News

Balkwill is New CASA Association President

Kevin Balkwill, disciplinary counsel in the Litigation Division of the Board of Professional Responsibility, is the new president of the Tennessee CASA Association. Meagan Frazier Grosvenor steps down from the position after serving two years.

New TBJ Covers Arbitration, Divorce, Wrongful Death Proceeds

Don't miss the September Tennessee Bar Journal, featuring two articles on arbitration. One, by Adam Eckstein, explores when Rule 31 and the Tennessee Uniform Arbitration Act meet; the second, by Shelby R. Grubbs and Glenn P. Hendrix, unveils a new international concept for arbitration services. Columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Beth A. Townsend give you ideas for finding hidden assest in divorces, and John A. Day discusses distribution of net proceeds in wrongful death cases. Humor columnist Bill Haltom pays tribute to a queen and a princess -- Pat Summitt and the influence she has had on his daughter and many other girls. President Jackie Dixon speaks out about merit selection. You probably already have it in hand, but you can also read it online here

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Robertson Judge Recuses Self in Sexual-Abuse Custody Case

Robertson County Circuit Judge Ross Hicks recused himself today in a matter involving a mother who defied his court order, going on the run with her son instead of turning him over into the custody of his father, who she believed was sexually abusing the boy. At the time, an 11-person state investigative team had decided that William Cone, the boys' father, was doing just that but in Hicks' court, Georgia Dunn lost primary custody. Cone was arrested and charged with rape of a child last week, and now Dunn has surrendered to police. Tomorrow she will be back in court to determine whether the felony she is charged with will stand. WSMV reports

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CASA Volunteers Have Emotional Job

The Jackson Sun looks at the 31 CASA volunteers who work with Judge Christy Little in the Madison County Juvenile Court System. Shannon Stewart, executive director of Madison County CASA, said the program does not get involved with a child unless Little has referred the case to CASA workers. “It’s a mix of happy and sad,” Little said of the process that can at times be "emotional roller-coaster" for her and case workers because of the horrific situations children have faced.

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Custody Battle Brews Over Child's Sexy Outfit

A woman who dressed her daughter in a Dolly Parton outfit with a padded bra and backside for an episode of the reality TV show Toddlers & Tiaras could lose custody of the girl over the choice. In a battle unfolding in a Kentucky courtroom, a court-appointed psychologist is siding with Bill Verst, father of 6-year-old Maddy Verst, who contends her mother, Lindsay Jackson, sexually exploited their daughter by allowing her to dress so provocatively. Comparing the activity to training for the Olympics, Jackson said that if she loses custody over this, it would "open the door for any parent to challenge anybody on any activity that a kid does, period." ABAJournal.com has more

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Conference on Juvenile Justice Held, Officers Elected

Putnam County Judge Nolan Goolsby was elected president of the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Tennessee Juvenile Court Services Association last week during the 29th Joint Conference on Juvenile Justice in Nashville. Those elected to the TCJFCJ executive committee are Judge Robert Lincoln, vice-president, Washington County; Judge Dennis Humphrey, secretary-treasurer, Roane County; and Judge Ray Grimes, vice-president, Montgomery County. Those elected to the council are Judge Tim Brock, Coffee County; Judge Tim Irwin, Knox County; Judge Christy Little, Madison County; Judge Jeff Rader, Sevier County; Judge Vicki Snyder, Henry County; and Judge John Whitworth, Benton County. Learn more from the AOC.

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Woman Who Sent Child to Russia Must Pay Support, Court Rules

The Shelbyville woman who backed out of her adoption of a 7-year-old Russian boy by putting him on a plane to Moscow has lost her bid to keep from paying $150,000 in child support, the New York Times reports.

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Request Denied, File Remains Sealed in Witherspoon Case

Nashville Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy Monday dismissed Reese Witherspoon’s request for an emergency conservatorship for her father and ordered that the court file remain sealed from the public. The Tennessean and WSMV-Channel 4 had sued to unseal the proceedings and records. “Should the First Amendment … be used as a battering ram to embarrass and humiliate, or to cause harm and discomfort to a private citizen when no public good will come of it?” Kennedy asked. In arguing to open the case, attorney Robb Harvey, who is representing the two media outlets, said there was no compelling reason presented by any of the parties to keep the hearings secret. Both media companies are deciding whether to appeal the decision, the Tennessean reports.

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DOJ Meets With Memphians, Names Powell to Investigate Juvenile Court Failings

Last night in Memphis, Department of Justice officials held a forum that allowed citizens to pose questions to the department, which conducted a recent investigation that found a pattern of unconstitutional conduct in several areas of the Shelby County Juvenile Court system. Bill Powell, criminal justice coordinator for the county, announced his appointment to help correct the failures. He said he will head a committee of officials and citizens to brainstorm ideas to correct issues in the local juvenile justice system. County Commissioner Henri Brooks, who filed the complaint that triggered the federal investigation, criticized Powell's appointment, saying "it looks like the Department of Justice is asking Juvenile Court to monitor itself." The Commercial Appeal has the story

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CASA Monroe Gets New Executive Director

CASA Monroe, a volunteer organization that advocates for abused and neglected children in the juvenile court system, has hired a new executive director, Alisa M. Hobbs. She replaces Marion Leudemann, who retired as executive director earlier this year. The Advocate & Democrat has the story

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Juvenile Cases Increase, Judge Asks for More Help

Sumner County Juvenile Court Judge Barry Brown says that he and part-time magistrate David Howard face so many cases that they can't keep them moving through the system fast enough, The Tennessean reports. “DCS (Department of Children’s Services) is filing at least five cases a week where they have to remove children,” Brown told members of the County Budget Committee June 4. “We’re now setting cases going into November and December. That’s just too long in a kid’s life." Brown is asking the county to make Howard's position full-time to help move cases faster. The additional hours with benefits included would add $79,000 to the General Sessions II budget. The Tennessean reports

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Rogersville Race to Benefit CASA for Kids

The 6th annual CASA Road Race to benefit CASA for Kids will be June 23 at Crockett Spring Park in Rogersville. CASA for Kids advocates for abused and neglected children in Hawkins County. The running events will include an 8K, Kids’ Mile and Open Mile. The event is part of the 2012 Skelton Law Racing Series, directed by Rogersville attorney Mark A. Skelton. Download the race application

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9th Circuit Won't Hear Prop 8, Backers Look to Supreme Court

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday denied Prop 8 backers' request for a rehearing before a larger en banc panel of the court. The next option for supporters of the ban on same sex marriage is the high court, which they've vowed to pursue. The order denying rehearing leaves in place the court's February ruling striking down the ban on equal protection grounds. However, some observers think a  challenge on the Defense of Marriage Act would be a more likely candidate for high court review since it's a challenge to a federal statute, not a state voter initiative, and since plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case are asking for a far more sweeping ruling — one declaring marriage a fundamental right. Read more about it on Law.com

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Defense of Marriage Act Struck Down

A battle over a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman appears headed for the Supreme Court after an appeals court ruled today that denying benefits to married gay couples is unconstitutional. In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the 1996 law deprives gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples. But the court did not rule on the law's requirement that states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it's legal. It also did not address whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. WRCB-TV has this story from the Associated Press.

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Court Grants Review of 4 Criminal, 1 Civil Case

Five new cases were granted review by the Tennessee Supreme Court last week. This includes four criminal cases addressing constructive possession of drugs, pretrial diversion, the failure of trial court to inform jury of judgments of acquittal, and suppression of statements. The civil case concerns invalidation of a marriage for want of sufficient mental capacity. The Raybin-Perky Hot List details the cases and offers predictions of how the Supreme Court may act.

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Jackson YLD Hosts Wine Tasting for CASA Tomorrow

The Jackson-Madison County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division will host "Pour Your Heart Out for CASA" tomorrow, May 24, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Charlie Bulldog's in downtown Jackson to benefit Madison County CASA. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Admission includes appetizers and various types of wine to sample. Contact YLD President Terica Smith at (731) 426-1337 or terica@wtls.org for more information or to buy tickets.

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Rep. Hawk's Assault Case Continued

Greene County General Sessions court moved back a scheduled appearance by Rep. David Hawk to July 16 in a domestic assault case filed by his wife. The Greeneville Republican lawmaker had been scheduled to appear today. The five-term representative pleaded not guilty a day after the charge was filed March 18. The News Sentinel has more

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Court: No Benefits for Babies Conceived After Father's Death

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that a man's children who were conceived through artificial insemination after his death cannot get Social Security survivor benefits. Justices unanimously ruled that twins born to Robert Capato's surviving wife Karen did not qualify for survivor benefits because of a requirement that the federal government use state inheritance laws. Capato died a Florida resident, and Florida law expressly bars children conceived posthumously from inheritance, unless they are named in a will. NPR has this analysis

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Woman Who Returned Boy to Russia to Pay Damages, Child Support

A former Shelbyville woman, Torry Hansen, who sent her adopted son back to Russia two years ago was ordered Thursday to make monthly child support payments and pay damages in the case. Hansen was ordered by Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell to pay damages of $150,206 for breach of contract, legal fees and back child support for the boy, plus an additional $1,000 per month of child support starting June 1 until he turns 18. He is 10. When he was 8, Hansen sent the boy back to Moscow alone on a plane with a letter saying he was violent, had psychological problems and that she didn't want him anymore. The Shelbyville Times-Gazette has more

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Calling to Family Law Takes 'Unique Constitution'

Memphis lawyer Leigh-Taylor White practices family law and credits her "unique constitution" to be able to handle all the emotion of the stories she hears. “It’s some of the most personal things you can go through, and what you don’t need is someone that’s going to cater to every whim and get riled up with you," she says of her ability and love of her job. "You need someone who’s going to advise you calmly.”  Read more about her in the Memphis Daily News

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Deadline for Child Support Form is June 1

The deadline for using the federal Income Withholding for Support form is June 1, the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Administration for Children and Families reminds those who practice family law. All entities issuing child support income withholding orders must use this form. After this date, employers may begin returning non-compliant income withholding orders. Download more information from U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesread more »

New Family Law Firm Formed in Brentwood

Donna L. Green and Emily Moore Leininger have joined forces to form Green & Leininger PC, a family law firm serving clients in Williamson, Davidson and surrounding counties. Green began her legal career at Neal & Harwell in Nashville after graduating from Vanderbilt Law School in 1998. Leininger graduated from Nashville School of Law in 2006. She previously worked at Hale & Hale in Franklin. Learn more about the new firm

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Law Calls for Tougher Sentences for Repeat Abusers

The Partnership for Families, Children and Adults in Chattanooga has spent years working to help domestic violence victims navigate the often-confusing world of General Sessions and Circuit courts. Now a tougher sentencing measure for domestic violence, meant to deter abusers and protect these victims, is awaiting Gov. Bill Haslam's signature. The new sentencing law will, for the first time in Tennessee, require that a repeat domestic assault offender serve mandatory jail time. As many as 2,500 abusers statewide could face mandatory jail time in the first year alone, according to estimates. reported in  The Times Free Press.

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Adoption of Special-Needs Girl a Happy Occasion

Shelby County Chancellor Arnold Goldin's job has some perks, like presiding over the adoption of 7-year-old Keona Vaughn, as he did Monday with assistance from lawyer Kevin Weaver. Keona was shaken when she was 3 months old and was left severely developmentally delayed, but Debbie and Mark Vaughn say the blessings are all theirs. Read more in the Commercial Appeal

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New Alimony Bench Book Available

News from the Family Law Section
The 10th Edition of the Alimony Bench Book is now available from the TBA's Family Law Section. The new version, edited by the section's Alimony Committee, includes published and unpublished cases from August 2003 to December 2011. It is available for purchase in a loose-leaf format for $40 or in a three-ring binder for $50. You can  order the book from the TBA's online bookstore or by contacting the TBA at (615) 383-7421.

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