News

Rule Change Package Released for Review, Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include new authority for appellate courts to dismiss appeals; provisions permitting electronic signatures in courts employing electronic filing; clarification of the effect of service of process on commencement of actions; adoption of the term preliminary hearing in lieu of preliminary examination in criminal procedure; and, refinement of procedure for correction of illegal sentences in criminal cases. The are no evidence rules changes proposed this year. A 90-page comprehensive restructuring and revision of the Rules of Juvenile Procedure is also included.

Six TBA sections -- Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law , Family Law, Juvenile and Children’s Law and Criminal Justice -- will be asked to review the proposed amendments and recommend comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due to the Court by November 25, 2015.

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DA Names Escobar to Lead Domestic Violence Team

Attorney Ana Escobar was appointed by District Attorney Glenn Funk to lead the DA’s domestic violence unit in prosecuting cases and assisting victims. Escobar was sworn in as assistant district attorney in March. She previously served as deputy director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. 

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Federal Court Denies Kentucky Clerk's Request

A Kentucky county clerk's request to suspend a federal injunction requiring her to provide marriage licenses was denied by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, WBIR reports. “It’s not terribly surprising,” Dan Canon, a lawyer representing Rowan county couples who attempted to obtain marriage licenses, said. “It’s correct and yet another reaffirmation that clerks have to abide by the rule of law just like everybody else.” 

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ACLU Urges Court to Reject Kentucky Clerk's Appeal

Lawyers with the national and Kentucky ACLU weighed in over the weekend on the pending case of a court clerk who refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The team urged the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to reject Kim Davis’ argument that she would suffer “searing” injury to her religious liberty if forced to issue the licenses. A federal district judge last week ordered her to do so by the end of the month.

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Tennessee Courts Reverse Wording on Parenting Plan

Tennessee Courts have reversed course on a paperwork change for designating parties in parenting plans. Titles on Permanent Parent Order forms have been changed from “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” back to the original wording of “Mother” and “Father”, WZTV reports. The Court's Communications Director Michele Wojciechowski confirms the courts' reversal, saying they received many complaints from legislators and the general public. The court has referred the matter to the Tennessee Judicial Conference Domestic Relations Committee for possible consideration. 

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Clerk Defies Order, Refuses to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

A county clerk in Kentucky today continued to turn away gay couples seeking marriage licenses, defying a federal judge's order that said deeply held Christian beliefs don't excuse officials from following the law, Knoxnews reports. In his ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning said that Kim Davis has likely violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on the government establishing a religion by "openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expenses of others."

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Divorce Lawyers: Same-Sex Cases Should Not Create Hardship

Two Memphis divorce attorneys tell the Memphis Daily News that while the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage will likely mean more same-sex divorces, handling those cases will not require much on their part. “It’s going to be a boring transition,” says Miles Mason Sr. “There will be hiccups here and there. You’ll have some judges that are more conservative when it comes to custody issues. But you’ve got that now.” On the day of the ruling, Larry Rice said his office made the necessary modifications to legal forms in about 15 minutes.

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Challenge to Judge Walker Referred Back to Lower Court

Nashville Judge Amanda McClendon ruled Friday that General Sessions Judge Allegra Walker should have the right to decide if and when she will recuse herself from domestic violence cases, WSMV reports. McLendon then referred a suit brought by Nashville Public Defender Dawn Deaner back to Walker’s court saying that many of the arguments had never been made there. Walker recently has come under fire for communications and affiliations that defense attorneys say raise questions on her impartiality in domestic violence cases.

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What to Do if No Clerks Willing to Serve Gay Couples?

Sen. Rusty Crowe said the state needs a solution for public employees who don’t want to serve gay married couples based on their religious beliefs, the Johnson City Press reports. His suggestion is to allow those workers to pass off the interaction to a coworker. If every employee in a state office felt that way, however, the Johnson City Republican said he didn’t know what would happen but still feels those employees should be protected from termination or counseling.

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Senate Leader: State Ranking on Child Well-Being Unacceptable

Following the release of a report ranking Tennessee 36th in overall child well-being, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris called on his legislative colleagues and the Haslam Administration to focus more effectively on the needs of the state’s youth. The Annie E. Casey Foundation this week issued a report ranking states based on four factors related to children: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community support. The Chattanoogan has more.

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State Senator: Protect Clerks Who Refuse to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, is suggesting that court clerks should not have to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples if doing so would violate their religious beliefs, WJHL reports. He tells the Tennessean that he does not want to see people get fired because of their beliefs. But he stopped short of saying whether he would draft legislation on the issue.

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Learn More About the Post Tanco World

The outcome of the historical case Tanco v. Haslam will continue to have a significant impact on several aspects of the law. Join your colleagues on Sept. 18 for the first annual LGBT Law Forum to discuss how the case will impact family law, estate planning, real estate and health care practices. And in case you missed it, the TBA's one-hour webcast on marriage equality covers the basics of the case.

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Kentucky Bill Would Protect Clerks Refusing Licenses to Same-Sex Couples

A new bill introduced Wednesday in Kentucky would protect county clerks from civil and criminal liability if they refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Supporters of the bill said this is a matter of religious freedom, but opponents argued it would be a strike against equality and the law. The bill follows a lawsuit by the ACLU against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for denying all licenses to couples since the Supreme Court ruling, WSMV reports.

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AOC Grants Available for Pro Se Programs

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) will award $200,000 in grant funding for initiatives that help divorced or never married self-represented litigants resolve parenting and visitation issues. Initiatives may include self-help centers, pro se clinics, unbundled legal services and mediation programs. To be considered for a grant, proposals must be received by 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 7. Get details on the AOC website.

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Friday’s Elder Law Forum

This Friday’s Elder Law Forum will connect practitioners from across the state while addressing issues such as PAE Appeals, dementia and planning for blended families. The program offers 5.75 CLE hours, program sponsors and exhibitors. Learn more or register here.

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Family Justice Center Opens in Chattanooga

The fourth Family Justice Center in Tennessee opened today in Chattanooga. The new center, which will be located at 5741 Cornelison Road at Eastgate, will help bring together separate groups under one roof that are already working together to serve victims of domestic violence. The Chattanoogan has more.

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Hommrich Named New DCS Commissioner

Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Bonnie Hommrich as the new commissioner for the Department of Children’s Services, the Tennessean reports. Hommrich has been serving as deputy commissioner for child programs at the department since 2004. She takes over for outgoing commissioner Jim Henry, who recently was named the governor’s new chief of staff.

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Supreme Court Ruling Puts Same-Sex Divorce Back on Table

A same-sex divorce case filed in Roane County Circuit Court last year was working its way through the appeals process when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the country. Now the Tennessee Court of Appeals has ordered the parties to file briefs by July 10 on how that decision impacts the case, Roane County News reports. The state, which originally opposed the divorce, has indicated it likely will drop its objections since it now must recognize the marriage, which had been performed in Iowa.

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West Tennessee Legal Services Seeks Victim Assistance Attorney

West Tennessee Legal Services is seeking an attorney in its Victim Assistance and Advocacy Project. The position will represent victims of domestic and sexual violence in civil protection order cases and provide legal advocacy on behalf of victims in various forums. Litigation experience on behalf of domestic violence and/or sexual assault victims, and prior work with specialized client populations and/or ethnic or language distinct communities is preferred. Applicants should send a cover letter, resume, writing sample and references by July 18 to: Hiring Committee, West Tennessee Legal Services, Inc., P.O. Box 2066, Jackson, TN 38302 or by email to sandy@wtls.org.

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Services Pending for Domestic Violence Victims’ Advocate

Jean Crowe died today (June 22). Considered by many to be the Mother of the Domestic Violence Movement in Nashville, Crowe founded the Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence while an employee of Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. The Jean Crowe Advocacy Center was named in her honor. In 2013, she was named the TBA Public Service Attorney of the Year. Information on funeral services is pending.

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Supreme Court to Decide Whether to Take Up Major Abortion Case

The Supreme Court is considering an emergency appeal from abortion providers in Texas, who want the justices to block two provisions of a state law that already has forced the closure of roughly half the licensed abortion clinics in the state. Ten of the remaining 19 clinics will have to shut their doors by July 1, without an order from the Supreme Court. The justices could signal by the end of June whether they are likely to take up the biggest case on the hot-button subject in nearly a quarter-century. WATE has more from the Associated Press.

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Domestic Violence Reports Expected to Spike After Family Justice Center Opens

As the city of Chattanooga readies for the official launch of the Family Justice Center on July 1, Police Chief Fred Fletcher and others told the Chattanooga Times Free Press they expect the number of domestic violence incidents in Chattanooga and Hamilton County to spike by 20 or 30 percent because more people will report the crime. The center is designed to cater to victims of domestic violence by offering a variety of services — from legal advice to health care — under one roof near the Eastgate Town Center.

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Governor: State Preparing for Gay Marriage Ruling

Gov. Bill Haslam says state officials are discussing how to proceed should the U.S. Supreme Court rule same-sex marriage legal later this month in a case involving Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio, the Columbia Daily Herald reports. Haslam told reporters this week that the attorney General's office and his counsel and departments are preparing. Jay West, executive director of the 95-member County Officials Association of Tennessee, said, "What we are telling our clerks is we’re going to obviously wait."

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More Tools Available to Aid Domestic Violence Victims

The Upper Cumberland Family Justice Center has begun using a training program to help law enforcement better help domestic violence victims who are in critical danger, the Herald-Citizen reports. Several area law enforcement jurisdictions are using the Maryland Model Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), which has 11 assessment questions for a police officer to ask domestic violence victims. And in Grundy County, the Sheriff's Office is using a tracking device able to alert victims when an offender is close, in hopes of warding off another attack.  WRCB has more.

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Learn New Approach to Parenting Plans

Presented by the TBA Family Law section, an upcoming TBA webcast will help you learn how to use research on parenting plan schedules to create the best possible options for the children of divorce. Janice Walden from “A Better Way Mediation” explores new ways to tackle this challenge during the webcast on June 24. Visit TBA CLE for more information.

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