News

Court OKs Forms for Uncontested Divorce with Children

The Tennessee Supreme Court today adopted a set of plain-language forms and instructions for use in uncontested divorces between parties with minor children. The forms were developed by the Access to Justice Commission as part of an effort to simplify court proceedings, reduce barriers to access to justice and meet the legal needs of vulnerable Tennessean who do not qualify for legal aid programs. To use the forms, both parties must have minor children together and agree on all aspects of the divorce, including child support. They also cannot own real property or have retirement accounts. The new forms will be universally accepted in Tennessee courts as of Jan. 1. Read the court's order.

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Lipscomb Legal Clinic, Dinner to Honor Gray

The Institute for Law, Justice & Society at Lipscomb University will be renamed in honor of civil rights lawyer Fred D. Gray next month. As part of the renaming celebration, the institute will hold a free legal clinic Nov. 12 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Schrader Lane Church of Christ in Nashville. Volunteers are needed to provide advice on civil, criminal, domestic and probate issues. That evening, the school will host Gray for a dinner and keynote address at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. Tickets are $200 per person. RSVP by Nov. 2 . Contact institute director Randy Spivey, 615-966-2503, for more information about any of these events. Read more about Gray and the institute in the October issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal or in this press release from the school.

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New Family Justice Center to Open Nov. 22

About 100 people attended yesterday’s ribbon cutting at Chattanooga’s new Family Justice Center, which will provide free services for victims of sexual assault, human trafficking, elder abuse and domestic violence. The center, which has been operating out of another space, will officially open in the new location on Nov. 22, Nooga.com reports. Dignitaries at the ceremony included Mayor Andy Berke, Police Chief Fred Fletcher, Judge Christie Sells and Child Advocacy Center of Hamilton County Executive Director Shelley McGraw.

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Stanton to Address Domestic Violence Awareness Event

Men across Memphis were set to gather this evening to take a stand against domestic violence at the second annual Shine Your Light on Domestic Violence event. Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings and U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton were scheduled to address the group. Judicial Commissioner Kevin Reed, who was also on the agenda, told News 5 that it is the “silence of good men that allows domestic violence to persist.” Read more from station.

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KBA Sections Holding Pro Bono Night

The Knoxville Bar Association’s Corporate Counsel Section and Family Law Section are joining forces for a Pro Bono Night next Tuesday. Members of the sections will gather to answer civil legal questions posted to TN Free Legal Answers. Representatives from the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services will be available during the event to answer questions and assist with technology issues. Other volunteers are invited to join the group from 5 to 7 p.m. EST at the Adams Law Firm, 8517 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37919. Register online to participate.

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DOJ Addresses Jailing of Domestic Violence Victims

The U.S. Department of Justice has had multiple conversations with state officials about the jailing of domestic violence victims in Washington County, according to  WJHL.com. The federal Office on Violence Against Women confirms that it has provided technical assistance to the state to help improve training. WJHL first brought the issue of jailing victims to light when it reported that the county arrested domestic violence victims more than 12 times last year.

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CASA Monroe Holding Fundraiser Tuesday

CASA Monroe is holding a Pampered Chef fundraiser Tuesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Rarity Bay Community Activity Center, 150 Rarity Bay Pkwy. in Vonore. The event will feature free food samples and gift drawings every half hour. All proceeds will benefit the work of the organization. Those who cannot attend in person can support CASA by ordering online. Questions about products should be directed to Cheryl Madenford, 239-825-5607.

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Advocate Proposes Domestic Violence Offender Registry

A domestic violence survivor and victim’s rights advocate is working with state lawmakers to help track repeat domestic violence offenders, News Channel 11 reports. Debbie Church says she was inspired to propose the registry after experiencing domestic violence at the hands of her now ex-husband. The Tri-Cities woman has spoken with the Sullivan County Family Justice Center, which indicated support for the idea. Church says the legislation is still in the initial stage but hopes local lawmakers will propose the bill next legislative session.

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State: Don’t Jail Domestic Violence Victims

At a district attorney general’s conference this week in Pigeon Forge, state officials reminded Tennessee’s grant-funded domestic violence prosecutors that forcing victims to testify against their abusers and jailing those who do not cooperate will not be tolerated. WJHL-TV first reported on Washington County's use of the practice to punish victims who disobeyed subpoenas. It now reveals that the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs reported the situation to the U.S. Department of Justice in mid-September. The state agency emphasized that it had made the prohibition on use of funds clear in its grant materials and that the county agreed to the conditions in signing to accept the funds.

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Judge Sammons Faces Civil Rights Lawsuit

Campbell County Judge Amanda Sammons, who was indicted in August on four counts of official misconduct, now faces a federal civil rights lawsuit unrelated to her previous charges. Knoxnews reports that in September 2015, Sammons wrote a note ordering the removal of Ashley Keisling’s children from their Kentucky home, to be moved to Campbell County into their father’s custody. A Kentucky judge had barred the father, Johnny Ray Elliot, from contact with the children in 2011. Sammons’ order claims that the state Department of Children’s Services had alleged the children were being harmed in their mother’s care, but according to documents filed in Campbell County Circuit Court, DCS had filed no such petition.
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Judge Sammons Faces Civil Rights Lawsuit

Campbell County Judge Amanda Sammons, who was indicted in August on four counts of official misconduct, now faces a federal civil rights lawsuit unrelated to her previous charges. Knoxnews reports that in September 2015, Sammons wrote a note ordering the removal of Ashley Keisling’s children from their Kentucky home, to be moved to Campbell County into their father’s custody. A Kentucky judge had barred the father, Johnny Ray Elliot, from contact with the children in 2011. Sammons’ order claims that the state Department of Children’s Services had alleged the children were being harmed in their mother’s care, but according to documents filed in Campbell County Circuit Court, DCS had filed no such petition.
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October TBJ: Alimony, Pro Bono and Fred Gray

Even when income changes dramatically at retirement, alimony in futuro does not change without asking the court for a modification. This may be a shock to your clients, but Memphis lawyer Miles Mason Sr. explains it in this new Tennessee Bar Journal. October is “Celebrate Pro Bono Month” and Chattanooga lawyer Russell Fowler looks at President James A. Garfield’s good example as a lawyer doing pro bono. The Journal also highlights civil rights icon Fred D. Gray upon the opening of an institute named in his honor. TBA President Jason Long examines the core values and principles that define us as lawyers and the profession. Read the October issue.

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Event Honors Domestic Violence Victims, Advocates

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands and the Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence will hold the annual “Meet Us at the Bridge” event Saturday at 1 p.m. in Nashville to kick-off Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event, held on the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, honors those who have lost their lives to domestic violence in the last year. Awards also will be presented to those who have done outstanding work in the fight to end domestic violence. The Waller law firm will be recognized for its work with the Civil-Legal Advocate Program (CLAP), a partnership between Legal Aid and the Metro Office of Family Safety that provides free legal representation to domestic violence victims.

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Domestic Violence Prosecutor to Speak at Luncheon

The Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga is hosting the Fourth Annual Voices Luncheon Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Stratton Hall to mark the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Cindy Dyer, a former domestic and sexual violence prosecutor internationally known for her work on gender-based violence, will give the keynote address. Dyer served as director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women under President George W. Bush. Purchase tickets online or contact Katie Jackson at 423-752-4820. Chattanoogan.com has more.

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ABA Urges Senate Vote on Child Welfare Bill

The ABA is urging the Senate to pass the Family First Prevention Services Act (S. 3065) by the end of the month. The bill, which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives this summer, reforms the federal child welfare financing structure and extends the Court Improvement Program (CIP), which provides resources for child welfare courts in all 50 states. Since its creation more than 20 years ago, the CIP has supported courts’ ability to play an essential role in ensuring the safety and permanency for abused and neglected children, the ABA says.

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Indigent Representation Task Force to Meet Friday

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force will meet at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in Room LP12 of Legislative Plaza in Nashville. The panel will hear presentations from Vince Dean, Hamilton County criminal court clerk and president of the Tennessee Clerks of Court Conference; Jerry N. Estes, executive director of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference; Charme Allen, Knox County district attorney general; Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Mark Fishburn; and Justyna Garbaczewska Scalpone with the Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender. Get details about the meeting.

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Court Grants Review of 4 New Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review of four cases, which raise issues related to administrative employment appeals, marital property and two wrongful death claims. The Raybin Supreme Court Hotlist reviews each case and offers a prediction as to how each may be decided.

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Judge Reopens Funk Case, State Hires Private Counsel

A federal judge has reopened a case against Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk, the Tennessean reports. Last week, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger dismissed the lawsuit brought by David Chase because his lawyer, John Boucher, missed a deadline to respond. Boucher appealed the decision arguing that he was mistakenly following rules for the Eastern District. Yesterday, Trauger reopened the case and gave Boucher until Sept. 23 to respond. Chase is suing Funk and Assistant District Attorney General Katy Miller over how his domestic violence case was handled. In related news, the state has hired James Kay with the Nashville firm of Kay, Griffin, Enkema & Colbert to represent Funk and Miller.

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Pearls & Pinstripes Gala Planned for Sept. 30

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence will host the fourth annual Pearls & Pinstripes Gala Sept. 30 from 6-10 p.m. at Nissan Stadium’ West Club in Nashville. The event, which is the group’s annual fundraising gala, includes dinner, entertainment and live and silent auctions. Tickets are $125 each and may be purchased online. For a second year, the Tennessee Titans have partnered with the coalition to present the gala and to kick off October’s designation as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Learn more about the event in this release.

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Reminder: 2 Events Taking Place Next Week

The Nashville Bar Association will host its annual member picnic Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Walk of Fame Park. The family-friendly event, co-sponsored by the Metro Law Department, will include a catered dinner and open bar. Members can attend for free. Nonmembers can buy tickets for $20 per person. CASA Monroe will benefit from the fourth annual Muscadine Balloon Fiesta next weekend at the Tsali Notch Vineyard, 140 Harrison Rd. in Madisonville. The event will feature balloon rides, live music, food, games and a Balloon Glow at dusk. 

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County Can’t Use Federal Grant to Compel Victims’ Testimony

The grant Washington County uses to prosecute domestic violence cases prohibits the district attorney’s office from forcing victims to participate in criminal proceedings, according to News Channel 11. The $216,000, three-year STOP Domestic Violence Against Women grant funds the district’s domestic violence prosecutor through June 2018. Channel 11 reporters had earlier found that more than a dozen victims were held in contempt of court after they failed to appear in court and testify. Domestic violence prevention advocate Lynn Armstrong says she is still in shock from learning about the contempt charges. “It is never OK to arrest victims for not showing up to court, because we don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors,” she said.

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County Can’t Use Federal Grant to Compel Victims’ Testimony

The grant Washington County uses to prosecute domestic violence cases prohibits the district attorney’s office from forcing victims to participate in criminal proceedings, according to News Channel 11. The $216,000, three-year STOP Domestic Violence Against Women grant funds the district’s domestic violence prosecutor through June 2018. Channel 11 reporters had earlier found that more than a dozen victims were held in contempt of court after they failed to appear in court and testify. Domestic violence prevention advocate Lynn Armstrong says she is still in shock from learning about the contempt charges. “It is never OK to arrest victims for not showing up to court, because we don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors,” she said.

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Nashville Funds Legal Aid’s Work Against Domestic Violence

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will receive $186,500 from the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County for the current fiscal year. The grant will fund services to survivors of domestic violence, including legal representation, attendance at order of protection hearings, and community education. Last year, the group used similar funding to provide legal assistance to 279 domestic violence victims, attend 136 court dockets where order of protection petitions and related motions were heard, and publish more than 1,150 educational materials and self-help guides for domestic violence victims. The group announced the partnership in a recent newsletter to supporters.

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Services Pending for Memphis Lawyer Caywood

Memphis lawyer David Caywood died Wednesday (Sept. 7) after suffering a stroke a few weeks earlier. He was 79. As a young lawyer at Burch, Porter & Johnson, Caywood was recruited by his father-in-law, Lucius Burch, to help represent sanitation strikers in Memphis during the height of the civil rights movement. Burch and Caywood met with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel the day before King was assassinated. Caywood went on to practice for 50 years mostly in the area of family law. He also represented former state senator John Ford and the wife of a FedEx pilot who was found beaten and burned while attempting to divorce her husband. The Commercial Appeal has more on his life. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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Opinions Differ on Jailing Domestic Violence Victims

Prosecutors and defense attorneys differ on the wisdom of jailing domestic violence victims who fail to appear in court. That question is being played out in the case of a Johnson City woman who could not get a ride to court to testify against her abusive spouse. She was jailed and said she was beaten there, the Johnson City Press reports.

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