News

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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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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