News

Divorce, End-of-Life Care and Cybercriminals

In this issue, Helen Rogers and George Spanos outline strategies for the timing of filing for divorce in Tennessee and Eddy R. Smith discusses the painful topic of pregnancy and end-of-life care. If you weren't scared of people stealing your money electronically before, Kathryn Reed Edge's column on cybercriminals will send you running to change all your passwords and tighten your firm security.

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Cleveland CAC Benefit Set for April 12

The Cleveland Child Advocacy Center (CAC) will hold a benefit April 12 at the Cleveland Family YMCA from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be food, music and tables where local political candidates can meet voters and hand out campaign literature. The Cleveland Daily Banner has the details.

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Still Time to Get Tickets for CASA Red Shoe Party

CASA Nashville still has tickets available for its 15th Annual Red Shoe Party on April 12 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Rocketown. The event is the agency’s primary fundraiser and community awareness activity for the year, and will feature dancing, silent auction and contest for the best red shoes.

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DCS Releases First Child Fatality Data Since Agency Overhaul

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) this week published child fatality statistics for the first time since the agency overhauled how deaths are reported, counted and investigated. The report showed DCS investigated the deaths of 245 children in 2013, finding evidence of abuse or neglect in 40 cases, although almost a fifth of investigations haven’t concluded. The new method of counting makes comparisons to prior years impossible, but DCS officials have vowed to be faster in reporting deaths, be transparent with records and more rigorous in their internal investigations into cases in which state investigators had contact with families before children died. The Tennessean has more.

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Six Months or Six Days: When Can You File for Divorce in Tennessee?

The conventional wisdom is that Tennessee has a six-month durational residency requirement for divorce pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §36-4-104(a).[1] While that is correct, it is not always determinative.

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Judges Lend Support to Domestic Violence Victims

Several judges attended the SafePlace Gala and Auction last week in Sevierville to support the cause to end domestice violence. “Domestic violence and abuse is a serious problem and one I have combated head-on as a judge," Judge Dick Vance told the group. "I have always, and will continue, to make stopping this atrocity a top priority of mine.” SafePlace serves victims of domestic violence in Sevier, Jefferson and Cocke counties. With more than 250 people in attendance, a significant amount of money was raised for the organization, the Herald News reported.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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'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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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