News

Judges Have New Tools to Protect Domestic Violence Victims

Two laws recently passed by the Tennessee General Assembly have given the state’s judges new tools to help protect victims of domestic violence. One law targets cell phones, allowing judges to order wireless telephone service providers to grant domestic violence victims control over their own cell phone numbers if those cell phone numbers are on an account held by an alleged abuser. The other law will change the way courts respond to the arrests of alleged perpetrators of domestic violence. If a court finds probable cause that an alleged perpetrator “caused serious bodily injury” or “used or displayed a weapon,” then a judge will issue a “no contact order” to keep the perpetrator away from the victim. That no contact order will be added as a mandatory condition of the perpetrator’s bond and will be in addition to a requested civil order of protection.
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A Wellness Tip from the Attorney Well-Being Committee

When working at your desk, try to incorporate break periods of 10 minutes every 50-60 minutes. Even just getting up and stretching or walking a short distance periodically will better enable you to maintain focus and positive energy.
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Trump Administration Unveils Medicaid Scorecard

The Trump Administration on Monday unveiled its initial version of a “scorecard” that compiles and publicizes data from states for both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), The Washington Post reports. The scorecard will make public government measures of performance such as how long both state and federal health officials take when states request “waivers” to deviate from Medicaid’s ordinary rules and detailed, state-by-state averages on specific demographics and procedures/benefits utilized. The scorecard’s initial information is based on states that voluntarily report a series of measures about the health of their Medicaid and CHIP enrollees. You can view more information on the scorecard here

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Tax Code Overhaul Causing Confusion for Matrimonial Lawyers, Couples

President Donald Trump’s tax code overhaul is throwing divorce calculations into turmoil as matrimonial lawyers, mediators and couples try to reach financial settlements in divorce proceedings, the ABA Journal reports. Previously, alimony payments were tax deductible, and recipients paid taxes on it, but that will change under the new law. The uncertainty has caused some couples to rush to split before the law takes effect on Dec. 31.
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TBA General–Solo Section FastTrack Programming

TBA’s General–Solo Section will present its annual FastTrack programming, beginning on Aug. 3 in Memphis. These CLE opportunities are designed to provide you with up-to-date information on a diverse range of topics while allowing you to customize your learning to your schedule and fulfill all your Tennessee CLE requirements for the year. Subsequent FastTrack programs will be held in Nashville on Aug. 17 and in Knoxville on Aug. 24. General–Solo–Small Firm Section members receive a discount for these events. You can register for your FastTrack program using the links below:

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Elder Law Forum 2018

The 2018 TBA Elder Law Forum will return to the illustrious ‘batman’ building in downtown Nashville on July 13.  This venerated forum offers top-notch programming, with essential information for both seasoned practitioners and attorneys interested in adding elder law to their practices. With topics such as succession planning, conservatorships, benefits and emerging trends in healthcare, this forum guarantees to be the must-see, must-do event for Tennessee attorneys who share this focus. Section members receive a discount to attend the program. Here are the key details:
 
• When: Friday, July 13, registration begins at 8 a.m., CDT
• Where: AT&T Building – Auditorium, 333 Commerce St., Nashville 
• CLE Credit: 4 General, 2 Dual
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2018 Family Law Forum is All About Kids

This year's annual Family Law Forum is all about the kids. Held on May 23, it will include sessions on child support, a creative parenting plan and grandparent and stepparent visitation. An additional session will cover the guardian ad litem role and its limits. Mediations involving kids and the violation of parenting plans are also on the agenda. The day will conclude with a panel featuring Judge Michael Binkley and Judge Sharon Guffee.
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Connecticut is Recruiting LGBT Families to Adopt and Foster Kids

Connecticut’s child welfare agency has launched an initiative to actively recruit members of the state’s LGBT community to become foster and adoptive parents, PBS reports. Governor Dannel P. Malloy said on Thursday that Connecticut wants to be known as a state that welcomes and embraces the LGBT community. This comes as states such as Kansas and Oklahoma have passed legislation allowing the denial of adoptions to LGBT families by faith-based organizations. Connecticut has around 4,300 children in state care, with about half unexpected to return to their biological families.

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Share Your Thoughts on Proposed Amendments to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 6

The Supreme Court recently requested comment on proposed amendments to TSC Rule 6 that would require new attorneys to complete a Tennessee Law Course within one year of admission to the Tennessee bar. The Tennessee Bar Association has a working group on this issue and will be drafting comments in response to the court's Order for Comment. To ensure this comment best reflects members’ views and positions, the groups is looking for your feedback. Share your thoughts about the proposed amendments through this form by June 8.
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    Glen Campbell’s Widow Files to Protect Inheritance

    The wife of the late singer Glen Campbell made legal moves on Friday to assure she will receive at least 40 percent of his estate, The Tennessean reports. In a court filing, Kimberly Campbell asserted her right to invoke the provisions of state law that guarantees a widow a set percentage of her husband’s estate in the event he dies without a valid will. Three of Campbell’s children have challenged the validity of the will filed by Kimberly Campbell last year, which excluded those children from benefiting from his estate. 
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    Kansas Bill Allowing Groups to Refuse Adoption to LGBT Couples Will Become Law

    A bill that ensures faith-based adoption agencies can turn away gay and lesbian couples based on religious beliefs will be signed into law by Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, The Wichita Eagle reports. Lawmakers passed the legislation last Friday, with one lawmaker suggesting that the need for the legislation proves the existence of the “homosexual agenda.” Opponents call the Kansas legislation needless and discriminatory
     
    The Kansas Department for Children and Families has supported the bill, saying it would provide an opportunity for some organizations that have had concerns in the past. A network of companies that includes Apple, Google, Amazon and other tech firms sent a letter to Republican leaders opposing the bill. The adoption bill is among several that states across the nation have passed or are considering. Oklahoma lawmakers approved similar legislation last Thursday.
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    Family Court and Football Clash

    A father's concerns over his son's participation in football has landed in family court. The New York Times takes a look at the dangers of football and the rights of parents to prohibit their child from playing it.

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    Bill Raising Unpaid Child Support Interest Rate Advances

    The Tennessee House today concurred with Senate-passed legislation raising interest rates on unpaid child support in private cases. HB2134, sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter and in the Senate by Sen. Ken Yager, raises the interest rate to 6 percent for all private child support cases in arrears but gives the court discretion to assess a lower interest rate if deemed appropriate. For unpaid child support cases that the Department of Human Services handles, the bill allows the court to charge interest up to 6 percent, but does not alter the current 0 percent default rate. The bill was drafted by the TBA from a compromise with District Attorneys and the Tennessee Department of Human Services. The measure was amended to also make it unlawful for any county clerk or deputy clerk to issue a marriage license to a person under 17, unless the person has consent from a legal guardian or is emancipated. It also states that any marriage that is entered into without freely given consent from both parties shall be void and unenforceable in this state. The child support and teen marriage sections of the bill will go into effect on July 1. 
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    SURVEY: Proposed Amendment to Supreme Court Rule 31, Relative to Alternative Dispute Resolution

    As you may know, the Supreme Court issued a notice requesting comment on amendments to TSC Rule 31. The Tennessee Bar Association will be filing a comment in response to the proposed amendments and we need your help in drafting our response to ensure that it best reflects our members’ views and positions. Completing this brief survey will assist us in determining specific sections' positions on the proposed changes. After completion, the survey will be sent to your section's executive council, who will review the received responses, determine the section's position and relay the final comments to the TBA.
      
    The TBA has generally summarized the proposed changes, but please read the order and proposed amendments, which are provided below, for more detailed information. Please provide your responses by Monday, April 30. Thanks for your help in this endeavor.

    TAKE THE SURVEY

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    Adoption Bill Headed to Governor for Signature

    The Tennessee: First In Adoption Act, SB1851, passed the Senate unanimously today. Sponsored by Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, the legislation makes significan changes to Tennessee adoption laws. The legislation was drafted by members of the TBA Adoption Law Section, specifically Dawn Coppock, Mike Jennings and Robert Tuke. First in Adoption makes a number of modifications in adoption and termination law, some extremely important and some housekeeping measures. The first change is a new, less bureaucratic surrender form, included in the Tennessee Code, which is only two pages and much more clear. Second, the bill both increases protections for active, unwed fathers and limits the rights of inactive fathers seeking to disrupt or delay adoption plans. It also expands jurisdiction and venue requirements, including an expansion of jurisdiction to include new residents and Tennesseans in military service who are stationed outside of Tennessee. Additionally, the bill removes some of the requirements on four key grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights that are not constitutionally required. The bill was earlier passed unanimously by the House and will now go into effect July 1, if signed by the governor.
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    Mastering the Art of Intermediate and Advanced Discovery 2018

    You can't win a trial at the discovery phase, but you certainly can lose one. This CLE, scheduled for April 20 at the UT Conference Center in Knoxville, is designed to help you avoid that outcome by addressing intermediate and advanced discovery techniques and topics including matters of e-discovery. Attendees will hear from experienced litigators who will discuss key components of the discovery process in the context of family law, general civil, and criminal matters and its effective use at trial.

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    Middlebrooks Named as Sue Shelton White Honoree in Jackson

    Jackson lawyer Mary Jo Middlebrooks has been chosen as the recipient of the 2018 Sue Shelton White Award, presented by The Jackson Sun and the Jackson Area Business and Professional Women. The honor, which was announced at the Sterling Awards on April 11, is given annually to an outstanding attorney in West Tennessee who is a community activist working to create or change legislation to improve the lives of women and children across the state.
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    Topgolf CLE: Estate Planning Tee-off

    The TBA Estate Planning & Probate Section will host the Topgolf CLE: Estate Planning Tee-off on June 26. The program will feature 2.5 hours of CLE programming, focused on information relevant to new attorneys interested in Estate Planning and lawyers who desire to add this area to their practice.
     
    The CLE package includes breakfast, lunch, plus two hours of Topgolf after the presentations. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to build your practice knowledge and fine-tune your drive game, all in one day! 
     
    When: Tuesday, June 26, 9 a.m., CDT
     
    Where: Topgolf Nashville, 500 Cowan Street, Nashville, TN, 37207
     
     
     
     
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    April TBJ: Hospital Lien Law, Hope for the Practice of Law

    Hospital liens have become a focus of significant litigation in recent years, with the West case muddying the waters, but Stuart Burkhalter explains in this month's Tennessee Bar Journal how Dedmon clarifies the confusion about use of medical bills and upholding the collateral source rule. President Lucian Pera is hopeful about the practice of law among all the change and uncertainty that is happening. He writes in his column that no single result is inevitable, and "that should give us hope.” Rachel Roberson writes about recent evidence regarding nonparent visitation when it comes to the child’s best interests in divorce cases. Read the April issue.

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    10 Essential Documents for Your Practice

    Instructions and rules for client file retention, list of current curse and copy of bank’s form for IOLTA access are three of the top 10 documents attorneys need for succession planning and practice management. Learn more in this 3-hour dual credit workshop with attorney Timothy Takacs.

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    AOC Accepting Grant Applications for 2 Grant Programs

    The Administrative Office of the Courts is now accepting grant applications for the Parent Education and Mediation Fund and the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The grants for the 2018 – 2019 fiscal year will run from July 1 through June 30, 2019. Funding awards are dependent upon the availability of state appropriated funding. Applications are available on the AOC's website, and are due no later than April 20.
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    Child Support Interest Rate Bill Advances

    The House Civil Justice Subcommittee recommended for passage HB2134, sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, affecting the interest rate on unpaid child support. This legislation, requested by the the Tennessee Bar Association, provides that beginning July 1 the interest rate on child support payments in arrearages will accrue at 6 percent interest per year on all cases not handled by the Child Support Program administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services. The legislation provides that the court, in its discretion, may reduce the rate of interest to a lower interest rate, including no interest, as deemed appropriate under the circumstances. The Senate version, SB2268, is sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston. The amendment can be found here.
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    Tennessee House Approves Bill Seeking Work Requirements for Some TennCare Recipients

    A bill seeking to implement work requirements for "able-bodied" TennCare recipients was overwhelmingly approved by the state House on Monday, reports The Tennessean. The proposal, sponsored by House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, directs the state Department of Finance and Administration to seek a federal waiver to impose work requirements for able-bodied, working-age TennCare recipients without dependent children under 6 years old.
     
    As the chamber discussed the bill Monday, several Democrats unsuccessfully introduced amendments seeking to change the measure. One amendment, sponsored by House Minority Leader and gubernatorial candidate Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, would have directed the state to submit a waiver to expand Medicaid, however, this amendment was voted down. "The problem with this bill as a whole," said Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, "is that poor mothers will have less and less access to health care. This movement to take health care away from Tennesseans will not stop with these disadvantaged individuals.”
     
    Gov. Bill Haslam has voiced support for the bill, telling the Knoxville Chamber, “We have Tennessee Reconnect. Anybody can go back to school for free… and then actually we’re really short on workforce folks now.”
     
    “We have thousands of unmet job needs in Tennessee right now. So this is an environment where people can go fairly easily and meet those qualifications," Haslam said.
     
    The House voted 72-23 in favor of the measure. The Senate is expected to take up its version of the bill in the coming days.

    –Here is a recent amendment to SB1728 /HB1551

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    GOP Stalls Child Marriage Bill, Citing Connection to Gay Marriage Case

    House Republicans effectively killed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit child marriages in Tennessee, citing an obscure legal theory that passing the bill could deter a conservative lawyer's case against gay marriage. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, calls for the state to outlaw marriages where one of the parties is under 18 years of age. The Times Free Press reports that House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, cited an email he received from attorney and former state Sen. David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, arguing that passing Jernigan's bill could interfere with a lawsuit he is mounting to counter the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage.

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