News

Tennessee CASA Holds Annual Meeting

Tennessee CASA will hold its 2014 Annual Meeting Sept. 17 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville Public Library. The event will feature brunch, a keynote address from Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway and presentation of awards that honor those making an impact for Tennessee’s abused and neglected children. Michael Leach with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services will receive the the Champion for Children Award, while Tawny Spinelli with the Tennessee Children’s Cabinet at the state Department of Health will receive the Light of Hope Award. The library is located at 615 Church St. in Nashville. Free parking is available for up to 90 minutes in the library garage. Register online by Sept. 10.

read more »

Domestic Abuse Victims Group Calls for Reform

In the wake of a high profile murder-suicide in Shelby County this week, domestic abuse victims’ advocates gathered Wednesday to demand changes to the system. The crime was perpetrated by a husband with a lengthy history of domestic violence against a wife who had initiated three separate protection orders against him; all were dismissed, the Commercial Appeal reports. “The way the system is set up now, the burden is on the victim,” said Olliette Murry-Drobot, director of the Family Safety Center. Most victims of domestic violence earn less than $25,000 per year, Murry-Drobot said, and they have to deal with divorce filings, child custody issues, related criminal cases and order of protections all by themselves and in different venues because Shelby County has no centralized family court.

read more »

States Urge Supreme Court to Take Up Gay Marriage

Following a ruling yesterday by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana, 32 states have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue of gay marriage once and for all, the Associated Press reports. Led by Massachusetts, 15 of the 19 states that allow gay marriage filed a brief asking the justices to take up cases from Virginia, Utah and Oklahoma and overturn their marriage bans. A second group of 17 states that have banned the practice asked the court to hear cases from Utah and Oklahoma to clear up a "morass" of lawsuits. Led by Colorado, this group did not urge the court to rule one way or another. WATE News 6 has the AP story.

read more »

Medical-Legal Partnerships, Copyright and More in New TBJ

TBA President Jonathan Steen explains medical-legal partnerships in his September Tennessee Bar Journal column and his hopes for fostering more MLPs in the state. Technology versus the Copyright Act is covered by Nashville lawyer Tim Warnock, while columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Benjamin Russ write about forced marriage.

read more »

Apperson Crump Acquires Family Law Firm

Memphis’ oldest law firm, Apperson Crump, is expanding its family law practice with the acquisition of the Putnam Firm PLC, the Memphis Business Journal reports. The move adds attorneys Rachael Putnam and Austin Rainey, counsel Cynthia Pensoneau and several staff members to the firm. Putnam joins as a partner. In announcing the news, Apperson Crump Managing Partner Richard Myers said, “These additions substantially augment our existing family law practice."

read more »

New Domestic Violence Court Begins Sept. 2

Courtroom 4B looks like any other room in the Justice A.A. Birch Building, but beginning Sept. 2, it will be the site of Davidson County’s new Domestic Violence Court, the Tennessean reports. For the first time, all domestic violence cases will be referred here, with judges, prosecutors and security staff specially trained to handle such matters. “We’re going to see a major change in how the cases are handled,” said General Sessions Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton, who will be the first in a three-judge rotation to run the new court. General Sessions Judge Gale Robinson and newly elected Judge Allegra Walker will round out the rotation.

read more »

Domestic Partnership Ordinance Loses in Public Vote

Chattanooga voters yesterday defeated the Domestic Partnership Ordinance. The measure, which would have provided health benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees, was approved by the Chattanooga City Council last year but was forced to a public vote. “The City of Chattanooga’s non-discrimination ordinance was repealed tonight, but I want every city employee to know one thing — your work is valued and you are important to the future of our community,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said following the vote. News Channel 9 has the story.

read more »

Judges Weigh in on Gay Marriage Cases

Judges Martha Craig Daughtrey and Deborah L. Cook made it clear fairly quickly they stood on opposite sides of the same-sex marriage debate, but their colleague, Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton gave fewer hints as to where he may come down when the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decides the fate of gay marriage bans in four states, ABC News reports from the Associated Press. The cases heard Wednesday pit states' rights and conservative values against what plaintiffs' attorneys say is a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution. If the 6th Circuit decides against gay marriage, it would create a divide among federal appeals courts and put pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue during its 2015 session. The appeals panel did not indicate when it would rule.

read more »

Domestic Abusers Asked to ‘Check-in’

Davidson County court officers appear to be misapplying a new state law that was intended to cut down on frivolous arrest warrants by issuing summonses instead of warrants for domestic abuse suspects, a Tennessean editorial suggests. Domestic abusers are among criminals most likely to reoffend in a short amount of time, because of the level of anger involved, and the episodes only grow more violent and more deadly. Switching to summonses, for which there are no consequences if you choose to ignore them, may be the worst turn of events yet, the publication says.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

'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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

New Alimony Bench Book Available

The 12th Edition Alimony Bench Book is now available from 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.  

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »