 Children Identified as Severe Abuse Victims

A Tennessee committee charged with investigating and issuing recommendations on severe child abuse in the state says 643 children were victims of a second or subsequent incident of severe abuse during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The Second Look Commission found that sexual abuse is the most prevalent type of abuse and that the “lack of consequences for failing to report child abuse continues to be an issue.” The report is based on data provided by the Department of Children’s Services. Fox 17 has more on the findings.

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Divorce Firm Opens Chattanooga Office

Cordell & Cordell, a domestic litigation firm focusing on representing men in family law cases, has opened a Chattanooga office. The law firm has more than 200 attorneys working in more than 100 offices across the United States and the United Kingdom. The new office will be located at 200 W. Martin Luther King Blvd., Suite 1000, Chattanooga, TN 37402. Associate attorney Rachel Hodges will head the office. Read more in this release from the firm.

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ABA Releases Guide to Issues in Assisted Reproduction

The American Bar Association (ABA) has released a guide to the legal and medical issues related to assisted reproduction. “The ABA Consumer Guide to Assisted Reproduction” is designed to educate consumers about the processes involved in choosing medical providers, legal representatives and other key players throughout the assisted reproduction process. The book provides a critical understanding of the protocols to enter into appropriate legal contracts while addressing the unique issues that may arise pre-and post-birth.

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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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Child Advocacy Center Receives $11,000 Donation

The Exchange Club Foundation has donated $11,000 to the Third Judicial District Child Advocacy Center, the Greeneville Sun reports. The center, located in Mosheim, serves victims of child abuse in Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins and Hancock counties. The center is the largest single beneficiary of the foundation, which has made prevention of child abuse its top national priority.

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Wrongful Arrest Prompts Calls for Investigation

For more than eight weeks last fall, Rachel Heffner was prohibited from returning home because she had been designated an “aggressor” and “defendant” in a domestic violence case. In fact, she was not the aggressor but the victim. But that was not acknowledged by prosecutors or the police until criminal charges against her were dismissed when her older son failed to appear in court. Now, police confirm charges against the teenager are pending. According to the Tennessean, Heffner’s lawyer is raising a host of issues such as why the two children were not separated before being interviewed by police and why they were allowed to remain home alone after their mother’s arrest. He also has asked the department to conduct a review as to why Heffner’s side of the story was never investigated.

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Court Amends Pro Se Divorce Forms

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order revising pro se forms to be used in uncontested divorce cases with minor children. The court reports that its Access to Justice Commission requested the change to make it clear that spouses with orders of protection may use the forms. The documents released today replace the forms published by the court in October. The forms can be used beginning Jan. 1.

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State Human Services Commissioner to Step Down

Raquel Hatter, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, is leaving her post, Gov. Bill Haslam announced yesterday. Hatter will work in the private sector “at the national level” when she steps down in February, according to a news release. Haslam touted Hatter’s work on several state initiatives, but the Tennessean reports that her tenure was marred by ongoing problems with food programs for low-income children, licensed child care centers, vocational rehabilitation and general management issues.

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Court Adopts 2017 Rules Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the 2017 amendments to its rules of procedure and evidence. Proposals include changing the place for filing a notice of appeal to the appellate clerk’s office, requiring payment of fees and taxes to the appellate court clerk at the time of initiation of an appeal, and other changes to the rules of appellate procedure, civil procedure, criminal procedure and juvenile procedure, as well as the rules of evidence. Six TBA sections – Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, Criminal Justice, Family Law, and Juvenile and Children’s Law reviewed the rules when proposed and either found no objections or supported the changes. The proposals now go to the legislature for ratification before becoming effective on July 1.

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Legal Aid Honors Tri-City, Knoxville Lawyers

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) held its annual Celebrate Pro Bono Dinner this week in Johnson City. The event honored Tri-City lawyers who volunteered for the group’s Pro Bono Project. Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins was on hand for the recognitions. Access to Justice Awards were given to Curt Collins, Mike Forrester, Suzanne Queen and Tony Seaton. Outstanding Service Awards went to Art Fowler III, Adam Kneisley, Rachel Mancl, Dave Robbins, Bart Rowlett, Mark Skelton and Aleania Smith. Karen Boyd was recognized with a special Above & Beyond Award for her work with pro se divorce clinics in the Tri Cities. Several weeks ago, LAET recognized Knoxville lawyers Tom Hale and Betsy Beck at a National Philanthropy Day Celebration in Knoxville. The pair were honored for their service to the community and their longstanding support for LAET.

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State Launches Foster Care Awareness Campaign

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam yesterday launched TNFosters, a website and awareness campaign that will work with a variety of non-governmental organizations to encourage more Tennesseans to become foster parents, the Herald Chronicle reports. TNFosters also will showcase innovative methods citizens have created to support foster parents and the children they serve. The effort is being spearheaded in large part by America’s Kids Belong, a national organization that has launched similar efforts in five other states.

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Sammons Admits Paperwork Snafu but Claims Immunity from Suit

Though back on the bench, Campbell County General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Amanda Sammons’ legal woes are not over, Knoxnews reports. She allegedly remains under investigation by the Board of Judicial Conduct and is facing a federal lawsuit over an order to move two children to an allegedly abusive father. The suit, brought by the mother, claims that the children were taken without notice and despite a Kentucky judge’s order that they have no contact with the father. In her first response to the suit, Sammons admits that she “inadvertently” messed up the paperwork and did not have documents from the Department of Children’s Services indicating the children were being harmed by their mother, but argues her role as a judge shields her from liability.

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Online CLE for General Practitioners Now Available

Sessions from the TBA’s annual General Practice CLE are now available online. Topics include child welfare laws, domestic assault cases, law office dynamics, wrongful termination, writing skills and more. See the full listing here.

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Knoxville Lawyer Named Top 100 Law Blogger

Knoxville family lawyer K.O. Herston has been named a top 100 blogger by the ABA Journal for the second year in a row. Herston, the author of “Herston on Tennessee Family Law,” practices with the Herston Law Group and focuses the blog on legal developments in Tennessee family law. The ABA Journal has been identifying the best blogs for lawyers for the past 10 years through its ABA Blawg 100.

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‘Loving’ in Theaters Tomorrow

A 1958 civil rights case is coming to the big screen tomorrow with the release of “Loving.” The film follows the story of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, an interracial couple, who were married in Washington, D.C., but soon moved back to their home in Virginia. A pregnant Mrs. Loving and her husband were yanked out of bed by police enforcing Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, which prohibited interracial marriage. They were arrested and ordered by a judge to dissolve their union or leave the state for 25 years. For nearly a decade, the Lovings fought the law, ultimately prevailing when the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in 1967. The New York Times reviews the film.

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A Step Ahead Foundation Honors Late Volunteer

Attorneys and community leaders gathered yesterday at the Nashville home of Colleen Conway Welch to celebrate A Step Ahead of Middle Tennessee, an affiliate of the original A Step Ahead Foundation in Memphis. Program founder Claudia Haltom, an attorney and former juvenile magistrate in Memphis, launched A Step Ahead in 2011. There are now four affiliates in other Tennessee cities. The event also honored the late Mary Ruth Shell, one of the founding board members of the foundation and an active pro bono volunteer with the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center and on behalf of children in the juvenile court system. The Administrative Office of the Courts reported the news.

From left: Nashville attorneys Brenda Dowdle, Anne Russell, Claudia Haltom, Deborah Taylor Tate, Jackie Dixon and Mary Walker

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Bystander Intervention Summit Planned

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence and the State Department of Health are joining forces to host a Bystander Intervention Summit Nov. 29 and 30 at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro. The event will feature national speakers leading discussions centered on issues related to bystander intervention, which is defined as the psychological phenomenon in which someone is more likely to intervene in an emergency situation when alone than when others are present. Participants will leave with a toolkit to enhance bystander intervention messaging in their own communities. Register online.

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Opinion: Homeless Vets Lack Access to Justice

Gary Housepian with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands writes in today’s Tennessean that there are nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in America and another 1.4 million at risk of homelessness. This fact, he suggests, complicates efforts to provide legal services to veterans, who often need help with eviction and foreclosure, outstanding warrants and fines and child support issues. Housepian calls on his fellow lawyers to provide critical civil legal services and urges veterans to reach out for help.

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Chili Contest, Lunch, Auction to Benefit Foster Kids

The Knoxville Bar Association will hold its annual chili cook-off, lunch and basket auction on Nov. 18 at the Knox County Juvenile Court, 3323 Division St. Chili judging will occur at 11 a.m. followed by lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A silent auction will open at 11:30 a.m. A live auction will begin at 12:45 p.m. All winners must be present to accept their items. All proceeds from the event go to an annual foster care parents’ appreciation dinner and to meet any emergency needs of foster care children. Those interested in donating a basket should complete a donation form. For more information, call 865-215-6475.

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Brentwood Lawyer Named YWCA President

Sharon K. Roberson has been named the new president and chief executive officer of the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee, the organization announced today. Roberson will begin her new role on Nov. 14. She is currently serving as senior vice president and general counsel at Direct General Corporation in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood. She also is a member of TBA’s Corporate Counsel Section. In a press release, the YWCA said Roberson is a “well-established leader within the Nashville business community” with a “proven track record and strength in operating complex organizations.” She will replace Pat Shea, who will continue to stay involved with the YWCA’s MEND initiative, which focuses on engaging and educating men and boys to help end violence against women and girls.

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