News

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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Editorial: Tennessee Lawmakers Cannot Nullify Same-Sex Ruling

An editorial published in the Knoxville News Sentinel says state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and state Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, have no authority to nullify the Supreme Court’s same-sex ruling through new legislation. The editorial cites the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and outlines cases where the Supreme Court has responded to such state legislative efforts.

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Kentucky Clerk Says She is Ready to Return to Jail for Beliefs

Speaking in her first interview since refusing to issue marriage licenses, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis said she is prepared to return to jail if made to issue same-sex marriage licenses bearing her signature of approval, News Channel 9 reports. "I can't put my name on a license that doesn't represent what God ordained marriage to be," Davis said. 

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Justice Scalia Speaks in Memphis on Same-Sex Ruling

During a Constitution Day lecture Tuesday at Rhodes College, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia remarked on the Court’s recent same-sex marriage ruling. "Saying that the Constitution requires that practice, which is contrary to the religious beliefs of many of our citizens, I don't know how you can get more extreme than that," he said. "I worry about a Court that's headed in that direction." The Associated Press has more.

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Concerns Continue Over Validity of Kentucky Marriage Licenses

Gay couples in Kentucky have joined deputy clerk Brian Mason in questioning the validity of marriage licenses issued without Kim Davis’ signature, the Associated Press reports. Davis replaced licenses issued while she was in jail with new licenses stating they were issued “pursuant to federal court order.” "The adulterated marriage licenses received by Rowan County couples will effectively feature a stamp of animus against the LGBT community, signaling that, in Rowan County, the government's position is that LGBT couples are second-class citizens unworthy of official recognition and authorization of their marriage licenses but for this Court's intervention and Order," lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union said.

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Kentucky Deputy Clerk Questions Validity of Marriage Licenses

Brian Mason, a Kentucky deputy clerk issuing marriage licenses out of the office of Kim Davis, is questioning the validity of the licenses without Davis’ name, The New York Times reports. Davis requested that her name and title be removed from the licenses after she refused to issue them on religious objections. Mason shared his concerns with Judge David L. Bunning in a three-page filing in which his lawyer, Richard A. Hughes, wrote that he believed the changes “were made in some attempt to circumvent the court’s orders and may have raised to the level of interference against the court’s orders.”

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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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