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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TSC: Surviving Spouse Can File Wrongful Death Case Even if Survivor Possibly Negligent in Cause of Death

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled the surviving spouse of a person killed in a vehicle accident could initiate a wrongful death action on the decedent’s behalf even though the surviving spouse’s negligence allegedly contributed to the decedent’s death. In an opinion authored by Justice Roger A. Page, the Supreme Court reversed a decision from the Court of Appeals and ruled that based on current wrongful death statutes, the surviving spouse maintained priority to institute the wrongful death action under the circumstances presented in this case.
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Putnam County Approves New Service for Domestic Violence Victims

The Putnam County Commission yesterday approved a request from General Sessions Court judges to appoint Candie Cooper, a youth services officer in the juvenile court system, as a judicial commissioner and have her serve at the Upper Cumberland Family Justice Center, the Herald-Citizen reports. It will simply the process for victims of domestic violence to obtain orders of protection. The Family Justice Center provides services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse.
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The Protest Movement as a Tool for Social Change: Fifty Years Post-King

The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association presents a dynamic day of programming in recognition of 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis. This program explores the protest that brought Dr. King to Memphis in 1968 and the legacy that his untimely death has left on the fabric of the city. The event will focus on the protest movement in its current state as well as provide updated information on the law surrounding assembly, protest and municipal responsibility.
The program features local historical figures who worked with Dr. King, representatives of the media, City of Memphis, local activists, attorneys and judges.
Speakers and producers include:
  • Barbara Arnwine, Esq., CEO and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Washington, D.C. 
  • Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse, Municipal Court Judge, Memphis
  • Bill Cody, Burch, Porter and Johnson, Memphis
  • Earle Schwartz, Memphis Bar Association President, Memphis
  • Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Memphis
When: Feb. 23, 9 a.m. CST
Where: Fogleman Business Center, First Floor Amphitheater, 330 Innovation Dr., Memphis, Tennessee 38152
Contact Florence Johnson by email or call her at 901-725-7520 for more information.
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TBA Gears Up for 2018 Mock Trial Tournament

The Tennessee Bar Association will host the upcoming Tennessee High School Mock Trial Tournament on March 23 and 24 in Nashville. The Mock Trial is a two-day, single-elimination bracket-style competition where 16 high schools face-off against each other in the Davidson County Courthouse. Each team is scored on their trial preparation and skills. 

We need TBA volunteers to help be bailiffs and jurors (scorers) for the event. After signing up, we will send you a Volunteer Memo with all the information you need for competition including; parking, hotel, downtown map, courthouse rules, and reimbursement information. Come be a part of the Young Lawyers Divisions’ March Madness! Feel free to contact YLD Director Stephanie Vonnahme with any questions.

To volunteer for this event, click here.

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Access to Justice Commission Seeking Feedback

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission is seeking input from the legal community to help in planning efforts as it develops a new strategic plan in March. A brief survey is available for all who wish to share thoughts and feedback. The survey will remain open through Feb. 7. Please contact Anne-Louise Wirthlin at the Administrative Office of the Courts with questions or for more information. 

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Judge Lovell Retires After 30 Years

Judge George Lovell retires this week after 30 years in Maury County General Sessions Court, with the last 20 being mostly juvenile cases. “Juveniles are part of the system and deserve to be heard,” Lovell told the Columbia Daily Herald. “I often hear that certain juveniles are ‘gaming the system.’ My response is, ‘Good, I want them to know as much about the system as possible.’ Many come through with obvious mental health problems. It was my job to make sure they’re treated fairly. I want them to go out saying, ‘I had my day in court.’ ” In 1988 there were four cases in appellate court dealing with juvenile cases; now there are more than 700, he says.

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Divorce Attorney to the Stars Launches DIY Divorce Site

Laura Wasser, a go-to divorce attorney for celebrities, has launched a new website that she says will help couples get divorced without hiring an attorney, the Associated Press reports. The site, called It’s Over Easy, allows couples in New York County and across California to handle divorces and child custody arrangements online. Wasser compares the experience to online shopping, saying her goal is “changing the face of divorce.” 
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Glen Campbell's Longtime Publicist Subpoenaed Regarding Contested Will

The longtime publicist of Glen Campbell, who passed away from Alzheimer's Disease last year, has been subpoenaed to testify regarding the late singer's competence when he signed a now-disputed will, according to The Tennessean.

Records in Davidson County Probate Court show a subpoena has been issued for Sanford Brokaw to appear for testimony in Nashville on Feb. 20. The subpoena calls on Brokaw to "provide proof of the decedent's capacity since 2002” and submit "all communications regarding the estate of the decedent."

The contention is regarding the exclusion of three of Campbell's children, who have been cut out of his estimated $50 million estate, according to a 13-page will filed by his widow in 2006, Rolling Stone reported. The will states that he was "specifically excluding" the three children from receiving anything under the will or a related trust, and names his wife, Kim, as executor. Court records indicate there was an earlier version of Campbell's will, dated in 2002.

This was not the first interfamilial feud, as Campbell’s eldest daughter Debby and son Travis previously won a legal victory after claiming that Kim Campbell was denying them the right to visit their father during his illness. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam subsequently signed a bill into law called the Campbell / Falk Act, which allows family members and close friends of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other disabilities to visit a loved one in person, or maintain contact with them by phone, email or mail, despite the stated wishes of a legally appointed conservator.

Campbell was first diagnosed with the Alzheimer’s in 2011 and died in August 2017. A Netflix film, "I’ll Be Me", details his diagnosis, final tour and his farewell to fans.

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Don't Forget: Winter CLE Blast Tomorrow!

Need CLE hours fast? We can help! The annual Winter CLE Blast is less than a day away. With this program, you can complete up to 11 hours of Dual CLE credit on your own time. Our registration desk will be open from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 21, providing you the flexibility to create your own schedule and take as many or as few hours as you need. Payment will be determined at checkout depending on the number of hours you attend. 


  • Flexible to your schedule
  • Up to 11 Hours of CLE
  • Ethics Credits
  • Compliance CLE
  • Live Credit Hours

When: Feb. 21, registration begins at 7 a.m., CST

Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219


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Bill Proposes Amendments Regarding Children's Testimony in Criminal Trials

Proposed amendments to Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 24, Chapter 7, Part 1 aim to permit out-of-court statements made by children from being excluded as hearsay. Under HB1480, an out-of-court statement made by a child who is under 12 years of age at the time of a criminal trial describing any sexual act performed by, with, or on the child or describing any act of physical violence directed against the child will not be excluded from evidence at the criminal trial as hearsay if all of the following apply:
The court finds that the totality of the circumstances surrounding the making of the statement provides particularized guarantees of trustworthiness that make the statement at least as reliable as statements admitted under certain rules of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence. This bill lays out in detail the circumstances a court must consider in making a determination of the reliability;
1. The child's testimony is not reasonably obtainable by the proponent of the statement. This bill details the circumstances in which a child's testimony is not reasonably obtainable;
2. Independent proof exists of the sexual act or act of physical violence;
3. At least 10 days before the trial or hearing, a proponent of the statement has notified all other parties in writing of the content of the statement, the time and place at which the statement was made, the identity of the witness who is to testify about the statement, and the circumstances surrounding the statement that are claimed to indicate trustworthiness of the statement.
4. The bill will require the court to make the findings based on a hearing conducted outside the presence of the jury and to make findings of fact on the record as to the bases for the court's ruling. 
Similar proposed legislation has been met with consternation out of constitutional concerns for defendants. The bill has passed the first reading and has been assigned review by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. More information is available on the General Assembly website.
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Don't Forget– Estate Planning & Probate Forum 2018 This Friday!

The Tennessee Bar Association will host the 2018 Estate Planning & Probate Forum at the Embassy Suites in Franklin on Friday. This event provides six hours of CLE, including an hour of dual credit, and will be focused on timely, relevant topics to help you stay on top of trends affecting this area of law. Legislative updates and the ever-popular Probate Panel will ensure that you leave with the knowledge necessary to advance your practice.
Do not miss this opportunity to fulfill CLE requirements while networking with attorneys who share your focus and cultivating relationships with fellow practitioners. Section members receive a discounted rate for the program. Here's the key info: 
When: Feb. 23, 2018; registration begins at 8 a.m., CDT
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Center Dr., Franklin, TN 37067
Topics include:
  • Family Law Issues
  • IRA Planning and Best Practices
  • Medicare Benefits
  • Legislative Updates
  • Probate Panel
Speakers/Producers include:
  • Jennifer Exum, Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel PC, Chattanooga 
  • Jeffrey Atherton, Chancery Court, Chattanooga
  • Newman Bankston, Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis, Knoxville 
  • Frank Cardenas, FEDlogic LLC, Nashville 
  • Donald Farinato, Hodges, Doughty & Carson PLLC, Knoxville 
  • Sandra Garrett, The Board of Professional Responsibility, Brentwood 
  • Kathleen Gomes, Probate Court of Shelby County-Division One, Memphis
  • David Parsons, Attorney At Law, Nashville 
  • Joel Roettger, Gentry, Tipton & McLemore, Knoxville 
  • Stacy Roettger, The Trust Company of Knoxville
  • Albert Secor, Southeastern Trust Company, Chattanooga

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Dog Bites, Alimony Deductions and a New Superhero

The January Tennessee Bar Journal carries a full slate of legal information from our columnists, ranging from a column covering the law regarding dog bites by John A. Day, to the elimination of alimony deductions by Marlene Eskind Moses and Manuel Benjamin Russ; and Bill Haltom's thoughts on the possibilities for a new superhero: Super Spiderman Batman Lawyer.

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Tenn. Supreme Court Clarifies Law on Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed by Parent Who Owe Child Support

In a case filed in Monroe County, the Tennessee Supreme Court clarified when Tennessee laws prevent a person who owes child support from receiving money damages from a wrongful death lawsuit. Those laws apply, the Court said, only when the person is a parent of the child who died, and the back child support is owed for that child. The unanimous opinion was authored by Justice Holly Kirby.

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Supreme Court Overturns Appellate Court Ruling in Child Custody Case

In a case involving the custody of two minor children, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that the father had established that a material change of circumstances had occurred and that it was in the children’s best interests for the father to be designated as the primary residential parent. Previously, a juvenile court ruled that the mother's newly discovered employment at the Moonlight Bunny Ranch in Nevada, as well as what the court determined as her hostility towards the father, was enough to establish a material change of circumstance. The mother appealed and the appellate court reversed the ruling. When the case made it to the Supreme Court, the court concluded that the Court of Appeals usurped the role of the juvenile court by declining to extend deference to the juvenile court’s findings. The unanimous opinion was written by Justice Roger A. Page.
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Nashville ADA Warns Domestic Violence Peaks Around Holiday Season

Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Ana Escobar spoke to NewsChannel5 about the uptick in instances of domestic violence that typically surround the holiday season. Escobar said she talks with about 30 domestic violence cases during a typical week, but around holidays like Christmas and even Easter, there is a surge in occurrences. In Nashville alone, there have been 13 confirmed domestic violence homicides in 2017. Escobar warns that children who are a witness to domestic violence are twice as likely to become victims or abusers themselves. 
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Bradley County Lawsuit Aims to Stop All Marriage Licenses

Special Judge Mike Pemberton of Roane County heard arguments yesterday in a case that seeks to stop Bradley County from issuing marriage licenses and have the state’s marriage license law declared invalid, the Times Free Press reports. The lawsuit, filed by a pastor and county commissioner, claims that the June 2015 Obergefell decision invalidates Tennessee law that says state marriage licenses can only be issued to a man and a woman. A tentative trial date for the case has been set for Feb. 20-22.
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Court Holds Personal Signature of Party Appealing in Parental Termination Case Not Required

In the parental termination case In re Bentley D., the Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that a father’s notice of appeal, signed by his attorney but not the father personally, satisfies the statutory signature requirement for appeals in parental termination cases. The court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of the father’s appeal on the merits. Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins authored the unanimous opinion.

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TBA to Launch New Adoption Law Section in 2018

The Tennessee Bar Association will launch a new section next year devoted to the practice of Adoption Law. The move was requested by the Adoption Policy Working Group and was approved unanimously by the TBA Board of Governors during its fall meeting Saturday in Memphis. In a letter requesting the creation, TBA Immediate Past President Jason Long and Chattanooga attorney Michael S. Jennings wrote that adoption law is a discrete area of practice and that “there is a need for a dedicated section to assist with ongoing legislative efforts in this area and to educate members on a complex and highly structured area of the law.”

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LAET Hosts Pro Se Divorce Clinic

Legal Aid of East Tennessee, in partnership with the University of Tennessee College of Law, will offer a Pro Se Divorce Legal Advice Clinic for pre-screened individuals without children. The clinic will take place on Oct. 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. Spouses must be in agreement on all issues involving division of personal property, including vehicles, and division of all debts currently owed by both spouses. To be pre-screened for this Legal Advice Clinic, call LAET’s Knoxville office at (865) 637-0484, or visit the “Begin Client Intake” section of the LAET website.
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Free Legal Advice Clinic in Maryville

Volunteer attorneys from the Blount County Bar Association will join staff attorneys from Legal Aid of East Tennessee to provide free advice on various legal matters. The public will be able to seek advice on topics such as adoption, child custody and support, divorce, elder law, foreclosure, identity theft, personal injury, VA benefits, wills, worker’s comp, and more.  Legal help will be available on a first come, first served basis. The clinic is open to the public. No appointment is necessary. The Advice Clinic is part of LAET’s Pro Bono Project, and is offered in celebration of Pro Bono Month. The event is Oct. 14 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
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Court Issues Proposed Rules Amendments, Asks for Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the 2018 Proposed Rules Amendments. Several TBA sections are reviewing the recommendations for possible comment. Comments are due to the court no later than Nov. 22.

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Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies Process for Determining Best Interests of a Child in Parental Termination Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that courts must consider all nine statutory factors, as well as any other relevant facts, when deciding whether terminating parental rights is in a child’s best interests. The Supreme Court explained that requiring courts to consider all relevant facts and circumstances ensures each case receives individualized consideration before fundamental parental rights are terminated. Justice Cornelia A. Clark authored the unanimous opinion.

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New Journal: Divorce Law, Startling Stats on Addiction

The September Tennessee Bar Journal covers updates in divorce law, with details from B.J. Strickland about recent federal actions impacting military service members. Also, Family Matters columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Ben Russ explain 2017 modifications to state child support laws. In perhaps one of the most important subjects, President Lucian Pera writes about recent studies showing how the legal profession has a much higher rate for addiction than other professions – and that those in the first 10 years of practice are most at risk. Pera offers startling statistics and helpful resources, suggesting that lawyers should be aware of warning signs and “if you see something, say something.”

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Help Needed for Power of Attorney Clinic Tomorrow in Memphis

The TBA’s Young Lawyers Division and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition are partnering for a power of attorney clinic in Memphis tomorrow and still need volunteers. The clinic will offer assistance with family preparation plans in the event of a deportation or other enforcement action. The clinic will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at El Mercadito, 3766 Ridgeway Road. Those who would like to volunteer can sign up here.
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