News

Board of Judicial Conduct Reprimands Atherton

The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has publicly reprimanded Hamilton County Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton regarding an order he issued on Aug. 28 in a divorce case. Atherton initially denied a heterosexual couple’s request to divorce, saying it was up to the U.S. Supreme Court to define what was not a marriage after the Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage case. The Dec. 18 letter says that in a meeting with the Disciplinary Counsel, Atherton indicated that he may have been in error entering the Order and that the error “could have been misunderstood by the public as undermining its confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary…” 

read more »

Kentucky Governor Removes Clerks' Names from Marriage Licenses

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin issued an executive order today removing county clerks' names from marriage licenses, Newsweek reports. Rowan County clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses for religious reasons, advocated for her name to be removed from the licenses.

read more »

Protesters Attend Yocca's Hearing in Rutherford County

Security was increased at Circuit Court Judge Royce Taylor’s courtroom this morning after more than a dozen protesters from three states showed up for Anna Yocca’s remote arraignment hearing, The Daily News Journal reports. Yocca is charged with attempted first-degree murder after a failed attempt to end her pregnancy. No discussion hearing or plea date were set.

read more »

Study Shows Women of Color Bear Much of Burden for Incarceration

CNNMoney looks at the "steep cost of incarceration on women of color," using data from a CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation poll on race in America, which takes a look at women who are shouldering the financial burden of incarceration of a loved one, particularly in black communities. Fifty-five percent of black Americans said they either had been incarcerated themselves or had a close friend or family member who had been incarcerated compared to 36 percent of whites and 39 percent of Hispanics. "It's all on us, the mothers, the wives, the sisters, the girlfriends," said Gale Muhammad, the founder and president of the prison advocacy group Women Who Never Give Up.

read more »

Harbison, Rubenfeld Named 2015 Nashvillians of the Year

TBA President Bill Harbison and Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld have been named the 2015 Nashvillians of the Year by the Nashville Scene for their work in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case. The article details the unlikely team of Harbison, “the diplomat,” and Rubenfeld, “the warrior,” and the attorneys’ work preparing the historic case, which would determine that it is unconstitutional for states to ban same-sex marriages. “Rubenfeld and Harbison were just two of many players in one of the biggest civil rights cases of our time," author Kim Green writes. Harbison “speaks quietly and deliberately, with a studied diplomacy — he's quick to agree, or at least to see your point. Unruffled, dignified and warmly polite, he behaves as if he has time for you, even if he doesn't.” Rubenfeld, who is chair of the TBA's LGBT Section, reflects on why she chose the law: "Our constitution is a really beautiful and well-constructed document," she says. "But there's so much work to do to enforce it, and to make sure that it's applied equally to everyone.”

read more »

Training Conference for Parents of At-Risk Males

The Conference for Single Parents Rearing At-Risk Males, a new three-day program implemented by Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway, will offer training for 250 parents of at-risk males referred to Building Families and Communities Missions. The program is planned for Dec. 11-13 in Nashville. For more information, including a program schedule, contact BFC Missions at 615-498-4669.

read more »

Tennessee a Top State for Murder-Suicides, Report Finds

Tennessee is among the top eight states in the nation for the frequency of murder-suicides, according to a new study by the Violence Policy Center. The report, featured in the Times Free Press, also found 72 percent of murder-suicides involved an intimate partner.

read more »

Shelby County Woman Jailed for Failing to Pay Guardian ad Litem

Shelby County resident Angela Gilmore spent time behind bars after failing to pay Guardian ad Litem Shari Myers – an attorney Judge Donna Fields appointed to Gilmore’s divorce case involving children. WREG reports Gilmore claims she was unable to pay the $3,300 owed to Myers, prompting the attorney to file a petition of contempt against Gilmore.

read more »

Attorneys Who Defeated Gay Marriage Ban Seek Payment

The Tennessean reports the 19 attorneys who defeated Tennessee’s ban on gay marriage say the state owes them more than $2.3 million for their time – 5,974 hours – on the case. The average hourly rate for the attorneys was $390 per hour. "We worked for two years on this case and we were successful," said Abby Rubenfeld, a Nashville attorney who led the case. "All the attorneys for the state of Tennessee got paid while they worked on it, so we should be paid, too."

read more »

Child Custody, Immigration Law Covered in New TBJ

In the November Tennessee Bar Journal, Memphis lawyer Miles Mason Sr. details what you need to know about an independent child custody evaluation, and Nashville lawyer Milen Saev considers Kerry v. Din and the consular non-reviewability doctrine. Tennessee Bar Association President Bill Harbison points out the many reasons why 1881 was a very important year (besides that the TBA was formed!). Read these articles and more.

read more »

Supreme Court Likely Looking at Parenting Plan Forms, AG says

The Tennessee Supreme Court is “in all likelihood looking at” the issues with recently edited divorce and parenting forms, Tennessee Attorney General Hebert Slatery said Monday in Chattanooga. The Administrative Office of the Courts changed the forms over the summer to reflect gay marriage situations, but later reverted back to the earlier wording. Slatery, speaking to the Pachyderm Club, also said the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision is an issue for states and should be not be a federal issue, The Times Free Press reports

read more »

Court: Exceptional Circumstances May Justify Denying Relief From Void Judgment

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a void judgment may be challenged at any time, but a trial court need not grant relief from a void judgment if exceptional circumstances exist. The case involved a judgment that had terminated a parent’s rights several years ago. The petitioner argued that the judgment should be voided because she had not received notice of the petition to terminate her parental rights. A trial court agreed with her and the decision was upheld in the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court granted the appeal to determine whether relief must be granted in every case when a court determines that a judgment is void. Read the full opinion.

read more »

County Commission Opposes Same-Sex Marriage

Members of the Johnson County Commission is sending a resolution to lawmakers in Nashville, requesting the State of Tennessee to oppose the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize non-traditional marriage both through legal and legislative action. The resolution calls for Tennessee to reaffirm the state’s authority to regulate marriage, Mountain City's The Tomahawk reports.

read more »

Opinion: Bitcoin Poses Unique Challenges for Lawyers

Because of their unique attributes, bitcoin and other virtual currencies present challenges for lawyers who wish to locate and collect against assets, a contributor to the Nashville Business Journal argues. Andrew Hinkes with the Florida business law firm Berger Singerman says the movement of money “almost instantly, without payment of fees and with minimal records” seriously complicates the tracing of assets. He encourages lawyers to understand how these systems work.

read more »

Knox County Juvenile Court to Hold Fundraiser

The Knox County Juvenile Court will hold an auction and chili cook-off on Nov. 13 to raise money for its Volunteer Advisory Board and annual appreciation dinner for foster care parents and children. The event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Attendees can purchase an all-you-can-eat lunch for $5. Contact Patrice Staley at (865) 215-6475 for more information.

read more »

Judge Starnes and Daughter Sued for Malicious Prosecution

The Chattanoogan reports that General Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes and his daughter, Christina Starnes Evans, have been sued on grounds of malicious prosecution by her former boyfriend, Matthew Cunningham. Starnes Evans was indicted last month on charges of filing a false report and aggravated perjury after she had Cunningham arrested on claims that he harmed her young son.

read more »

Web Series on Employee Dispute Resolution Plans

A four-part webcast series will begin Nov. 4 at noon for lawyers and mediators regarding employee dispute resolution. Courses include Creating and Managing an Employee Dispute Plan, Dispute Resolution in Health Care Settings, Proposed Collaborative Law Rule for Family Law Mediators and Interaction Between Mediators and Lawyers. The series is worth 4.5 credits of CLE.

read more »

Greeneville Commission Wants State to Regulate Marriage

The Greene County Commission on Monday passed a resolution asking the Tennessee General Assembly “through legislative and legal action” to reaffirm the state’s authority to regulate marriage as it is defined in the state’s constitution, The Greeneville Sun reports. "This resolution was an attempt to do what we could do as a county," county attorney Roger Woolsey said. "This was our attempt, or stab, at trying to take the proper approach.”

read more »

Editorial: Tennessee Lawmakers Cannot Nullify Same-sex Ruling

An editorial published in the Knoxville News Sentinel says state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and state Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, have no authority to nullify the Supreme Court’s same-sex ruling through new legislation. The editorial cites the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and outlines cases where the Supreme Court has responded to such state legislative efforts.

read more »

Kentucky Clerk Says She is Ready to Return to Jail for Beliefs

Speaking in her first interview since refusing to issue marriage licenses, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis said she is prepared to return to jail if made to issue same-sex marriage licenses bearing her signature of approval, News Channel 9 reports. "I can't put my name on a license that doesn't represent what God ordained marriage to be," Davis said. 

read more »

Justice Scalia Speaks in Memphis on Same-sex Ruling

During a Constitution Day lecture Tuesday at Rhodes College, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia remarked on the Court’s recent same-sex marriage ruling. "Saying that the Constitution requires that practice, which is contrary to the religious beliefs of many of our citizens, I don't know how you can get more extreme than that," he said. "I worry about a Court that's headed in that direction." The Associated Press has more.

read more »

Concerns Continue Over Validity of Kentucky Marriage Licenses

Gay couples in Kentucky have joined deputy clerk Brian Mason in questioning the validity of marriage licenses issued without Kim Davis’ signature, the Associated Press reports. Davis replaced licenses issued while she was in jail with new licenses stating they were issued “pursuant to federal court order.” "The adulterated marriage licenses received by Rowan County couples will effectively feature a stamp of animus against the LGBT community, signaling that, in Rowan County, the government's position is that LGBT couples are second-class citizens unworthy of official recognition and authorization of their marriage licenses but for this Court's intervention and Order," lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union said.

read more »

Kentucky Deputy Clerk Questions Validity of Marriage Licenses

Brian Mason, a Kentucky deputy clerk issuing marriage licenses out of the office of Kim Davis, is questioning the validity of the licenses without Davis’ name, The New York Times reports. Davis requested that her name and title be removed from the licenses after she refused to issue them on religious objections. Mason shared his concerns with Judge David L. Bunning in a three-page filing in which his lawyer, Richard A. Hughes, wrote that he believed the changes “were made in some attempt to circumvent the court’s orders and may have raised to the level of interference against the court’s orders.”

read more »

Chattanooga Judge Changes His Mind, Grants Divorce

Hamilton County Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton has granted a couple’s divorce, just weeks after denying it, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Atherton originally said it was up to the U.S. Supreme Court to define what was not a marriage following Obergefell v. Hodges. But in a hand-written note on the divorce order, Atherton vacated his Aug. 31 ruling that Tennessee courts could not hear contested divorces because the Supreme Court ruling invalidated their jurisdiction. That ruling had puzzled the legal community in Chattanooga and beyond, the newspaper says.

read more »

Kentucky Clerk Denied Another Appeal Over Marriage Licenses

Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis was denied another appeal to delay a judge’s mandate that she issue marriage licenses to same sex-couples, CBS reports. Davis returned to work this week following five days in jail for refusing to issue licenses based on religious objections. The appeals court said Thursday Davis’ request was denied because her lawyers "did not first ask (U.S. District Court Judge David) Bunning to delay his mandate before they appealed to the high court.”

read more »