News

Judges Call to Double Number of Foster Families

Montgomery County Judge Ken Goble and Juvenile Magistrate Tim Barnes are asking citizens to look at their circumstances and see if they have the ability to become a foster parent, the Leaf Chronicle reports. There are currently 50 foster families, but the judges say the county needs to double that number to adequately serve all of the 279 children in the system.

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Judge Strikes Down Colorado Gay Marriage Ban

Colorado Judge C. Scott Crabtree yesterday struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage citing constitutional grounds, WCYB reports. Crabtree also ruled that same-sex marriages performed outside the state should be recognized and that offering "civil unions" instead of marriage "is further evidence of discrimination against same-sex couples." Crabtree, however, prevented gay and lesbian couples from immediately marrying by staying his decision, saying it will take time for the issue to be resolved.

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Court Issues ‘2nd Blow’ to Contraceptive Mandate

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order Thursday allowing Wheaton College in Illinois to bypass regulations governing how religious objections to contraceptive coverage are to be made. Under the law, religiously affiliated organizations are allowed an exemption from the mandate so long as they fill out a government form for their insurers and third-party administrators. The court’s order allows the school to skip the form if it notifies the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in writing that it is a nonprofit religious group and has religious objections to providing the coverage. The school had argued that filling out the form made it complicit in the provision of the services. Dissenting justices argued that the decision departs from language in the Hobby Lobby case, causing confusion and undermining confidence in the court. The ABA Journal has links to coverage of the issue.

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Domestic Partners Ordinance to Proceed as Drafted

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Neil Thomas ruled this morning that the Domestic Partners Ordinance referendum will proceed as drafted by the group that gained signatures to put it on the ballot, Chattanoogan.com reports. The city of Chattanooga had sought to add wording to the measure to explain the ordinance. The city adopted a policy providing benefits to same-sex or live-in partners of city employees, but it was put on hold because of the referendum.

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Newly Elected DA Talks Domestic Violence Culture

When District Attorney Glenn Funk takes office on Sept. 1, one of his tasks will be to change the "culture in the community" surrounding domestic violence. In a statement released yesterday, Funk said he plans to establish a six-attorney Domestic Violence Unit that will meet with both victims and investigating officers prior to court in order to be completely prepared to handle the case. “The DA's office will partner with agencies from across the county to work on this issue, because in order to change the culture in the community, the whole community needs to be involved." Fox 17 News has more from Funk, who will be only the second DA to serve the county in the past 27 years.

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Haslam Backs 'Cooling Off' Period in Domestic Abuse Cases

Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he supports making a 12-hour “cooling off” period mandatory for people arrested on domestic violence charges, the Memphis Daily News reports. "I think that makes sense," Haslam said. "I'm far from an expert on that, but from what I understand, it just feels like that is a common sense law." The statement comes in the midst of a controversy over a case involving a Nashville judge who released a man from jail a few hours after his arrest on a domestic violence charge. Police say he assaulted his girlfriend a second time shortly after being released.

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'Justice in Motion' Proceeds Presented to Domestic Violence Shelters

First Judicial District Attorney General Tony Clark and Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal presented checks to two local domestic violence shelters yesterday, WJHL reports. Clark and Graybeal presented the proceeds from the April 26 Justice in Motion 5K run/walk to Safe Passage of Johnson City and CHIPS of Erwin. The checks totaled more than $5,000.

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DA Investigating Release of Domestic Violence Suspect

Davidson County District Attorney Torry Johnson is investigating the case of a domestic assault suspect who got out of jail just three hours after arrest and allegedly returned home to attack his girlfriend for a second time. At issue is how the man’s attorney was able to get a General Sessions judge to allow the suspect's release before the 12-hour "cooling-off" period allowed by law. Johnson met with General Sessions Judge Bill Higgins Friday to discuss his concerns. Higgins pledged to make changes to the 12-hour hold policy to address the issue. Contacted by the Tennessean, the judge who authorized the waiver, Casey Moreland, said he regretted taking the action.

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Columns Cover Labor Law, Hospice ... and Golf

In his "The Law at Work" column in the June Tennessee Bar Journal, Ward Phillips writes with co-author Brandon Morrow "that courts have not been shy to award substantial fees and costs to employers who have been required to combat frivolous claims." They look at how courts have been increasingly critical of agencies’ “sue first, ask questions later” strategy. In Monica Franklin's "Senior Moments" column, she helps you and your clients know when to choose Hospice and who pays for it, and she explains the new "Medicare Choices Model." Humor columnist Bill Haltom explores the game of golf -- and why he ended up selling his golf clubs at a yard sale.

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TBI Report Looks at Domestic Violence

A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report released Tuesday shows domestic violence reported to police across the state dropped in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year, this time by 5.7 percent. Statewide, nearly every category of crime — including murders and aggravated assaults — decreased in 2013, and 65 out of 95 counties saw domestic violence cases drop as well. However, the TBI report notes that the number of domestic violence incidents involving same-sex couples in Tennessee has risen by 44 percent since 2008. The Tennessean has the story

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TBJ Columns Cover Electronic Surveillance, 'McCutcheon' and More

Columns in the May Tennessee Bar Journal include electronic surveillance in family law by Marlene Moses and Benjamin Russ; Tenn. Code Ann. §20-1-119 and its relationship with the federal courts by John Day; and the late Don Paine wrote about convicted murderer Paul Dennis Reid Jr. Bill Haltom explains how the "McCutcheon" case makes the phrase "free speech" into an oxymoron.

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Court to Review Prayer vs. Medicine Question In Child Abuse Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in a 12-year legal battle in Loudon County that pitted a mother’s religious freedom rights against state authorities who deemed her choice of prayer over medicine to be child abuse. Jacqueline Crank was convicted of misdemeanor child neglect after her daughter, Jessica Crank, died at the age of 15 in September 2002 from a rare form of bone cancer. Knoxnews has has the story.

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Gay Marriage Court Cases Moving Ahead

Court cases testing bans on gay marriage are moving ahead in a number of states across the country, including Tennessee, where last month a couple in Knoxville made history by having a woman listed as “father” on a birth certificate. Parents of the new baby are lead plantiffs in a lawsuit testing the legality of their New York marriage in Tennessee, the Huffington Post reports. Judge Aleta Trauger has issued a preliminary order requiring Tennessee to recognize their marriage, and the marriages of two other gay couples, while the case in on appeal. USAToday provides a roundup of other cases across the country.

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DA Candidates to Discuss Domestic Violence

Domestic violence will be the focus of an upcoming candidate panel in Nashville, where the three candidates running to be Davidson County District Attorney will share the stage. The event is sponsored by the YMCA and the Legal Aid Society and will feature its managing attorney for Nashville, DarKenya Waller, as moderator. The forum runs from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Monday at Woodmont Christian Church, 3601 Hillsboro Pike in Nashville.

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Tree Plantings to Honor Crime Victims

Tennessee ranks among the 10 worst states for domestic assault, with 50,000 cases reported in the first eight months of 2013 alone, according to TBI statistics. This is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and correctional officials and advocate groups are paying tribute to those who have suffered at the hands of criminals in Tennessee with ceremonial tree plantings honoring women and children who have been killed by their domestic abusers. The Tennessean has more.

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Divorce, End-of-Life Care and Cybercriminals

In this issue, Helen Rogers and George Spanos outline strategies for the timing of filing for divorce in Tennessee and Eddy R. Smith discusses the painful topic of pregnancy and end-of-life care. If you weren't scared of people stealing your money electronically before, Kathryn Reed Edge's column on cybercriminals will send you running to change all your passwords and tighten your firm security.

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Cleveland CAC Benefit Set for April 12

The Cleveland Child Advocacy Center (CAC) will hold a benefit April 12 at the Cleveland Family YMCA from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be food, music and tables where local political candidates can meet voters and hand out campaign literature. The Cleveland Daily Banner has the details.

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Still Time to Get Tickets for CASA Red Shoe Party

CASA Nashville still has tickets available for its 15th Annual Red Shoe Party on April 12 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Rocketown. The event is the agency’s primary fundraiser and community awareness activity for the year, and will feature dancing, silent auction and contest for the best red shoes.

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DCS Releases First Child Fatality Data Since Agency Overhaul

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) this week published child fatality statistics for the first time since the agency overhauled how deaths are reported, counted and investigated. The report showed DCS investigated the deaths of 245 children in 2013, finding evidence of abuse or neglect in 40 cases, although almost a fifth of investigations haven’t concluded. The new method of counting makes comparisons to prior years impossible, but DCS officials have vowed to be faster in reporting deaths, be transparent with records and more rigorous in their internal investigations into cases in which state investigators had contact with families before children died. The Tennessean has more.

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Six Months or Six Days: When Can You File for Divorce in Tennessee?

The conventional wisdom is that Tennessee has a six-month durational residency requirement for divorce pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §36-4-104(a).[1] While that is correct, it is not always determinative.

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Judges Lend Support to Domestic Violence Victims

Several judges attended the SafePlace Gala and Auction last week in Sevierville to support the cause to end domestice violence. “Domestic violence and abuse is a serious problem and one I have combated head-on as a judge," Judge Dick Vance told the group. "I have always, and will continue, to make stopping this atrocity a top priority of mine.” SafePlace serves victims of domestic violence in Sevier, Jefferson and Cocke counties. With more than 250 people in attendance, a significant amount of money was raised for the organization, the Herald News reported.

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Grants Available for Parent Education, Victim Offender Reconciliation

The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts is accepting applications for two grants funding the Parent Education and Mediation Fund and the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program. The deadline for both grants is April 11.

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Next 2 Weeks Critical for Legislators

The next two weeks could be crucial for the General Assembly, the Tennessean suggests, as big issues such as meth abuse, school vouchers, free tuition for community college students and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants still face decisions in the House and Senate before they shut down. The TBA's package of bills continues to progress towards passage. The five-year statute of repose for legal malpractice passed the House Monday and is now headed to the Governor, as is the TBA's family law bill. However, the TBA has concerns about bills regarding patent litigation, employment discrimination, and confidentiality for victims of sexual offenses and has communicated these concerns to the legislature. These measures continue to move forward without changes. A bill on the issue of bad faith patent infringement (SB1967/HB2117) is ineffective, since any litigation would likely not survive a preemption challenge and existing case law effectively addresses these issues. Another bill (SB2126/HB1954) would gut protections for whistleblowers in employment discrimination cases, and only protects against retaliation if a report was in writing or email. Under the guise of keeping crime victim information confidential, SB2254/HB2361 would make it more difficult for defense attorneys to discuss identifying information about the victim with their client. TBAImpact has more.

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New Alimony Bench Book Available

The 12th Edition Alimony Bench Book has just been released by the TBA Family Law Section. Produced by the members of the section’s Alimony Committee, the book is available for purchase in a loose-leaf format for $40 or a three-ring binder for $50. To order the book, visit the TBA’s online bookstore or contact TBA at (615) 383-7421. Members of the Family Law Section can download the new edition at no charge by logging in to TBA.org and going to the Resources link on the Family Law Section's webpage. The goal of the publication is to assist judges in the consistent awarding of alimony across the state and help lawyers present their cases in court.

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New Advocacy Group Tackles Women’s and Children’s Issues

Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Sara Beth Myers recently founded Advocates for Women’s and Kids’ Equality (AWAKE), which works to foster public policy to “improve the wellness, safety, opportunity and equality for women and children in Tennessee.” Since its inception in November, the group has worked to build a base in Nashville and establish itself within the state. Myers and her team have worked on mandatory sentencing laws for domestic violence offenders, but in an interview with the Nashville Scene, she said she does not want AWAKE to be pigeonholed as strictly a domestic violence organization, and plans to work on other issues such as improving state children’s services and pay equity.

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