News

State to Spend $3.96 Million to Fix DCS Computer System

The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) has identified more than 1,700 defects in its computer system, the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System. The system, which has been in place since 2009, is said to account for a multitude of DCS problems such as skipped payments to foster parents and failure to identify children's abuse histories. The $27 million system will cost the state $3.96 million to fix. The Tennessean has the story

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Imprisoning Juveniles at Issue in Appeal Against Knox Judge

Knox County Juvenile Court officials have locked up more than 140 children over the past four years for truancy, two lawyers claim in an appeal on behalf of four teenagers. All four either went to juvenile detention or ended up on probation, threatened with jail, for failure to attend school. Lawyers Dean Hill Rivkin and Brenda McGee argue Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin's handling of the cases violated Tennessee law and the children's Constitutional rights. Rivkin, a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, and McGee want to expand their case into a class action to cover other teens they believe were jailed for truancy. The News Sentinel has the story

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Bradley County Hosts Annual Walk in Memory of Child Abuse Victim

On Oct.11, the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Bradley County will host its third annual Moonlight Walk in memory of Melisha Gipson, a four-year-old Cleveland girl who died tragically in 1976 from child abuse. The case gained national exposure and resulted in increased child abuse laws in Tennessee and across the country, the Chattanoogan reports.

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Court: Don't Lie About Who Child's Father Is

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld a trial court’s damage award against a mother who misled her boyfriend by telling him he was the child’s father when he was not. In its ruling, the court stated that an intentional misrepresentation claim, which is already recognized in Tennessee’s courts, is broad enough to apply to circumstances where a mother intentionally misrepresents the parentage of her child. Learn more about the case

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'Celebrate Pro Month' to Offer More Than 50 Events

Today kicks off Celebrate Pro Bono Month in Tennessee. In its fourth year, the initiative brings together bar associations, law schools, law firms, legal services providers and individual lawyers to offer free services to those unable to afford a lawyer. This year, more than 300 volunteers -- including lawyers, law students, paralegals and language interpreters -- are expected to participate in dozens of events and activities across the state. Here is what's on tap for Tuesday:

• Legal Aid of East Tennessee hosts a Seniors Education and Outreach Program at noon at 535 Chestnut St., in Chattanooga. Contact Charlie McDaniel for more information.

• The Nashville Pro Bono Program and lawyers from Waller will staff an Assisted Pro Se Divorce Clinic at the Nashville office of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands. Clients should arrive at 4:30 p.m. for the clinic that runs 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, contact Lucinda Smith.

• The Nashville Bar Association hosts its monthly Dial-A-Lawyer program, where volunteer lawyers answer questions from anyone calling (615) 242-9272 from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information contact Wendy Cozby.

• The Nashville Pro Bono Program, with lawyers from Community Health Systems and the Williamson County Bar Assocation, will provide advice/counsel and referral to people with low incomes at the Williamson County Public Library, 1314 Columbia Ave., Franklin. Clients should arrive at 5:30 p.m. for the event that runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. For more information, contact Lucinda Smith.

See more than 50 events planned for the month here.

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Accusations Fly Over Agency's Failure to Report Child Deaths

Former Legislative Director Aaron Campbell says he personally briefed Department of Children's Services (DCS) Commissioner Kate O'Day about her responsibility to inform lawmakers of each child fatality and near-fatality in the state — which DCS now acknowledges it has not done in nearly two years. The agency last week released partial information about 31 children who died in the first six months of 2012. The children had all either been in state custody, the subject of an open DCS investigation or had been investigated but whose cases had been closed before they died. DCS lawyer Douglas Dimond conceded that the agency had been violating the law in its requirements to report child deaths. The Tennessee has the story

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Demolition Derby to Benefit CASA

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Cumberland County will have a demolition derby Oct. 6 to benefit its work. According to program director Lee Chiomos, it costs $950 per child per year to have a CASA volunteer. In 2011, the group had 13 advocates working with 41 children in Cumberland County. Chiomos said that number could be doubled if there were enough volunteers, but funding is needed to provide the extensive training necessary. Donations of food for concessions and sponsorships are needed, as are volunteers to work at the event, which will be at the Cumberland County Community Complex at 6:30 p.m. Learn more from CASA and The Crossville Chronicle

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Poster Campaign: Domestic Violence Awareness

The Knoxville Family Justice Center released the second in a projected line of eight posters as part of a domestic abuse public awareness campaign, Knoxnews reports. The poster claims more people died in 2010 from family violence than during the flood that ravaged the state the same year. The center will partner with more than 60 other organizations during the two-year initiative to help combat domestic violence.

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Documentary: Kids Tell What Not to Do in Divorce

A guide for divorcing couples called "Don't Divorce Me! Kids' Rules for Parents on Divorce," debuts next week on HBO. The half-hour documentary tells about divorce from the kids' point of view. The messages include "Tell me it's not my fault," "Don't put me in the middle," and "Don't take your anger out on me." WBIR has details

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Maryville Law Firm Lost to Fire

The building that housed the Maryville law firm of Gribble, Carpenter & Associates burned in a fire last week, and the firm -- comprised of William (Billy) Gribble, Charles Carpenter, Keith Edmiston, Stanley Barnett, Alan Waller and Casey Daganhardt -- have reopened the office at 118 Parliament Dr., Maryville 37804. Donations of law books, especially the Tennessee Practice Series, and other resources like Raybin on Criminal Procedure or Garrett on Divorce, are needed. Contact Billy Gribble at blountlaw@yahoo.com or 865-936-3060 if you can help. Members of the firm say they have already received much support, which they appreciate very much. They are still actively handling cases and will be working over the next few weeks to reconstruct client files.

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Federal Domestic Abuse Legislation to Expire

Money for groups that help domestic abuse victims will be drastically cut if legislation to renew the 1994 Violence Against Women Act does not pass, WATE.com reports. Amy Dilworth, a representative from the Knoxville Family Justice Center, said the group would lose “several hundred of thousands of dollars” used to help local abuse victims unless Congress acts.

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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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