News

Memphis Juvenile Court Adjusts Docket Times

Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court will implement new docket times effective Jan. 9. All dockets will be at 9 a.m. or 1 p.m. except for the Rule 24/Transfer docket, which will remain at 9:30 a.m. Also, due to the increase in cases, two afternoon custody and visitation dockets have been added. View the full docket schedule.

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Task Force Suggests 6 Initial Juvenile Reforms

The state Juvenile Justice Task Force has come up with six initial and tentative recommendations to help rehabilitate juvenile offenders, Fox Chattanooga reports. The list, provided by Senate Majority Leader and task force Chair Mark Norris, calls for (1) reviewing the structure of the current juvenile justice system; (2) ordering treatment instead of jail time for some offenders; (3) collecting data on juvenile crime to determine trends; (4) creating a special group to review juvenile crime data; (5) exploring how probation works; and (6) encouraging partnerships between juvenile courts and schools.

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State Launches Foster Care Awareness Campaign

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam yesterday launched TNFosters, a website and awareness campaign that will work with a variety of non-governmental organizations to encourage more Tennesseans to become foster parents, the Herald Chronicle reports. TNFosters also will showcase innovative methods citizens have created to support foster parents and the children they serve. The effort is being spearheaded in large part by America’s Kids Belong, a national organization that has launched similar efforts in five other states.

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Sammons Admits Paperwork Snafu but Claims Immunity from Suit

Though back on the bench, Campbell County General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Amanda Sammons’ legal woes are not over, Knoxnews reports. She allegedly remains under investigation by the Board of Judicial Conduct and is facing a federal lawsuit over an order to move two children to an allegedly abusive father. The suit, brought by the mother, claims that the children were taken without notice and despite a Kentucky judge’s order that they have no contact with the father. In her first response to the suit, Sammons admits that she “inadvertently” messed up the paperwork and did not have documents from the Department of Children’s Services indicating the children were being harmed by their mother, but argues her role as a judge shields her from liability.

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Human Rights Day in Nashville Focuses on Child Trafficking

Human Rights Day will be celebrated around the world Saturday, but in Nashville an event focused on child trafficking in Tennessee will happen tomorrow evening, the Tennessean reports. The program will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the First Amendment Center at 1207 18th Ave. South, No. 200. In addition to a discussion about the issues associated with child trafficking, the Tennessee Human Rights Commission will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Charles Kimbrough; its Rising Star Award to Anna Carella, Justin Jones and Mohammed Shurki; and its Outstanding Service Award to Juan Canedo and Derri Smith. RSVP online.

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Juvenile Justice Task Force Working Toward Report

The state Juvenile Justice Task Force is working toward a final report and is expected to make a number of recommendations to lawmakers on how juveniles should be treated in the legal system. That makes it likely that the legislature will consider some form of juvenile justice reform in the next session, the Tennessean reports. The task force, chaired by state Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, is focused on a number of issues, including the youth probation system, inconsistent court practices across the state and use of valid court orders, which put the weight of the court behind directives for school attendance and curfews.

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Memphis Law Clinic Serving Local Youth

Students at the University of Memphis School of Law are making an impact on local youth through the newly formed Children’s Defense Clinic, the Memphis Daily News reports. The clinic allows students to represent youth facing criminal charges in delinquency proceedings. This semester, six students have represented 22 young clients, with four cases resulting in dismissal of all charges and three resulting in one of multiple charges being dropped. Lisa Geis, visiting assistant professor of law and clinic director, says the clinic is the result of a partnership between the county and the Public Defender’s Office formed after the Department of Justice’s 2009 investigation into the county juvenile system. It also is training a new set of juvenile defense attorneys who will be ready to take on cases of their own after graduation.

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A Step Ahead Foundation Honors Late Volunteer

Attorneys and community leaders gathered yesterday at the Nashville home of Colleen Conway Welch to celebrate A Step Ahead of Middle Tennessee, an affiliate of the original A Step Ahead Foundation in Memphis. Program founder Claudia Haltom, an attorney and former juvenile magistrate in Memphis, launched A Step Ahead in 2011. There are now four affiliates in other Tennessee cities. The event also honored the late Mary Ruth Shell, one of the founding board members of the foundation and an active pro bono volunteer with the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center and on behalf of children in the juvenile court system. The Administrative Office of the Courts reported the news.

From left: Nashville attorneys Brenda Dowdle, Anne Russell, Claudia Haltom, Deborah Taylor Tate, Jackie Dixon and Mary Walker

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Memphis Leaders Release New Crime Plan

Keeping young people out of jail and hiring more police officers are the two main goals of a new crime prevention plan unveiled in Memphis yesterday, WREG reports. The five-year plan, released by the Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission, calls for reducing the overall crime rate by 25 percent and the violent crime rate by 30 percent, and growing the police force to 2,500. With regard to juveniles, the goal is to look at “smarter, more effective ways to ... keep them out of the adult correction system,” said state Sen. Mark Norris, R-Memphis, who was on hand for the event. 

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Bystander Intervention Summit Planned

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence and the State Department of Health are joining forces to host a Bystander Intervention Summit Nov. 29 and 30 at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro. The event will feature national speakers leading discussions centered on issues related to bystander intervention, which is defined as the psychological phenomenon in which someone is more likely to intervene in an emergency situation when alone than when others are present. Participants will leave with a toolkit to enhance bystander intervention messaging in their own communities. Register online.

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Juvenile Law Annual Forum Coming Soon

The TBA will host its annual Juvenile Law CLE on Dec. 1 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Speakers will include representatives from Vanderbilt’s Center of Excellence for Children in State Custody and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS). Sessions will cover case law updates, immigration issues in juvenile court, and using medical evidence in severe abuse cases. A panel on DCS administrative hearings and policies and a session on ethical issues in juvenile courts will round out the day. Learn more or register online.

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Lawsuit Challenges State Sex Offender Registry

Retroactive enforcement of Tennessee’s sex offender registry law is being challenged in a federal lawsuit that mimics a successful suit that struck down similar laws in Michigan, the Tennessean reports. The case, filed Tuesday in federal court in Nashville, argues that the state’s registration laws, which have been added piecemeal over the years, are illegally applied retroactively. The suit alleges the increasingly burdensome requirements are onerous, vague and arbitrary, and cites 10 cases from around the country that have found retroactive enforcement of registries unconstitutional.

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Youth Courts Expand, Maintain Low Recidivism Rate

Tennessee has seen growth in its youth court program recently with new pilot programs at Antioch Middle Prep and Dupont Hadley Middle Prep in Nashville, a new program at Stratford High School in Nashville and a new program in Union County. Tennessee Youth Courts Executive Director Denise D. Bentley also recently reported that a review of the statewide program showed a recidivism rate around three percent for the third year in a row with 2,000 youth served this past year. The program celebrated October as National Youth Justice Awareness Month. In a proclamation designating the month, President Barack Obama praised the work of youth courts and called on Congress to “increase protections for youth and limit the number of minors held in adult jails and prisons.”

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Court: Videos Do Not Meet Statutory Standard for Exploitation Conviction

The Tennessee Supreme Court today reversed and dismissed the conviction of a Knoxville-area man for “especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor” saying the videos he took of his 12-year-old daughter showed nudity but not sexual activity, both of which are needed to meet the requirements of the statute. The decision sends the exploitation convictions back to the lower court for a new trial on different charges with the justices suggesting the state might want to consider a charge of "attempt to commit especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor." The justices let other convictions related to the case stand. Read the decision

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Chili Contest, Lunch, Auction to Benefit Foster Kids

The Knoxville Bar Association will hold its annual chili cook-off, lunch and basket auction on Nov. 18 at the Knox County Juvenile Court, 3323 Division St. Chili judging will occur at 11 a.m. followed by lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A silent auction will open at 11:30 a.m. A live auction will begin at 12:45 p.m. All winners must be present to accept their items. All proceeds from the event go to an annual foster care parents’ appreciation dinner and to meet any emergency needs of foster care children. Those interested in donating a basket should complete a donation form. For more information, call 865-215-6475.

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More than 50 Students Join Hamilton County Youth Court

More than 50 students from 12 Chattanooga area schools have been trained and sworn in to the Hamilton County Youth Court, the Hamilton County Herald reports. Juvenile Court Judge Robert Philyaw administered the oath to the students, who have undergone significant training by local juvenile court staff. After the ceremony, Philyaw thanked local school administrators and attorneys at Miller & Martin and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee for their support. “While youth courts contribute to a decrease in recidivism … its true value and long-lasting effect lies with the students who are exposed to the law, the judicial process, and professionals like these,” he said. Tennessee now has 19 counties with 26 youth courts

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Mediation Webcast Series Coming in November

Starting next week, a series of webcasts produced by the TBA’s Dispute Resolution Section and Special Committee on Evolving Legal Markets will offer CLE and CME credit. On Nov. 2, the series will kick off with a focus on creating and managing productive relationships in mediation. On Nov. 17, the series will look at the impact of online dispute resolution tools on the practice of law. Then on Nov. 29, the series will wrap up with a session on mediation in juvenile court. Learn more or register for the courses at the links above.

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New Family Justice Center to Open Nov. 22

About 100 people attended yesterday’s ribbon cutting at Chattanooga’s new Family Justice Center, which will provide free services for victims of sexual assault, human trafficking, elder abuse and domestic violence. The center, which has been operating out of another space, will officially open in the new location on Nov. 22, Nooga.com reports. Dignitaries at the ceremony included Mayor Andy Berke, Police Chief Fred Fletcher, Judge Christie Sells and Child Advocacy Center of Hamilton County Executive Director Shelley McGraw.

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Playhouse Raffle to Benefit Williamson CASA

Williamson County CASA, with the help of the Franklin Firefighters’ Charities, has built a one-of-a-kind playhouse for its Fourth Annual Playhouse Raffle. Tickets are available for $20 by calling CASA at 615-591-2699 ext. 2, or emailing Kat@williamsoncountycasa.org. Tickets also will be on sale at the downtown Franklin Pumpkinfest this coming Saturday. The raffle winner will be drawn that day. Check out the playhouse on the front lawn of First Bank. Williamson Source has more details about the fundraiser.

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DOJ Campaign to Help Children Exposed to Violence

The White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have launched a national campaign to raise awareness, teach skills and inspire public action to address children’s exposure to violence. The campaign, called Changing Minds, is a collaboration led by DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Futures Without Violence, the Ad Council and the advertising agency Wunderman. The campaign will make digital and print content available to adults who interact with children and youth.

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DOJ to Webcast Juvenile Justice Event

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs is convening a panel of experts and government officials on Friday to discuss recent research in developmental psychology, the current youth prison model and community-based programs that prioritize age-appropriate rehabilitation. The event will be held at the department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., but also will be available via web video. The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern time. News 5 has details.

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CASA Monroe Holding Fundraiser Tuesday

CASA Monroe is holding a Pampered Chef fundraiser Tuesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Rarity Bay Community Activity Center, 150 Rarity Bay Pkwy. in Vonore. The event will feature free food samples and gift drawings every half hour. All proceeds will benefit the work of the organization. Those who cannot attend in person can support CASA by ordering online. Questions about products should be directed to Cheryl Madenford, 239-825-5607.

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Volunteers Needed for Shelby Youth Court Program

Training for attorneys interested in helping with the Youth Court Program in Memphis and Shelby County will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 at the Juvenile Court, 616 Adams Ave. in Memphis. Presented by youth court specialist Jasmine Newsom and Tennessee Youth Courts Executive Director Denise Bentley, the session also will provide two hours of free CLE. For information contact Jasmine Newsom or Pamela James, 901-222-0905 or 901-222-0906.

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Shelby County Launches 2nd Phase of Anti-Violence Program

Shelby County this week launched the second phase of a multi-partner public education campaign to aid children who are exposed to violence, the Commercial Appeal reports. The county is one of eight that was selected by the U.S. Department of Justice for the Defending Childhood Initiative, known locally as the Network for Overcoming Violence and Abuse. The program seeks to address the impact violence has on children through counseling, mentoring and training for law enforcement. The initiative is a continuation of work that began in 2011 with a $2 million federal grant from the department. The initial project set up networks for training and education.

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ABA Urges Senate Vote on Child Welfare Bill

The ABA is urging the Senate to pass the Family First Prevention Services Act (S. 3065) by the end of the month. The bill, which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives this summer, reforms the federal child welfare financing structure and extends the Court Improvement Program (CIP), which provides resources for child welfare courts in all 50 states. Since its creation more than 20 years ago, the CIP has supported courts’ ability to play an essential role in ensuring the safety and permanency for abused and neglected children, the ABA says.

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