News

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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14th Alimony Bench Book Available

The 14th Edition of the 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 the 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.  

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14th Edition of the Alimony Bench Book is Now Available

The 14th Edition Alimony Bench Book is now available FREE in downloadable format to the members of the TBA Family Law Section. The new edition includes Published and Unpublished cases from Aug. 8, 2003, through Dec. 31, 2015. To download your FREE copy of this publication, please follow these steps:

1. Log in to your account on the Tennessee Bar Association website (if you do not have a password or do not remember your password, use the "Request New Password" feature.

2. Visit the Alimony Bench Book page that contains links to the new edition and each individual section.

3. Download the Alimony Bench Book in either PDF or Microsoft Word format.

A loose-leaf printed version of this publication may also be purchased for $40 per book ($50 in a 3-ring binder) from the online TBA Bookstore or by contacting the Tennessee Bar Association at 615-383-7421.

The TBA would like to thank Alimony Committee Chair Amy Amundsen and all of the members of this Committee for their hard work and commitment to this publication. The Committees hope is that this book will assist judges in their attempts to award consistent alimony in cases across Tennessee.

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Court Reverses Alabama Decision Denying Lesbian Mother's Adoption

The U.S. Supreme Court today reversed an Alabama court’s refusal to recognize a lesbian mother’s adoption that she and her partner had been granted in Georgia. The Alabama Supreme Court in September ruled a Georgia court had mistakenly granted a woman custody of three children following her split from her partner. The nation’s Supreme Court said Alabama’s decision ignored a long-standing precedent that state courts must recognize rulings by courts in other states. Read more from USA Today.

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House Resolution Criticizes Same-Sex Marriage Decision

The Tennessee House of Representatives today passed a resolution expressing disagreement with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to legalize same-sex marriage. The chamber said it disagrees with the constitutional analysis used in Obergefell v. Hodges. Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Old Hickory, sponsor of the measure, called the High Court’s action “very dangerous.” She added, “Our law does not say that, it’s never said that, and it was never the intent of the General Assembly to do that.” Read more from The Tennessean.

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Changes to Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative package making changes to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act in SB2553/HB2572 includes clarifying the effective date and clarifying the definition of initiating tribunal. Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, passes the bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today, and Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, passes its companion out of the House Civil Justice Committee. The bill now heads to the Senate floor and the House Calendar and Rules Committee for consideration. 

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Summary of Recent LGBT Restriction Bills

The Tennessean offers a summary of half a dozen LGBT-related bills regarding marriage rights, defining gender roles and bathroom access. The list includes the "Natural Marriage" bill (HB 1412/SB 1437), the Counselor Protection bill (HB 1850/SB 1556) and the Birth Gender bill (HB 2600/SB 2275).

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Fowler Files Second Anti Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuit

The Tennessean reports an anti same-sex marriage lawsuit has been filed in Bradley County challenging the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling overturning bans on same-sex marriage. The suit, filed by attorney David Fowler, is the second case filed by the former state Senator challenging the landmark ruling. “These lawsuits have had the additional positive effect of helping an increasing number of Tennesseans begin to appreciate the important constitutional boundaries that the United States,” Fowler said.

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Metro Council Asks Delegation to Oppose Anti-Gay Marriage Bills

Nashville’s Metro Council has asked the Davidson County state delegation to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage and to oppose any bills that are anti-gay marriage. The council yesterday unanimously approved the resolution, The Tennessean reports. “This is letting folks know on the Hill that we request that they simply confer with the Supreme Court ruling on this matter,” said Nancy VanReece, one of the bill’s sponsors.

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ABA Family Law Award Honors Nashville Attorney

The ABA Section of Family Law Jean Crowe Pro Bono Award Committee is accepting nominations for attorneys who have made significant contributions to family law clients on a pro bono basis in their communities. The award includes $1,500 and reimbursement for travel expenses of up to $1,000 to attend the Family Law Section’s Award Luncheon in San Francisco. Nominations are due May 20. Crowe was the TBA's 2013 Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year.

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Judge McAfee Files Complaint Against Judge Sammons

Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge John McAfee has filed a complaint with the Board of Judicial Conduct against Campbell County General Sessions Judge Amanda Sammons, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. McAfee struck down several orders from Sammons to remove children from homes after lawyers for the state Department of Children Services said they did not seek removal of the children. Sammons on Friday attempted to appeal McAfee’s decisions.

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Court Rules on Parents' Constitutional Rights in Termination Proceedings

The Tennessee Supreme today held that a parent's constitutional right to fundamental fairness in termination proceedings does not require adoption of a separate procedure that allows parents to further appeal termination orders based on ineffective representation by appointed counsel. The Court argued that adding a separate procedure could result in years of litigation that “could cause immeasurable damage to children.” The Court imposed an additional safeguard that says in an appeal from an order terminating parental rights, the Court of Appeals must consider whether the evidence supports the trial court’s findings as to all the grounds for termination alleged and as to the best interests of the child, even if the parent fails to challenge these findings on appeal. Read the majority opinion in In Re Carrington H., authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, and the separate concurring and dissenting opinion, authored by Chief Justice Lee.

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Lawsuit Challenges Validity of Marriage Licenses

A lawsuit filed today by former state Sen. David Fowler on behalf of five Williamson County residents questions whether Tennessee law relative to the licensing of marriages is valid and enforceable following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges. At a Capitol press conference, Fowler asked, "How does anyone, regardless of the sexes of the parties, get a valid marriage license pursuant to an invalid law?" The lawsuit names Williamson County Clerk Elaine Anderson as the defendant and asks her to stop issuing marriage licenses until the lawsuit is resolved, The Tennessean reports. The lawsuit comes one day after the House Civil Justice subcommittee killed the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act

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In This Issue: A Twist on DUI, Family Law and Torts

You know how DUI works -- at least the kind involving alcohol, but what about when the driver is impaired by drugs? Circuit Judge Tom Wright and UT Law student Christopher Graham explain in the January Tennessee Bar Journal what's different about that and what you need to know. (You can also learn more on the same subject from this upcoming TBA CLE webcast.) TBJ family law columnist Marlene Eskind Moses covers employment benefits as separate property and John Day writes about unintended consequences in tort law (Breaking Bad fans will especially enjoy this take on it). Humor columnist Bill Haltom questions the legislature's interest in events on the campus of UT-Knoxville. Read the entire issue.

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Alabama Chief Justice Orders Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore today ordered probate judges in the state not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, CNN reports. Moore said that the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage was targeted at Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee and that the Court did not specifically address the Alabama ban. 

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Federal Authorities Involved in Abduction Case in Knox County

The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Marshals Service are involved in a federal case in Knox County involving a Mexican child living in Knoxville. Eugenio Garduno Guevara had been searching for his son since the mother and boy disappeared from Mexico in 2013. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports attorney Tom Slaughter filed a petition in May 2015 in Knox County Juvenile Court seeking to establish custody of the boy by the mother and listing the pair in Knoxville. The State Department then served notice on the court on behalf of the father’s claims. The U.S. Marshals Service was brought in to track the mother down and serve her with all court records filed in the case thus far.

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Report Calls for Agencies to Increase Child Protection Services

A report issued by the Second Look Commission illuminated what it calls “missed opportunities” for Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services to protect victims of repeat child abuse. Among its suggestions, the report called for better enforcement of court orders that result in “kinship placements,” in which children are removed from dangerous homes and allowed to stay with relatives. Read more from Nashville Public Radio.

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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…” 

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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.

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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.

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