News

New Years Polar Bear Plunge and 5K to Benefit Children’s Advocacy Center

The Children's Advocacy Center of the First Judicial District will host the Polar Bear Plunge and 5K on New Year’s Day, WJHL reports. You can start your New Year's resolution with an icy cold dip in the pool at the Wellness Center in Johnson City. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the race starts at 9 a.m. All proceeds benefits the center.

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State Opposes Review of Marriage Law

Tennessee today filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court urging it not to take up a recent decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the state’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. State officials argue in the petition that the Sixth Circuit’s decision is not in conflict with other Supreme Court decisions and that a split of opinion among the nation’s circuit courts does not compel the court to act. So far, Tennessee is the only state to oppose review. Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana and Michigan officials all support review of marriage laws from their states, which also were upheld by the Sixth Circuit. Metro Weekly News has more on the story and links to the filing.

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Haslam Addresses Public Safety Summit

While there has been progress in making Tennessee a safer state, much remains to be done, particularly on domestic violence, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday while kicking off a meeting of his public safety subcabinet in Nashville. The group, which Haslam formed four years ago, will focus on Tennessee’s sentencing laws, homeland security concerns, drug abuse and trafficking, the Associated Press reports. Haslam touted progress in reducing the number of domestic violence offenses in the state since 2010 (down nearly 14 percent) but said the state is 10th in the nation for domestic violence deaths and that rate is “still too high.” The Memphis Daily News has the story.

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Humor: Haltom Warns About Christmas Tree Discord

If you are going to get your Christmas tree this weekend, read Bill Haltom's column in the December Tennessee Bar Journal first. In it he reveals why divorce lawyers love Christmas trees. "Remember folks, it took a crew of 17 big men at the Christmas tree lot to hoist the tree on top of the van. But once I get home, it’s Daddy’s job to personally lift this giant Sequoia off the minivan and carry it (the tree, not the minivan) into the house," Haltom writes. "My wife and I snipe at each other for hours while I clutch the Christmas tree and experience Yuletide acupuncture, as thousands of pine needles pierce my aching body. After several crash landings, we somehow manage to balance the tree. Of course, by this time, my wife and I are in no mood whatsoever to trim the tree, since we’ve stopped speaking to each other. Talk about Silent Night." Consider yourself warned, everyone, and happy tree decorating.

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Louisiana Asks Supreme Court to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Case

Lawyers for the state of Louisiana have joined with Michigan officials in asking the Supreme Court to resolve the question of whether states can ban same-sex couples from marrying. In the state’s response filed at the Supreme Court yesterday, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell argues that the justices should take the case because the state’s “case squarely implicates a spiraling national controversy that has already nullified the marriage laws of over 20 states and spawned a four-to-one circuit split.” The response from Louisiana came before the responses to other petitions filed earlier by same-sex couples in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, Buzzfeed News reports.

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Johnson City Awarded Family Justice Center Grant

Johnson City was awarded a three-year, $240,000 grant to establish a Family Justice Center for Johnson City/Washington County by the state's Office of Criminal Justice Programs, WJHL reports. The grant will be used to help reach the goals of Gov. Bill Haslam's Public Safety Action Plan to reduce the number of domestic violence incidents locally by establishing a Family Justice Center, a model that brings together a multi-disciplinary team of professionals under one roof to work together to provide coordinated services to family violence victims. According to the press release, Tennessee currently has two established Family Justice Centers, one in Knoxville and one in Memphis.

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Officer Training to Focus on Domestic Violence

A number of Putnam County law enforcement agencies will participate in a lethality assessment training program through a partnership with the Upper Cumberland Family Justice Center (UCFJC) to better help domestic violence victims. Officers will be trained in the Maryland Model Lethality Assessment Program, which consists of 11 questions a police officer will ask a victim when responding to domestic violence calls in order to assess the danger the individual is in. UCFJC opened its doors earlier this year through the District Attorney’s Office as an effort to centralize and help victims better access various domestic violence services in Putnam, Cumberland, Overton, White, Clay, DeKalb and Pickett counties. The Herald Citizen has more.

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Survey: Discontent Among Court-Appointed Attorneys

A recent TBA survey of private attorneys who handle court appointed work shows they feel undervalued, overworked and unfairly compensated. More than half of those who took the survey reported that they frequently hit the fee cap on appointed cases, while 77 percent reported that they do not bother submiting a fee claim given the issues associated with getting paid. Survey responses also indicated an overwhelming number of cases are not adult criminal cases, but dependency, neglect and abuse work, generally as a guardian ad litem or a parent's attorney. More than half of respondents left lengthy comments on their experience with court appointed work, with many reporting that they love doing the work but cannot continue doing so at the current compensation rates, likening the work to doing pro bono. Respondents also reported that the filing requirements frequently add stress to an already difficult-to-handle clientele. With a compensation rate that has not changed since 1994, Tennessee court-appointed attorneys are among the lowest paid in the nation. Read more from the survey results.

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Court Blocks Gay Marriage in Kansas For Now

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has temporarily blocked same-sex marriages in Kansas in response to the state’s request for a stay. Kansas argues that its case is different from others the court decided not to hear because it deals with the authority of a federal court to overturn a state Supreme Court decision. When a federal judge ordered the state to begin issuing marriage licenses it was “a de facto circumvention” of state litigation, which is working its way through state courts, officials argue. The Kansas Supreme Court had imposed a stay while the case was pending. Sotomayor gave lawyers for same sex couples until 5 p.m. tonight to file a response. The ABA Journal has more.

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Gay Marriage Cases to Go Straight to Supreme Court

Same-sex couples from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee will be seeking U.S. Supreme Court review after yesterday’s decision by a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the states' bans on gay marriages. Plaintiffs in all four states will skip the step of asking the full 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the case and go directly to the Supreme Court, lawyers told BuzzFeed News today. “[G]iven the urgency of the issues for the Tennessee plaintiff couples, we will be asking the Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit decision rather than seeking en banc review,” National Center for Lesbian Rights lawyer Shannon Minter said. Abby Rubenfeld, lead lawyer for the Tennessee plaintiffs, said they hope to file within two weeks so they still can be on the docket for this term.

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TBA to Pursue Divorce Notice Legislation

The Tennessee Bar Association announced today it is pursuing legislation that would require respondents be served notice of the filing of a petition for divorce or separation before the court action is made public. “Our Family Law Section has been in discussions about how to address what they see as a growing problem,” said TBA President Jonathan Steen. “Respondents find out that their spouse has filed for divorce before safety plans can be put in place or before restraining orders can be served. We think a targeted solution to this problem is that information about the filing of divorce should be delayed until the respondent is served.”

The TBA will work with domestic violence prevention groups, lawmakers, judges and court officials to craft a solution that balances protection of those involved in divorce cases with the public’s need to know about what is happening in their courts. For more information, visit the TBA website.

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TBA to Pursue Legislation Requiring Notice of Divorce Proceedings Before Court Filing Becomes Public

NASHVILLE, Nov. 6, 2014 — The Tennessee Bar Association announced today it is pursuing legislation that would require respondents be served notice of the filing of a petition for divorce or separation before the court action is made public.

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Gay Marriage Bans in 4 States Upheld on Appeal

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit today reversed district court rulings that had struck down gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The six cases before the three-judge panel involved not only whether gays and lesbians should be able to marry, but whether marriages performed elsewhere should be recognized, whether same-sex couples should be able to adopt children, and whether their names should be placed on partners' death certificates. The ruling gives the same-sex marriage movement its first major setback after a lengthy string of victories, creating a split among the nation's circuit courts that virtually guarantees Supreme Court review, USA Today reports. The ruling also gives Supreme Court justices an appellate ruling that runs counter to four others from the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th circuits. Those rulings struck down same-sex marriage bans in Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho and Nevada and led to similar action in neighboring states.

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Poster Campaign Targets Domestic Violence

The Knoxville Family Justice Center is conducting a poster campaign to draw attention to domestic violence issues and focus on resources for those in abusive relationships. Volunteers will distribute their posters throughout Knoxville and Knox County Saturday. More than 60 organizations are hoping to spread awareness about domestic abuse from partners and within the family unit. Volunteers for the campaign will meet 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. at the center located at 400 Harriet Tubman St. Knoxnews has more.

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Changes in Family Law Detailed, New History Column Debuts

Two new laws went into effect in July that impact how family lawyers do their jobs and in the November Tennessee Bar Journal, lawyers Siew-Ling Shea and Shaina Zakalik give you the details about statutory parental rights and "factors" changes. Also, the Journal introduces a new columnist, Russell Fowler, who in this month's first installment of "History's Verdict" reminds lawyers how Magna Carta influenced today's law. Fowler is associate director of Legal Aid of East Tennessee and an adjunct professor of political science at UT Chattanooga.

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Knox Court Calms Kids with Stuffed Animals

Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin is making a plea for donations of new stuffed animals, which he uses to calm children and mothers who appear in his courtroom. “We go through thousands of these a year and we’re down to less than 100,” Irwin told Knoxnews this week. More than 28,000 stuffed animals have been distributed in the past year. Irwin began offering the animals in the spring of 2011 when the Black Law Students organization at Lincoln Memorial University first approached him with a 7-foot-tall bag of the toys. Three other county court judges have stuffed animals in their courtrooms as well. Donations can be dropped off at the Carey E. Garrett Juvenile Court Building, 3323 Division St. Financial donations may be mailed to Compassion Coalition, 107 Westfield Dr. Knoxville, TN 37919.

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CASA Monroe Gets Into Holiday Spirit for Fundraiser

CASA Monroe presents a Festival of Trees celebration to raise funds for the recruitment, training and support of volunteer advocates. The celebration includes three distinct events: a gala with dinner, dancing and silent auction on Nov. 14, a breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Clause on Nov. 15, and a holiday craft sale that will offer decorated trees, wreaths and centerpieces for sale. All activities will take place at the Tellico West Conference Center in Vonore. Download a flyer for more details.

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Court Seeks Comments on Attorney Solicitation Rule

The Tennessee Supreme Court is accepting comments on a proposed rule change regarding the direct solicitation of clients under Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3(b). The proposal seeks to bar the direct solicitation of clients for 30 days after the filing of divorce or legal separation papers. The rule already provides a 30-day ban on soliciting clients in personal injury cases, workers’ compensation cases, accidents and disasters. The comment deadline is Nov. 10.

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Film Screening Marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence will host a special screening of “Private Violence” next Thursday in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event will take place from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville. The film is an award-winning documentary that explores the complicated realities of intimate partner violence in today’s American life. After the film, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions of Mark Wynn, a 21-year veteran of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department and member of the Domestic Violence Division. The event is free but registration is required. For more information download this flyer.

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LAET Gets Grant for Domestic Violence Victims, Names Campaign Chairs

Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has received a $500,000, three-year grant to expand assistance to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual assault and human trafficking. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. The funding allows LAET to provide comprehensive civil legal services, including legal advocacy, education and direct representation. Three attorneys and two paralegals will work directly under this grant to help about 1,000 East Tennessee clients over a three-year period. In other news, LAET announced the Knoxville volunteer leadership for its 2014 Annual Campaign for Equal Justice. Ian P. Hennessey of London Amburn and John E. Winters of Kramer Rayson LLP will serve as campaign co-chairmen, leading LAET’s Central Region campaign. The goal for the effort is $175,000. The campaign, which runs through Dec. 31, is currently at $67,619 or 38.6% of goal.

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Parents Sue State Over Naming Their Baby

A Brentwood couple has filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee for the right to choose the last name of their newborn son, Brentwood Homepage reports. Carl Abramson and Kim Sarubbi married in 2001, and decided "for personal and professional reasons" they would give their children a surname that combined both their last names— "Sabr." When the family moved to Tennessee in 2014 and had their third child, Abramson and Sarubbi were denied their request to use the hybrid name and instead were issued a birth certificate for the child with the last name Abramson. Citing a violation with First Amendment rights, the couple turned to the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which filed a lawsuit in federal court last week.

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Memphis Gets $900,000 Grant for Domestic Violence Work

The U.S. Department of Justice awarded the City of Memphis $900,000 to help cover the costs of processing rape kits and domestic violence cases. WREG reports that more than half of the money will go to the local district attorney’s office so it can assign a designated investigator to process rape and domestic violence cases. 

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Nashville Opens Advocacy Center for Domestic Violence Victims

Mayor Karl Dean on Thursday helped cut the ribbon for the Jean Crowe Advocacy Center in Nashville, WKRN reports. The facility, located in the Ben West Building at the Nashville courts complex, is a family justice center that will serve as a place where domestic violence victims can get assistance as they go through the Davidson County court systems. The advocacy center came about after the recommendations were made in a 2013 Domestic Violence Safety and Accountability Assessment, which was released a year ago. The 3,300-square-foot area is a safe place for victims to go on their court dates while waiting for their cases to be heard to avoid contact with alleged offenders while waiting for the court proceeding.

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Lawmakers Call on Federal Judge to Resign

Four members of the U.S. Congress are calling for the resignation of U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller, who was arrested on domestic violence charges last month. Republican Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions and Democrat Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama, and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri say the Alabama judge should step down after allegedly throwing his wife to the floor, pulling her hair and kicking her at an Atlanta hotel. Fuller has accepted a plea deal to have the arrest removed if he undergoes domestic violence counseling. Politico has more on the story.

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Domestic Violence Event Set for Sept. 25

The Partnership for Families, Children and Adults will offer a one-hour educational event for Chattanoogans interested in learning more about domestic violence. The session will take place at noon on Sept. 25 at the partnership’s office at 1800 McCallie Ave., Chattanooga 37404. Free parking is available. The session will cover a variety of topics, including signs of abuse, resources for victims, safety planning and how to talk to teens about the issue. For more information contact Julie Tipton at (423) 697-3829. The Chattanoogan.com has more.

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