News

Chattanooga Judge's Marriage Comments Draw Jabs From Blog

A divorce order from Chattanooga Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton is drawing national attention in the Above the Law blog. Atherton denied a heterosexual couple’s mutual wish to get divorced, stating in the opinion, “With the U.S. Supreme Court having defined what must be recognized as a marriage, it would appear that Tennessee’s judiciary must now await the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court as to what is not a marriage, or better stated, when a marriage is no longer a marriage.”  Atherton's full opinion is included in the post.

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Vanderbilt Law Professor: 'Kentucky Clerk Should Resign'

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who continues to deny all marriage licenses following the legalization of same-sex marriage, should resign from her position, Vanderbilt University Law School professor Suzanna Sherry tells WMC Action News 5. "She should simply say, 'If this is what the job requires of me, my religious beliefs will not allow me do this job, so I have to resign.'" U.S. Distrcit Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to appear in his courtroom Thursday in Ashland, where Davis could face fines or jail time if found in contempt.

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Columns Include Same-Sex Marriage, Tolerance and Atticus Finch

President Bill Harbison makes a plea for tolerance among lawyers who hold divergent viewpoints in his column in the September Tennessee Bar Journal. Marlene Eskind Moses and John A. Day each cover the issue of same-sex marriage in their columns: Moses on how that affects family law and Day on loss of consortium claims. Humor columnist Bill Haltom remains steadfast in his admiration of Atticus Finch, even after the jolting view portrayed in Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman

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Parents Paying Child Support Could Obtain Restricted Licenses

A new state law permits people who have had their drivers’ licenses revoked for nonpayment of child support to apply for and possibly receive restricted driver’s licenses, Herald-Citizen reports. Parents who prove they work at least 30 hours a week and live more than a mile from their job or school may apply. Thirteenth Judicial District Attroney Bryan C. Dunaway said the law went into effect July 1. “This new law seeks to eliminate barriers that prevent noncustodial parents from maintaining steady employment and paying their child support timely,” he said.

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Clerk Summoned to Court for Refusing to Issue Marriage Licenses

U.S. District Judge David Bunning summoned Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and her staff to appear in his court following Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses, the National Law Journal reports. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Davis' request for protection from having to issue marriage licenses, pending the outcome of her appeal. Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June, citing religious objections to same-sex marriage. Tuesday the American Civil Liberties Union filed contempt motions against Davis. "The law is clear and the courts have spoken," ACLU national legal director Steven Shapiro said in a statement. "The duty of public officials is to enforce the law, not place themselves above it.” 

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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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