News

Chattanooga Judge Changes His Mind, Grants Divorce

Hamilton County Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton has granted a couple’s divorce, just weeks after denying it, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Atherton originally said it was up to the U.S. Supreme Court to define what was not a marriage following Obergefell v. Hodges. But in a hand-written note on the divorce order, Atherton vacated his Aug. 31 ruling that Tennessee courts could not hear contested divorces because the Supreme Court ruling invalidated their jurisdiction. That ruling had puzzled the legal community in Chattanooga and beyond, the newspaper says.

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Kentucky Clerk Denied Another Appeal Over Marriage Licenses

Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis was denied another appeal to delay a judge’s mandate that she issue marriage licenses to same sex-couples, CBS reports. Davis returned to work this week following five days in jail for refusing to issue licenses based on religious objections. The appeals court said Thursday Davis’ request was denied because her lawyers "did not first ask (U.S. District Court Judge David) Bunning to delay his mandate before they appealed to the high court.”

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Republican Lawmakers Unveil Bill Opposing Same-sex Marriage

Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, introduced the "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act" today at the "Religious Liberty Rally" in Nashville, a bill they believe voids the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, The Tennessean reports. "Natural marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman as recognized by the people of Tennessee remains the law in Tennessee, regardless of any court decision to the contrary," the bill states. 

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Kentucky Clerk Returns to Work, Will Not Authorize Licenses

Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was jailed after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, returned to work this morning and requested that her name and title be removed from marriage licenses issued from her office, NPR reports. "Effective immediately, and until an accommodation is provided, by those with the authority to provide it, any marriage license issued by my office will not be issued or authorized by me,” Davis said. The clerk questioned the validity of licenses coming out of her office without her authority, but The Daily Times reports Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway reviewed the marriage licenses and believes they are valid. Davis said said she would not stand in the way of her deputies issuing licenses.

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Kentucky Clerk to Return to Work Monday

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis said she plans to return to work on Monday, according to her lawyers with the Liberty Counsel. New York Daily News reports Davis’ office issued at least 10 marriage licenses, seven to same-sex couples, during Davis’ time in jail. Davis has not said whether she will begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but deputy clerk Brian Mason said he will continue to grant licenses to same-sex couples regardless of Davis' decision. 

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Kentucky Clerk Out of Jail, Addresses Supporters

Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis was released from jail after being behind bars since Thursday for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses based on religious objections, CNN reports. U.S. District Judge David Banning ordered that Davis be released from jail, but also ordered the clerk not to interfere with her deputies issuing marriage licenses to all eligible couples. Upon her release, Davis stood with presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and addressed a large crowd. Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, would not answer questions about whether Davis would stop same-sex couples from receiving marriage licenses when she returns to work. 

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Congress Expected to Discuss Foster-care System Overhaul

The Crossville Chronicle reports Congress is moving toward an overhaul of the country’s foster-care system and bi-partisan legislation could be presented this fall. Advocates say foster care funds should be going to help biological parents learn to care for children properly, including paying for psychotherapy or treatment for a parent’s addiction issues. "When you ask a child who has been in foster care how we can best improve the current foster-care system, often the answer will be: You could have helped my mom so that I did not have to go into foster care in the first place," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said.

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Kentucky Clerk Ordered To Jail

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to jail after Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples based on religious objections, WDRB reports. Bunning said allowing an individual’s beliefs to supersede the court’s authority would set a dangerous precedent. "I myself have genuinely held religious beliefs, but I took an oath," Bunning said. Davis’ deputies also face fines or jail time if they do not issue marriage licenses to all applicants while Davis is held in contempt. An attorney with Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom group representing Davis and other officials refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, argued that the deputy clerks cannot issue licenses against Davis' authority. Bunning overruled the objection.

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Chattanooga Judge's Marriage Comments Draw Jabs From Blog

A divorce order from Chattanooga Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton is drawing national attention in the Above the Law blog. Atherton denied a heterosexual couple’s mutual wish to get divorced, stating in the opinion, “With the U.S. Supreme Court having defined what must be recognized as a marriage, it would appear that Tennessee’s judiciary must now await the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court as to what is not a marriage, or better stated, when a marriage is no longer a marriage.”  Atherton's full opinion is included in the post.

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Vanderbilt Law Professor: 'Kentucky Clerk Should Resign'

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who continues to deny all marriage licenses following the legalization of same-sex marriage, should resign from her position, Vanderbilt University Law School professor Suzanna Sherry tells WMC Action News 5. "She should simply say, 'If this is what the job requires of me, my religious beliefs will not allow me do this job, so I have to resign.'" U.S. Distrcit Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to appear in his courtroom Thursday in Ashland, where Davis could face fines or jail time if found in contempt.

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Columns Include Same-Sex Marriage, Tolerance and Atticus Finch

President Bill Harbison makes a plea for tolerance among lawyers who hold divergent viewpoints in his column in the September Tennessee Bar Journal. Marlene Eskind Moses and John A. Day each cover the issue of same-sex marriage in their columns: Moses on how that affects family law and Day on loss of consortium claims. Humor columnist Bill Haltom remains steadfast in his admiration of Atticus Finch, even after the jolting view portrayed in Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman

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Parents Paying Child Support Could Obtain Restricted Licenses

A new state law permits people who have had their drivers’ licenses revoked for nonpayment of child support to apply for and possibly receive restricted driver’s licenses, Herald-Citizen reports. Parents who prove they work at least 30 hours a week and live more than a mile from their job or school may apply. Thirteenth Judicial District Attroney Bryan C. Dunaway said the law went into effect July 1. “This new law seeks to eliminate barriers that prevent noncustodial parents from maintaining steady employment and paying their child support timely,” he said.

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Clerk Summoned to Court for Refusing to Issue Marriage Licenses

U.S. District Judge David Bunning summoned Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and her staff to appear in his court following Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses, the National Law Journal reports. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Davis' request for protection from having to issue marriage licenses, pending the outcome of her appeal. Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June, citing religious objections to same-sex marriage. Tuesday the American Civil Liberties Union filed contempt motions against Davis. "The law is clear and the courts have spoken," ACLU national legal director Steven Shapiro said in a statement. "The duty of public officials is to enforce the law, not place themselves above it.” 

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Rule Change Package Released for Review, Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include new authority for appellate courts to dismiss appeals; provisions permitting electronic signatures in courts employing electronic filing; clarification of the effect of service of process on commencement of actions; adoption of the term preliminary hearing in lieu of preliminary examination in criminal procedure; and, refinement of procedure for correction of illegal sentences in criminal cases. The are no evidence rules changes proposed this year. A 90-page comprehensive restructuring and revision of the Rules of Juvenile Procedure is also included.

Six TBA sections -- Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law , Family Law, Juvenile and Children’s Law and Criminal Justice -- will be asked to review the proposed amendments and recommend comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due to the Court by November 25, 2015.

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DA Names Escobar to Lead Domestic Violence Team

Attorney Ana Escobar was appointed by District Attorney Glenn Funk to lead the DA’s domestic violence unit in prosecuting cases and assisting victims. Escobar was sworn in as assistant district attorney in March. She previously served as deputy director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. 

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Federal Court Denies Kentucky Clerk's Request

A Kentucky county clerk's request to suspend a federal injunction requiring her to provide marriage licenses was denied by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, WBIR reports. “It’s not terribly surprising,” Dan Canon, a lawyer representing Rowan county couples who attempted to obtain marriage licenses, said. “It’s correct and yet another reaffirmation that clerks have to abide by the rule of law just like everybody else.” 

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ACLU Urges Court to Reject Kentucky Clerk's Appeal

Lawyers with the national and Kentucky ACLU weighed in over the weekend on the pending case of a court clerk who refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The team urged the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to reject Kim Davis’ argument that she would suffer “searing” injury to her religious liberty if forced to issue the licenses. A federal district judge last week ordered her to do so by the end of the month.

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Tennessee Courts Reverse Wording on Parenting Plan

Tennessee Courts have reversed course on a paperwork change for designating parties in parenting plans. Titles on Permanent Parent Order forms have been changed from “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” back to the original wording of “Mother” and “Father”, WZTV reports. The Court's Communications Director Michele Wojciechowski confirms the courts' reversal, saying they received many complaints from legislators and the general public. The court has referred the matter to the Tennessee Judicial Conference Domestic Relations Committee for possible consideration. 

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Clerk Defies Order, Refuses to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

A county clerk in Kentucky today continued to turn away gay couples seeking marriage licenses, defying a federal judge's order that said deeply held Christian beliefs don't excuse officials from following the law, Knoxnews reports. In his ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning said that Kim Davis has likely violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on the government establishing a religion by "openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expenses of others."

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Divorce Lawyers: Same-Sex Cases Should Not Create Hardship

Two Memphis divorce attorneys tell the Memphis Daily News that while the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage will likely mean more same-sex divorces, handling those cases will not require much on their part. “It’s going to be a boring transition,” says Miles Mason Sr. “There will be hiccups here and there. You’ll have some judges that are more conservative when it comes to custody issues. But you’ve got that now.” On the day of the ruling, Larry Rice said his office made the necessary modifications to legal forms in about 15 minutes.

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Challenge to Judge Walker Referred Back to Lower Court

Nashville Judge Amanda McClendon ruled Friday that General Sessions Judge Allegra Walker should have the right to decide if and when she will recuse herself from domestic violence cases, WSMV reports. McLendon then referred a suit brought by Nashville Public Defender Dawn Deaner back to Walker’s court saying that many of the arguments had never been made there. Walker recently has come under fire for communications and affiliations that defense attorneys say raise questions on her impartiality in domestic violence cases.

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What to Do if No Clerks Willing to Serve Gay Couples?

Sen. Rusty Crowe said the state needs a solution for public employees who don’t want to serve gay married couples based on their religious beliefs, the Johnson City Press reports. His suggestion is to allow those workers to pass off the interaction to a coworker. If every employee in a state office felt that way, however, the Johnson City Republican said he didn’t know what would happen but still feels those employees should be protected from termination or counseling.

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Senate Leader: State Ranking on Child Well-Being Unacceptable

Following the release of a report ranking Tennessee 36th in overall child well-being, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris called on his legislative colleagues and the Haslam Administration to focus more effectively on the needs of the state’s youth. The Annie E. Casey Foundation this week issued a report ranking states based on four factors related to children: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community support. The Chattanoogan has more.

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State Senator: Protect Clerks Who Refuse to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, is suggesting that court clerks should not have to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples if doing so would violate their religious beliefs, WJHL reports. He tells the Tennessean that he does not want to see people get fired because of their beliefs. But he stopped short of saying whether he would draft legislation on the issue.

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Learn More About the Post Tanco World

The outcome of the historical case Tanco v. Haslam will continue to have a significant impact on several aspects of the law. Join your colleagues on Sept. 18 for the first annual LGBT Law Forum to discuss how the case will impact family law, estate planning, real estate and health care practices. And in case you missed it, the TBA's one-hour webcast on marriage equality covers the basics of the case.

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