News

Kansas Sues Sperm Donor for Child Support

The Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF) is suing a sperm donor for child support despite his written agreement with a lesbian couple to relinquish parental rights, the ABA Journal reports. Although the Kansas Supreme Court refused to allow a sperm donor to assert parental rights in a case five years ago, the DCF says the written agreement is void and the law doesn’t apply since a physician did not perform the artificial insemination. The nonbiological mother of the child who supports her has been unable to work reportedly due to health problems.

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Report: Child Protection Improvements Needed

According to the 2012 Annual Report by the Second Look Commission, investigations into severe child abuse cases were left incomplete and failed to address the complicated needs of the family. The 23-page report details eight areas in which Tennessee can improve the protection of children including providing more training for child abuse investigators, Department of Children’s Services (DCS) caseworkers, mental health providers and law enforcement.

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Russia Passes Ban on U.S. Adoptions

Lawmakers in Moscow effectively banned Americans from adopting Russian children by passing a bill that imposes a series of sanctions on U.S. interests, WCYB News reports. The move is widely seen as retaliation against the Magnitsky Act, which President Obama signed on Dec. 14. That law imposes U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia. Russia is one of the top countries of origin for international adoptions in the United States, behind only China, with more than 60,000 Russian children joining American families in the past 20 years.

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Judge Highlights Success in Child Support Collections

At a recent meeting of the 15th Judicial District Bar Association, Judge Clara Byrd congratulated attorneys in the area for their diligent efforts and positive working relationship with the courts, which resulted in successful collection of child support payments in the district. Byrd reported that the local district attorney general’s office collected a higher percentage of child support obligations over the last 12 months than any other judicial district in the state.

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Task Force Working to Improve Child Protection Efforts

A task force on child protection wants more consistency in how reports of abuse are investigated and how decisions about criminal charges are made in the state. The group, comprised of Department of Children's Services (DCS) officials, doctors, law enforcement, attorneys and child advocates, is set to release a draft of its findings next month, Knoxnews.com says. In its report, the task force is expected to recommend that investigative teams train together; that communication be improved between DCS, law enforcement and community service agencies; and that additional funding be provided to hire more caseworkers and increase current caseworkers’ salaries.

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Court Grants Review in 2 Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review in two cases. The first case is one of first impression and addresses whether criminal contempt in a civil domestic relations case is subject to collateral attack in a post-conviction proceeding. The second concerns jury instructions where two offenses are committed during a common criminal episode. Read more about the issues and predictions as to how the new cases may be decided in the Raybin Perky Hotlist

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Justices Struggle with International Custody Law

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether American courts have any further say in a custody dispute between a U.S. soldier and a Scottish woman over their daughter, the Associated Press reports. In a complicated international custody fight, the justices seemed concerned by the idea that a foreign parent could escape U.S. court jurisdiction simply by leaving the country. WDEF.com has the story. 

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Haslam to Focus on Reducing Domestic Violence Rate

Gov. Bill Haslam says that while the crime rate is showing an overall decline in Tennessee, instances of aggravated assault, prescription drug abuse and domestic violence remain a major concern for his administration. He stated yesterday that domestic violence accounts for about half of all crimes committed in the state each year. This year, Haslam introduced and signed into law a measure to require mandatory jail time for repeat convictions for domestic violence, but it is too soon to tell if it has made a significant difference. Gov. Haslam said his Cabinet will continue to work with law enforcement to seek ways to reduce violent crimes and drug abuse.

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Judge Adds Unusual Procreation Condition to Probation

Wisconsin judge Tim Boyles of Racine County has prohibited a man who owes $50,000 in child support and $40,000 in interest from fathering any more children as a condition of his three-year probation, unless he can show ability to pay. The U.S. Supreme Court denied cert in a similar case in 2001. The ABA Journal has the story.

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Justices Hold Private Meeting Over Gay Marriage

U.S. Supreme Court justices were to meet privately today to begin discussing if they will accept any of 10 pending cases testing whether the constitution offers a fundamental right of marriage to homosexuals. According to court observers, three separate issues confront the justices: federal benefits, state benefits and state referendums. If they agree to hear any of the cases, oral arguments could be held in March with a ruling by late June. WCYB Channel 5 has this story from CNN.

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DCS: Child Tracking System to be Fixed by June

Glitches in a computer system that have hampered the work of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) should be fixed in the next seven months, officials told lawmakers on Monday. At a hearing before the Fiscal Review Joint Committee, department heads blamed glitches in the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System for problems in paying foster parents, producing statistics on child abuse and accessing information on children in state custody. The committee approved money to address the problems. Meanwhile, DCS has asked the attorney general to consider whether legal action is merited against Dynamics Research Corporation, the company that designed the software program. The Tennessean reports

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CASA Nashville Hires New Development Director

CASA Nashville has hired Patience Long, former manager of development for a large Illinois hospital chain, as its new development director. As manager of major gifts and the annual fund for Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, Long orchestrated a $10 million capital campaign, soliciting donations from individuals and corporations. She also previously was director of fundraising and special events for Gilda’s Club, a nonprofit cancer support group. Learn more about Tennessee CASA and its Nashville program here.

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Family Law Forum to Offer Credit for Mediators, Too

The TBA Family Law Section's annual Family Law Forum is tomorrow from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center. The centerpiece will be presentations on two issues of critical importance to family law attorneys. Mark Sullivan, a nationally renowned military divorce and family law expert, will present three modules on the special concerns that arise when one or both parties are serving or have served in the Armed Forces, from dividing military pensions, to military benefits, to unique parenting issues. Dr. Kathryn Steele will provide an extensive review of the role of neuropsychology in family law, how to use psychological tests and reports to bolster your own case and attack the other side’s position. In addition to offering five hours of general and one hour of dual CLE credit, CME credit for Rule 31 mediators will also be offered. For more information, visit TennBar U.

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CLE Programs Underway Across State

The Tennessee Bar Association will host continuing legal education programs across the state this week. Avoid Malpractice: The Risks and Opportunities of Social Media will be held Tuesday in Knoxville, followed by sessions in Nashville on Wednesday and Memphis on Thursday. Also on Thursday, the Family Law Forum will take place at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville and on Friday, the TBA's Dispute Resolution Section will host Getting the Arbitration Process You Want and Need, also in Nashville. A webcast on Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act: More Small Business Capital in Tennessee? will also take place on Friday at noon.

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Suspension Lifted for Texas Judge Filmed Beating Daughter

The Texas Supreme Court has lifted the suspension of Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams, who was shown on video beating his then-16-year-old daughter with a belt for illegally downloading music. Adam’s older daughter uploaded the video to Youtube last year, but since the video was from 2004, the Aransas County district attorney said too much time has passed to bring criminal charges. News Channel 9 has the story.

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New Davidson County Juvenile Judge to Be Sworn in Next Week

The newest Davidson County Juvenile Court judge, Sophia Brown Crawford, will be sworn in at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Juvenile Justice Center on Woodland Street in Nashville. Crawford was appointed by the Metro Council on Oct. 16 to complete the term of Judge Betty Adams Green, who retired in September. Crawford was appointed to the bench as magistrate in 2002 by Green and has presided continuously since that time. Prior to her appointment, Craword spent 14 years in private practice with a focus on family and juvenile law. During that time, she was appointed as a contract attorney by the governor to prosecute termination of parental rights cases for the state Department of Children’s Services for 14 counties.

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Comments Sought on Parenting Plan Pro Se Form

For almost two years, the Parenting Plan Subcommittee of the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission has been working on a plain language version of the Permanent Parenting Plan. The TBA's Family Law Section and Access to Justice Committee also have been involved in the process. The project is now in its final stages and comments are being solicited from practioners. Interested lawyers may review the draft parenting plan form, instructions and tips for familes online. Comments and suggestions should be submitted by Oct. 31 to Claudia Lewis by email at claudia.lewis@tncourts.gov or by fax at (615) 741-6285. 

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Court Grants Review of 3 Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review of two criminal cases that address retroactivity of a new rule regarding guilty pleas in certain sex offender cases and the sufficiency of evidence in an attempted murder case. A civil case accepted concerns the standard of review in modification of domestic relations Permanent Parenting Plans. The Raybin Perky Hotlist reviews the cases and predicts how they may be decided.

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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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