News

Grants Available for Parent Education, Victim Offender Reconciliation

The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts is accepting applications for two grants funding the Parent Education and Mediation Fund and the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program. The deadline for both grants is April 11.

read more »

Next 2 Weeks Critical for Legislators

The next two weeks could be crucial for the General Assembly, the Tennessean suggests, as big issues such as meth abuse, school vouchers, free tuition for community college students and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants still face decisions in the House and Senate before they shut down. The TBA's package of bills continues to progress towards passage. The five-year statute of repose for legal malpractice passed the House Monday and is now headed to the Governor, as is the TBA's family law bill. However, the TBA has concerns about bills regarding patent litigation, employment discrimination, and confidentiality for victims of sexual offenses and has communicated these concerns to the legislature. These measures continue to move forward without changes. A bill on the issue of bad faith patent infringement (SB1967/HB2117) is ineffective, since any litigation would likely not survive a preemption challenge and existing case law effectively addresses these issues. Another bill (SB2126/HB1954) would gut protections for whistleblowers in employment discrimination cases, and only protects against retaliation if a report was in writing or email. Under the guise of keeping crime victim information confidential, SB2254/HB2361 would make it more difficult for defense attorneys to discuss identifying information about the victim with their client. TBAImpact has more.

read more »

New Alimony Bench Book Available

The 12th Edition Alimony Bench Book has just been released by 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. The goal of the publication is to assist judges in the consistent awarding of alimony across the state and help lawyers present their cases in court.

read more »

New Advocacy Group Tackles Women’s and Children’s Issues

Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Sara Beth Myers recently founded Advocates for Women’s and Kids’ Equality (AWAKE), which works to foster public policy to “improve the wellness, safety, opportunity and equality for women and children in Tennessee.” Since its inception in November, the group has worked to build a base in Nashville and establish itself within the state. Myers and her team have worked on mandatory sentencing laws for domestic violence offenders, but in an interview with the Nashville Scene, she said she does not want AWAKE to be pigeonholed as strictly a domestic violence organization, and plans to work on other issues such as improving state children’s services and pay equity.

read more »

New Alimony Bench Book Available

The 12th Edition Alimony Bench Book has just been released by 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.  The goal of the publication is to assist judges in the consistent awarding of alimony across the state and help lawyers present their cases in court.

read more »

Child Abuse Prevention Month Events

CASA agencies across Tennessee will mark Child Abuse Prevention Month with events, fundraisers and educational programs throughout the month of April. To get involved contact the appropriate invidual below. Don't see your area listed? Find a CASA agency near you at the Tennessee CASA website.


CASA OF THE 9TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT

Contact: Karren Herman, jb020707@yahoo.com

read more »

Former Magistrate Censured for ‘Messiah’ Ruling

A former Tennessee magistrate who changed a baby's first name from "Messiah" to "Martin" was censured Monday, WRCB-TV reports. Lu Ann Ballew said at the time that Messiah was a title held only by Jesus Christ. Ballew's attorneys have argued that she was acting in the child's best interest because having the name Messiah could make his life difficult. Board of Judicial Conduct Disciplinary Counsel Tim Discenza said in a phone interview with the Associated Press that a panel of the board voted unanimously for a public censure, which was probably the most serious sanction the board could take given that Ballew already lost her position.

read more »

Groups to Honor Retiring Sen. Burks

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence, in partnership with the Women’s Political Collaborative, will host an advocacy day at the legislature on Feb. 26. The day also will include a breakfast at Waller Law and a luncheon at the Tennessee State Library & Archives honoring state Sen. Charlotte Burks, who is retiring this year. Registration is required. Lunch is $25. Other events are free. See the full schedule and register.

read more »

If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

read more »

Domestic Violence Program Extended

The Legal Challenge, a program that encourages Nashville-area attorneys to become more involved in domestic violence prevention, has been extended through February by the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Supported by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, District Attorney Torry Johnson and YWCA leaders, the program aims to get attorneys who are not typically involved in domestic violence cases to learn more about the issue and volunteer to perform pro bono work for victims. The YWCA created a brief online course in domestic violence that attorneys can take prior to volunteering. Law firms with the most participation will be recognized by the YWCA in April. The Tennessean has the story.

read more »

Child Support Magistrate Sworn In Today

Melissa Moore was sworn in as Child Support Magistrate for the 4th Judicial District during ceremonies this morning at the Sevier County Courthouse. Moore will begin her term on Feb. 1. TBA President Cindy Wyrick made brief remarks at the ceremony. The 4th Judicial district serves Cocke, Grainer, Jefferson and Sevier counties. Read more from the Jefferson County Post.

read more »

'Messiah' Judge Answers Formal Charges

Child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew has responded to charges brought against her by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct, the Newport Plain Talk reports. In documents filed with the court, Ballew denies that her actions violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. A three-member investigative panel organized by the board earlier found there was "reasonable cause" to believe Ballew violated the Code of Judicial Conduct when she ruled a family could not name its child “Messiah.” Get all documents in the case on the AOC website.

read more »

Columns Cover Statute of Repose, Reproductive Rights, Don Paine

In this issue, President Cindy Wyrick and columnist John Day each give different views of the Statute of Repose, and Marlene Eskind Moses's column this month covers a little-known area of reproductive rights, assisted reproductive technology. Don Paine, who died in November, is remembered by editor Suzanne Craig Robertson and columnist Bill Haltom, who also gives tribute to John Smartt. You can also read a "Paine on Procedure" column written by Paine before his death.

read more »

Ballew Granted Extension to Respond to Complaint

Cocke County Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew has been granted an extension until Jan. 6, 2014, to file a response to formal charges brought against her by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct, the Newport Plain Talk reports. Charges were filed against Ballew on Oct. 23, after she ruled that a Cocke County child could not be named "Messiah." Read more from the paper.

read more »

DCS One Year Later

One year after various media coalitions sued the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services for access to child death records, WREG news Channel 3 reviews the changes and progress DCS has made. In the past year, DCS has made major staff and policy changes and revised its child death review process. Agency leaders say the abuse hotline is dropping fewer calls, case workers are training with the TBI and more data will be added online, like a child’s age, gender and history with the department before the full case file is posted. “We’re trying every way we can to be more open, we think that, that makes us better, we invite the oversight,” says Commissioner Jim Henry.

read more »

Meet Santa, Help CASA

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Ninth Judicial District is offering two opportunities for the public to have a photo of a child or pet with Santa Claus in Harriman while learning how to help abused children, Roane County News reports. The agency reports that Santa will be in front of the former Roane Medical Center from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 before the city’s Christmas parade and again from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 14 at Earl Duff Subaru. The outreach provides an opportunity to educate local families about CASA's work in the community.

read more »

Judge Wimberly Receives Adoption Honor

Knox County Circuit Court Judge Harold Wimberly Jr. received the Bill Williams Service Award for outstanding achievement in adoption services last week from the Department of Child Services (DCS). The award recognized his commitment, dedication and service to assisting the department in finding adoptive families for children in full guardianship of the state, the Knoxville Focus reports. Wimberly, a Knoxville native, has served on the bench for 39 years – first as a general sessions judge and then as a circuit court judge. DCS reports that he has overseen 584 adoptions, leading to 1,000 children being placed in homes.

read more »

Lay Announces Campaign for Circuit Judge

Knoxville attorney Patti Jane Lay today announced her candidacy for Fourth Circuit judge. She will run as a candidate in the May 2014 Republican primary. "I have been thinking about this decision for some time, and I concluded I would like the chance to contribute my experience, especially to helping children and families who are going through difficult times," Lay said. The court hears family law matters such as divorce, orders of protection and appeals from juvenile court. For the past 10 years, Lay has served as special master for the court. She previously practiced law in Knoxville.

read more »

Couples Suing for Marriage Equality File Petition for Protection

Four legally married same-sex couples, who recently filed a federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s refusal to respect their marriages, today asked the district court for immediate protection of their families while the lawsuit proceeds. The petitioners argue such an order is necessary because the state’s refusal to respect their marriages is putting their families at risk of serious harm. The four couples filed suit on Oct. 21, arguing that Tennessee laws prohibiting recognition of their marriages violate the Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection, due process and the right to travel between and move to other states. The case is being handled locally by Nashville lawyers Abby Rubenfeld, William Harbison, Scott Hickman, Phil Cramer and John Farringer; Memphis lawyer Maureen Holland; and Knoxville lawyer Regina Lambert with support from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Read more in a press release from the group or download the motion for preliminary injunction and supporting memo.

read more »

Study: Inconsistent Rape Data Creates Confusion

Sexual assault incidents are badly underreported and poorly counted, a new national study concludes. The review, by the National Research Council, examined various methods of counting assaults and found conflicting results. These discrepancies, according to the researchers, create confusion among the public, law enforcement, policy makers and advocacy groups, and limit the ability of support service agencies to help victims. The study concluded that some 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, but recommended ways to improve data collection of these cases. The Tennessean has more.

read more »

DCS Seeks Budget Increase for More Caseworkers

A federal court order that requires the Department of Children’s Services to limit the caseloads of foster care workers has encouraged agency officials to propose a $2 million increase in state dollars next year to hire and train more child protective services workers. As the number of children coming into foster care continues to climb, DCS plans to hire 45 more caseworkers, give them additional training and equip them with computer tablets to better documents child abuse and neglect cases in the field. The Tennessean has the story.

read more »

New K-9 Staffer Helps Calm Crime Victims

The newest member of the Clarksville District Attorney’s office is a docile, black Lab, whose presence often calms children and other victims of rape and sexual assault. The Leaf Chronicle introduces us to Orson, a 2-year-old black lab/golden retriever mix that was specifically bred and trained from birth to serve those with special needs.

read more »

Tennessee CASA Earns GM Foundation Grant

The General Motors Foundation today announced that Tennessee CASA is among 11 nonprofits in the state to receive grants totaling $75,000. Cheryl Hultman, Tennessee CASA executive director, said in a press release, "The GM Foundation grant to Tennessee CASA is very significant and will ultimately touch the lives of many children who have been appointed a CASA volunteer."

read more »

Legal Aid Attorney Honored with Reception

The Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence recently honored Legal Aid attorney and domestic violence prevention advocate Jean Crowe. Crowe retired in September after 28 years of service in the Nashville office of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. Her nearly three decades with Legal Aid included 15 years as managing attorney of the Family Law Section, where she crafted a program centered on holistic advocacy and helping clients become self-sufficient. See photos from the event.

read more »

Judge Charged with Misconduct for Changing Baby’s Name

The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has charged Fourth Judicial District Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew with judicial misconduct for ruling that a Cocke County infant could not be named “Messiah.” According to the Associated Press, the board charged that Ballew’s ruling, and public comments she made about it, violated several elements of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct, including a prohibition of any indications of bias based on religion. Read more on Fox News 17.

read more »