News

Washington County Family Justice Center Opens

Thursday marked the grand opening of the Family Justice Center in Johnson City, News Channel 11 reports. The center serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse, bringing victims’ services together under one roof, site coordinator Heather Brack said. Agencies with representatives at the center include the Johnson City Police, Washington County Sheriff, Safe Passage, a local domestic violence shelter, Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the First Judicial District Attorney General’s office.

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State Leaders Participate in National Child Safety Initiative

Tennessee was one of eight states selected to participate in the Three Branch Institute to Improve Child Safety and Prevent Child Fatalities. The Florida event included sessions on identifying and assessing at-risk populations, parental substance abuse and opioid impact on child welfare. Attendees from Tennessee included Amy Coble and Michael Cull; Rep. John DeBerry Jr., D-Memphis; Sen. Ferrell Haile, R- Gallatin; and AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate. The AOC has more.

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CASA Hosts Summer Wines Party

CASA of East Tennessee will host its Summer Wines Party Aug. 6 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Brabham Home, 621 Scenic Dr., Knoxville, 37919. The evening will feature summer foods, chilled drinks, raffle prizes and live music. Tickets are $75 per person and $125 per couple and may be purchased on the group’s website. For sponsorship information, contact Britney Sink, 865-329-3399.

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Grants Available for Pro Se Litigant Initiatives

The AOC is seeking proposals for the development or continuation of initiatives that help divorcing, divorced or never married self-represented litigants resolve parenting and visitation issues in child support cases. The AOC reports it has approximately $200,000 in grant funding available for such efforts, which may include self-help centers, pro se clinics, unbundled legal services and mediation programs. To be considered, proposals must be received by the AOC by 4:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time on Aug. 12. Learn more or download the application.

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Lawyers Sought for Women’s Empowerment Conference

Volunteer lawyers are needed for an upcoming Women’s Empowerment Conference organized by Women Overcoming Many Battles Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that seeks to help women overcome life’s challenges. The conference will take place July 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville. Attorneys are needed to lead 15-minute presentations on child support enforcement and wrongful eviction and participate in a general question and answer session. Lawyers also are needed to provide brief legal advice in one-on-one meetings with the women. Those interested in helping should contact AOC Pro Bono Coordinator Patricia Mills, 615-741-2687.

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New Managing Attorney to Lead Legal Aid’s Gallatin Office

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has promoted family law attorney Allison Cooley to managing attorney of its Gallatin office. Cooley has been serving in the organization’s Nashville office since 2011. She earned her law degree from the Charlotte School of Law. In her new role, she will manage a staff of four, including two other attorneys, and oversee services to low-income individuals in Macon, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale and Wilson counties. Read more about Cooley in this release.

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Journal Columns This Month: ADR, Crime, Mohammad Ali

Columns in the July Tennessee Bar Journal cover subjects from alternative dispute resolution all the way to boxing. Russell Fowler delves into the history of ADR in his column, "History's Verdict" and Wade Davies explains defining and limiting the community caretaking exception in his column, "Crime & Punishment." In "But Seriously, Folks!" Bill Haltom looks at the long, unlikely and complicated relationship between Mohammad Ali and the lawyer, Howard Cosell. Marlene Eskind Moses and Benjamin Manuel Russ update their "Family Matters" column that was published in May with new information after the General Assembly took action that significantly changed the advice rendered in that piece. Read "Legislative Actions Alter QDRO Advice."

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Fetal Assault Law Expires

A controversial law that charged new mothers with assault if they took opiates during pregnancy and their babies were born addicted has expired. Critics of the measure, including the ACLU and Addiction Campuses, argued that the law made women afraid to reach out for help. News Channel 5 has more.

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Disability Rights Tennessee Wants to Hear From You!

Disability Rights Tennessee has launched a survey aimed at gathering information from people with disabilities, family members, service providers and professionals to help shape the work of the organization.

The organization is looking for as much information as possible, so please feel free to share the survey with partners, colleagues and friends, so that an accurate picture of the needs of those with disabilities in the State of Tennessee can be compiled. Take the survey now. The deadline to respond is July 11.

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Judge Denies Parental Rights in Same-sex Divorce

A Knox County judge ruled today that in the case of a divorcing same-sex couple, only the biological mother would retain parental rights. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that although Erica Witt and Sabrina Witt’s daughter was conceived via artificial insemination and born during the couple’s marriage, Judge Greg McMillan opined that the non-biological parent, Erica Witt, has no "contractual" relationship with the child. After making the decision, Judge McMillan put the divorce on hold to allow Erica Witt’s attorney to appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. "Given the novelty of this issue, the court thinks it appropriate to see if the appellate courts want to address this," he said.

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Sullivan County to Establish Family Justice Center

The Sullivan County Commission approved accepting a non-matching $240,000 federal grant that will be used to establish a Family Justice Center for domestic violence victims, the Herald Courier reports. County District Attorney General Barry Staubus applied for the grant and needed the commission’s approval to accept the money, which will fund the services for three years beginning July 1. The center will provide victims of domestic violence with counseling, legal services, orders of protection and other services at one location. 

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Cupcakes for CASA Set for Friday

Dyer-Lake Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) will host “Cupcakes for CASA” this Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Red Brick House on Lake Road in Dyersburg. Tickets are $20 each and are available in advance at First Citizens National Bank or Simmons Bank or the night of the event at the door. To learn more about the organization contact Wendy Smith. The State Gazette has more about the work of CASA.

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Williamson Judge Tosses Same-Sex Marriage Challenge

Williamson County Chancellor Joseph Woodruff has thrown out a suit seeking to overturn last summer’s same-sex marriage ruling, despite calling it one of the worst examples of courts “ignoring their proper role” and legislating from the bench. Nashville Public Radio reports that in a ruling made this week, Woodruff said plaintiffs could not prove they had been harmed by the Supreme Court’s decision. The move puts an end to one of two challenges filed in Tennessee by lawyer David Fowler. Another challenge is pending in Chattanooga.

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Cox-Wilhoit Honored at Greene County Courthouse

Pajan Cox-Wilhoit was honored Friday for her retirement after more than 28 years as a child support magistrate for the 3rd Judicial District. “She always treated litigants with respect and dignity,” Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins said. Cox-Wilhoit practiced law until March 1988, when she was appointed to the position by the late Circuit Court Judge Ben K. Wexler, The Greeneville Sun reports

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Editorial: Improve Pay for Court-Appointed Attorneys

“Tennessee pays its court-appointed attorneys so little that it threatens to undermine the right of their clients to a fair trial.” A Knoxville News Sentinel editorial argues why the state must increase compensation for court-appointed lawyers, calling the current rate – $40 per hour for work outside the courtroom – “ridiculously low.”   The comments come after the Indigent Representation Task Force held a public hearing in Knoxville last week as part of the group’s statewide listening tour. 

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Judge Asked to Issue Warrant in International Custody Dispute

A pair of Memphis attorneys have asked Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan to issue an arrest warrant for an undocumented immigrant, who is currently missing with her son. The request is on behalf of the boy’s father. Varlan last month ordered the mother, who was living illegally in Knoxville, to return the boy to Mexico in a rare case brought under The Hague Convention of 1980 International Child Abduction Remedies Act. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel

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Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System Recognition of Qualified Domestic Relations Orders

Recently adopted rules that go into effect July 1, 2016, will allow the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) to implement recognition of Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs). TCRS has developed a form that may be used for these Orders. Find the form here.   

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Report: TDOC Allowed Parolees to Avoid Mandatory Classes

A WSMV investigation revealed the Tennessee Department of Correction allowed for 115 parolees to avoid taking mandated domestic violence classes and hundreds of other criminals are still not enrolled in the classes. A TDOC administrator said there was a backlog of parolees assigned to classes because there were not enough parole officers to teach them. The department later hired a private company to teach the classes, but sentences has already expired for the 115 parolees. 

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Comments Sought on 'Custody Proceedings' Definition Change

The Tennessee Supreme Court, which governs the appointment of guardians ad litem in child custody proceedings, has proposed amending Rule 40A(1)(a) regarding the definition of “custody proceedings.” The change will eliminate the phrase “and contested private guardianship cases” from the phrase’s definition. The court is accepting written comments regarding the proposed amendment. Comments must be received by July 15. 

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Journal Columns Cover Family Law, Torts, Mentoring

If you are looking for some weekend reading, catch up on the Tennessee Bar Journal columns that are in this month's issue. Marlene Eskind Moses and Benjamin Russ explain Qualified Domestic Relations Orders and state/local government pensions; John Day writes about surviving spouses and wrongful death claims; and TBA President Bill Harbison explains how important mentor relationships can be. Bill Haltom recalls two mentors he and his family lost recently, Howard and Claude Swafford -- his "two favorite courthouse square lawyers."

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Would You Like to Meet With Your Fellow Family Law Practioners at Convention?

We are polling the TBA Family Law Section to determine interest in having a Family Law Section meeting at this year's Annual Convention to be held in Nashville.  The meeting would be scheduled for the afternoon of Friday, June 17, at the Sheraton Music City.  If you are interested in attending, please email Christy Gibson by Friday, May 20.

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'Culbertson': Confusion or Clarity?

In protecting children of divorce, two strong camps exist when it comes to including mental health records of a parent in custody matters. The May Tennessee Bar Journal looks at both sides of this conflict that has arisen from the Culbertson cases, with articles from Memphis lawyer Amy Amundsen and Nashville lawyer Jeff Levy. Also, Chattanooga lawyer Russell Fowler examines Tennessee historical figure Montgomery Bell and the surprising impact he had on the law. Read the May issue.

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Lawyer Suspended for Using Email Information Client Obtained by Hacking

A Missouri lawyer was suspended from the practice of law this week for using information obtained by his divorce client by guessing his wife’s email password, the ABA Journal reports. The client obtained his wife’s payroll documents and a list of direct examination questions prepared by the wife’s lawyer for an upcoming divorce trial. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled the attorney, 70-year-old Joel B. Eisenstein, can apply for reinstatement in six months. 

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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Proposed Amendment to Tennessee's Adoption Law

Legislation amending Tennessee’s adoption law will be heard Tuesday in the House Civil Justice Committee. Proponents of the amendment (HB1389) that would amend 24 code sections say it represents technical changes. The measure is sponsored by Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston. TBA members may comment on the bill via TBAImpact under the Famiily Law section of state bills. Read a summary of the bill provided by proponents.

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