News

Bill Keeps Judicial Discretion on Domestic Violence Arrests

Judges in Tennessee will retain the authority to waive a 12-hour "cooling off" period after domestic violence arrests, according to the latest draft of a proposed bill. An amendment approved yesterday to HB41 keeps judicial discretion to release suspects before the end of the period, while also adding elements to the law meant to improve transparency and guarantee victims are notified before the hold is waived. The Tennessean has more.

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Memphis Firm Establishes New Law School Scholarship

The Memphis law firm of Rice, Amundsen & Caperton has established an annual family law scholarship at the Cecil C. Humphreys University of Memphis Law School, Memphis Daily News reports. Firm partners and the law school dean will select the scholarship recipient, who must be a student specializing in family law. An internship opportunity with firm also will be extended to the student. Larry Rice, senior partner at the firm, said the scholarship would help develop the next generation of family law lawyers.

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Firm Focused on Men in Family Law Cases Opens New Office

Cordell & Cordell, a St. Louis-based firm focused on representing men in family law cases, has opened an office in Murfreesboro. The office – the fourth in the state for the firm – is located at 352 West Northfield Blvd., Suite 4C, Murfreesboro 37129. Other Tennessee offices include locations in Franklin, Memphis and Nashville. The firm also has more than 100 other offices across the country. Read more.

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Couples File Brief in Same-Sex Marriage Case

Three same-sex Tennessee couples today filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban, Knoxnews reports. The brief argues that the Supreme Court “should not permit any state to deprive another generation of lesbian and gay persons of the opportunity to participate fully in marriage.” Supreme Court justices last month agreed to hear gay marriage appeals from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. 

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Court to Hold Arguments in Jackson, Review 4 New Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear two health care liability disputes among four cases scheduled for oral arguments March 4 in Jackson. The court also granted review to four new cases this week. Criminal issues include indictments and relief from execution for the intellectually disabled. Civil issues include the Health Care Liability Act and marital dissolution agreements. The Raybin-Perky Hotlist reviews the four cases and offers a prediction as to how each may be decided.

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YLD Produces New GAL Webcast

Thanks to the efforts of the YLD’s Children’s Issues and CLE committees, lawyers interested in learning more about serving as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) can tune in to a TBA webcast on March 4 at noon Central.
The one-hour session “Guardian ad Litem: Managing Your Child-Client, Third Parties and Opposing Counsel” will look at the responsibilities of a GAL, offer best practices for developing a relationship with the child-client and cover tips for managing parents’ counsel and third parties such as the Department of Child Services (DCS), Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and psychologists. Finally, the course will review the differences in rules governing GALs in juvenile and circuit cases. Register online to watch the webcast live.
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Bill Removes Birth Parent Right to Revoke Surrender of Child in Adoption

A bill in front of the General Assembly would eliminate the 10-day revocation period when there is a surrender of parental rights in an adoption proceeding. Sponsored by Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, SB 440/HB445 goes on to say that a judge must inform the person surrendering that there is no right to revoke the surrender. The bill allows a judge to revoke or invalidate a surrender if shown by clear and convincing evidence that the surrender involved duress, fraud, or intentional misrepresentation, or if the revocation is in the child's best interest. Weigh in using TBAImpact.

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Tweaks Likely to Domestic Violence Cooling Bill

A bill eliminating a judge's authority to release domestic violence suspects before the end of a 12-hour cooling off period is likely to be changed by amendment, according the Tennessean. In the House Criminal Justice subcommittee meeting yesterday, bill sponsor Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, asked that the issue be tabled for a week to allow for amendment. The bill is widely seen as a response to a controversial Nashville case. Real estate developer David Chase was arrested after police said he assaulted his girlfriend, but was released when his attorney called a judge, who in turn made a call resulting in Chase's release before the 12-hour hold expired. The judge was reprimanded by the Board of Professional Conduct for those actions. Weigh in on this and other legislative issues using TBAImpact.

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Supreme Court Upholds Child Neglect Conviction in Religious Exemption Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court today affirmed the conviction of an East Tennessee woman who had failed to obtain medical treatment for her adolescent daughter suffering from a tumor on her shoulder. Jacqueline Crank, a member of a small congregation of the Universal Life Church in Lenoir City, said she had prayed for her daughter in accordance with her religious beliefs instead of seeking medical care. The Department of Children’s Services intervened and Crank’s daughter was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. She died in September 2002 at the age of 15. On appeal, Crank claimed that the spiritual treatment law was too vague to give her fair warning that she could be prosecuted for her conduct. The court ruled that the law was not too vague.

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ABA House Acts on Range of Issues

The ABA House of Delegates met Monday in Houston, adopting a number of resolutions, including: (1) calling for counsel to be appointed to unaccompanied minor immigrants and special training be provided to courts that hear their cases, (2) opposing stand-your-ground laws, (3) condemning foreclosure rescue fraud, (4) urging states to grant protective orders even though a victim and perpetrator have no established domestic relationship, (5) requiring a unanimous jury verdict before imposing the death penalty, (6) calling for open and transparent disclosure of execution protocols, (7) urging governments to adopt a presumption against the shackling of juveniles in court, and (8) urging law schools and bar associations to counsel young attorneys on student loan debt. The body considered but sponsors ultimately withdrew resolutions calling for federal regulation of paid tax preparers and stronger laws to protect the privacy of consumer data.

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Children’s Advocacy Center and Family Justice Center Joining Forces

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Hamilton County has formalized a partnership with Chattanooga’s Family Justice Center, News Channel 9 reports. In a letter of intent submitted to the city, the advocacy center says it will “co-locate and lease approximately 10,000 square feet at the Family Justice Center facility.” “We are incredibly excited to have a leading organization such as the Children’s Advocacy Center partner on this important initiative,” said Mayor Andy Berke. “Their commitment and willingness to collaborate will produce maximum impact in the community’s effort to address family violence.”

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Appeals Court Won’t Touch Gay Marriage Case Until After SCOTUS Ruling

A federal appeals court in Atlanta said Wednesday it will not move forward with Florida’s gay marriage case until after the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue nationally, probably in June. Same-sex marriages in Florida and the recognition of out-of-state marriages will continue until the court decides, Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida told the Miami Herald.

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Training Offered for Handling Domestic, Sexual Violence Cases

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence is offering a legal advocacy training in Memphis on Feb. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Topics to be covered include the basics of civil and criminal law in domestic and sexual violence cases, the differing roles of advocates and attorneys and benefits for immigrant victims of domestic violence and sex crimes. Robin Kimbrough, legal counsel for the Coalition, will conduct the training, which will be held at The Urban Child Institute at 600 Jefferson Ave. Attendance is free but registration is required. Contact the Coalition at (615) 386-9406 for more information.

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Nonprofit's Role Unclear with New Chattanooga Family Justice Center

With the opening of the new Chattanooga Family Justice Center later this year, the role of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults is no longer clear, WDEF reports. Established 137 years ago, the Partnership is a non-profit group that deals with family violence, elder abuse and human trafficking. It already offers most of the same crisis one-stop services at its downtown location that the new Family Justice Center will offer. The city's goal with the new facility is to also offer those in crisis one-stop service, but the question arises: what role will Partnership will play?

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Appeals Court: No Stay for Alabama Gay Marriage Decision

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today denied Alabama’s request to stay a lower court’s decision striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The state attorney general’s office had asked the court to stay a decision overturning its bans on gay marriage until the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case later this year. A stay placed on the decision by the district court expires Feb. 9. With the appeals court action, Alabama is on tap to become the 37th state where same-sex marriage is legal. The Alabama attorney general’s office said it will appeal the stay denial to the U.S. Supreme Court. ABAJournal.com has more.

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Jackson to Get New Victim Resource Center

A new facility to deal specifically with domestic and sexual abuse crimes is coming to Jackson. The Safe Hope Center, which will soon be under construction, is a partnership of several agencies designed to provide comprehensive trauma services under a single roof. Victims will be able to talk to an advocate, plan for their safety, interview with police officers, meet with prosecutors, receive medical assistance, receive shelter, receive spiritual support and get transportation at the center, explains Jackson-Madison County Family Center psychological coordinator Jennifer McCrew. The Jackson Sun has more on the story.

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Tullahoma City Attorney Stepping Down

After six years as Tullahoma city attorney, Randall Morrison has decided to step down and refocus his attention on building his private law practice. He recently added William Lockhart as a new partner to his firm and will be changing the firm’s name to Morrison & Lockhart, Tullahoma News reports. Morrison will continue to handle divorce and child custody cases but with the addition of Lockhart, the firm’s focus will expand to include criminal law, workers' compensation cases and personal injury cases.

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Court Alters Requirements for Terminating Parental Rights

The Tennessee Supreme Court held today that the state statute governing termination of parental rights does not require the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to prove as an essential element of its case that it made reasonable efforts to reunite the child with the parent(s) before parental rights can be terminated. Instead, the court found that the extent of the effort to reunify a parent and child is only one of several factors to be weighed in determining whether termination is in the best interest of the child. The ruling overturns previous holdings that DCS is required to prove reasonable efforts to reunify as a precondition to terminating the parent’s rights. Read more from the AOC.

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DOJ to File Amicus Brief in Same-Sex Marriage Case

The U.S. Department of Justice will file an amicus brief in support of legalizing same-sex marriage in every state, according to Attorney General Eric Holder. In speaking to reporters recently, Holder said the department is “committed to ensuring that the benefits of marriage are available as broadly as possible.” Therefore, he said, the department will file a “friend of the court” brief urging the high court to make same-sex marriage available nationwide. The ABA Journal has more.

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Chattanooga Family Justice Center to Open This Spring

The new Family Justice Center that plans to open in Chattanooga will be located in a city-owned building in the Eastgate Center. While that building is readied, it will open this spring nearby at 5741 Cornelison Drive. Executive Director Dr. Valerie Radu said 10 agencies thus far have agreed to be involved in a coordinated operation aiding domestic violence victims at a single site. Chattanooga will be part of a statewide alliance that includes six similar centers. The Chattanoogan has more.

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Supreme Court to Decide on Same-Sex Marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to decide whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, the New York Times reports. The court’s announcement that it will hear cases out of Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio made it likely that it would resolve one of the great civil rights questions of the age before its current term ends in June. The justices ducked the issue in October, refusing to hear appeals from rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. The number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36.

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Trial Set for Parents Suing State Over Child's Last Name

Two Brentwood parents who want the right to choose the last name of their newborn son will go to federal court June 9 in their lawsuit against the state of Tennessee. The parents, Carl Abramson and Kim Sarubbi, were denied a request from the Tennessee Department of Health to use a surname that combined both their last names, "Sabr," after they moved to the state in 2014. The lawsuit involves the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which claims the state violated the couple's First Amendment rights. Brentwood Homepage has the story.

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Facebook Adds Amber Alerts to Users’ Timelines

In partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Facebook yesterday launched an automatic Amber Alert system, News Channel 5 reports. The new program will geographically pinpoint the alerts to Facebook users in the search area. If a missing child is reported within the user’s location, Facebook will post detailed information and photographs on the user’s timeline. A “Learn More” button will link to the official missing child poster.

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South Dakota Judge Rules Against Marriage Ban

A federal judge in South Dakota ruled yesterday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, but the decision does not mean gay couples can immediately wed. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier stated in her decision that plaintiffs “have a fundamental right to marry,” but she put her ruling on hold pending a potential appeal from the state. The state has said it would appeal the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2006 affirmed Nebraska’s right to ban same-sex marriages. Read more from the Associated Press.

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No Decision Yet on Same-Sex Marriage Case from Tennessee

The U.S. Supreme Court -- in the midst of deciding whether to take up the issue of same-sex marriage -- declined today to take an early look at a challenge to Louisiana’s state ban, Reuters News Service reports. The court also took no action on pending cases concerning same-sex marriage bans in Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. It could decide whether to hear those cases at its next conference, scheduled for Friday.

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