News

DCS Considers Transferring Teens to Texas Facility

The Department of Children's Services is exploring the possibility of transferring 12 teenagers who were involved in the recent disturbances at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center to a Texas facility, Fox 17 reports. In September, Woodland Hills had two sets of escapes beyond the perimeter fence. All youth have since been returned to custody, although some had since turned 18 and are being charged as adults. The department said transferring some of the teens would balance community safety and the youths' educational and therapeutic needs. If approved, the first transfer of three teens could begin within two weeks.

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Commission Makes Juvenile Court Clerk an Elected Office

Johnson City commissioners have voted to make the position of juvenile court clerk an elected office. The new position will be on the ballot for the first time in August 2016, WCYB-TV reports. Commissioners reported that the change was made to comply with a state law requiring the post to be an elected position. The municipal court clerk will serve as interim juvenile court clerk until the 2016 election.

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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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Judge Seeks CASA Volunteers in Lincoln County

Juvenile Court Judge Andy Myrick praises the work of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in his Lincoln County court, but tells the Elk Valley Times that he needs more volunteers. Since starting this summer, CASA has trained a number of citizen volunteers to advocate for the best interest of children in the courtroom and the community. These volunteers meet with the children and the family, go to the homes and schools, investigate the case and work with the court and attorneys to insure the needs of the at-risk children are being met in the best way possible. "These volunteers can really make a difference in the life of a child,” Myrick said.

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ABA Launches Website to Aid Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

The American Bar Association Working Group on Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors has launched the Immigrant Child Advocacy Network, a comprehensive website to provide information and resources for volunteer attorneys, advocates, policymakers who shape immigration policy and journalists who report on immigration issues. The Working Group was created by ABA President William C. Hubbard in response to the immigration crisis affecting unaccompanied minors and the critical need for additional pro bono lawyers to ensure children are provided legal representation in immigration proceedings. Learn more about the initiative at the ABA website.

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Juvenile Court Fundraiser Set for Friday

The Knox County Juvenile Court will hold its annual Chili Cook-Off & Basket Auction for Kids this Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the court’s Volunteer Advisory Board and assist with hosting the annual Foster Care Appreciation Dinner for foster parents and kids. To enter the chili contest, contact Patrice Staley at (865) 215-6475.

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STATE OF TENNESSEE v. HENRY FLOYD SANDERS

This appeal concerns the admissibility of incriminating statements made by a defendant to the mother of a sexually abused child while the mother was secretly cooperating with the police in their investigation of the abuse. After a grand jury indicted him on six counts of aggravated sexual battery and four counts of rape of a child, the defendant moved to suppress his recorded statements. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and a jury convicted the defendant of five counts of aggravated sexual battery and four counts of rape of a child. The trial court imposed an effective forty-year sentence. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions and sentence. State v. Sanders, No. M2011-00962-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 4841545 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 9, 2012). We granted the defendant’s Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application to address the legal standard courts should use to determine the admissibility of incriminating statements obtained by the parent of a victim of sexual abuse who is secretly cooperating with law enforcement officials investigating the child abuse charges. We find no violation of the defendant’s constitutional right against compelled selfincrimination because the defendant merely misplaced his trust in a confidante to whom he voluntarily confessed. Therefore, we find that the recording of these statements was admissible.

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Attorney 1: 

Dawn Deaner, District Public Defender; Jeffrey A. DeVasher (on appeal); Melissa Harrison (at trial and on appeal); and Jessamine Grice (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, for the appellant, Henry Floyd Sanders.

Attorney 2: 

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Sharon Reddick and Kristen Menke, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: 
KOCH

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. FRED CHAD CLARK, II

This case involves the prosecution of a father in the Criminal Court for Davidson County for the sexual abuse of his children. After a jury found him guilty of seven counts of rape of a child and two counts of aggravated sexual battery, the trial court imposed an effective thirtyfour- year sentence. On appeal, the defendant took issue with (1) the admissibility of recordings of his confession to his wife, (2) the adequacy of the corroboration of his confession, (3) the admissibility of evidence of his predilection for adult pornography, and (4) the propriety of a jury instruction that the mental state of “recklessness” could support a conviction for both rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery. After upholding the admission of the defendant’s confession to his wife and the jury instructions, the Court of Criminal Appeals decided that the admission of the evidence of the defendant’s predilection for adult pornography, while erroneous, was harmless. The Court of Criminal Appeals also determined that the record contained sufficient evidence to uphold three counts of rape of a child and the two counts of aggravated sexual battery. State v. Clark, No. M2010-00570- CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 3861242 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 6, 2012). We granted the defendant’s Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application for permission to appeal and now affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

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Attorney 1: 

Peter J. Strianse, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Fred Chad Clark, II.

Attorney 2: 

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Sharon Reddick, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: 
KOCH

Blount County Youth Court Helps Juvenile Offenders

Twenty-two high-school students were sworn in to the Blount County Youth Court Wednesday at the county courthouse, the Daily Times reports. Launched last year, the Blount youth court provides an alternative for first-time offenders accused of certain nonviolent crimes. Youth jurors — chosen from applicants from across the county’s school systems — hear cases, ask questions, make evaluations and are vested with the power to take any number of remedial actions. Learn more about youth courts across the state on the TBA website

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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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Memphis Stakeholders Discuss Juvenile Reforms

Newly elected Shelby County Juvenile Judge Dan Michael was part of a roundtable discussion Friday with the mayor, district attorney and county school leaders to discuss how to address youth violence in Memphis, News 5 reports. Michael said his office is working on an Evening Reporting Center, an after school facility for troubled kids on probation. The group also discussed expanding a program that allows police to check prior offenses of a juvenile in custody; expanding a program designed to decrease the number of minority students sent to court for minor infractions; Mayor Wharton's idea of creating centers for youth arrested on curfew violations; and assigning juvenile court liaisons to police precincts to meet with young offenders brought in by officers.

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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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Wharton Proposes ‘Juvenile Safety Centers' For Curfew Violators

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is proposing a rule change that would make it easier for police to detain young people caught outside after curfew, the Commercial Appeal reports. Current state and city rules do not allow police to transport curfew violators anywhere other than the youth’s own home or the Shelby County Juvenile Court. To avoid further overcrowding in juvenile court, Wharton is asking the city council to allow police to transport minors to new community “juvenile safety centers,” which would be specially staffed. Youth would stay there until a parent or guardian picks them up. Juvenile Court official Larry Scroggs says Memphis police rarely enforce the curfew, given limited manpower, the city’s large size and the number of more serious crimes.

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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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Shelby DA Offers Training for Truancy Mentors

The Shelby County District Attorney’s office is recruiting mentors to work with middle school students, parents and schools to decrease habitual truancy, reduce student contact with the juvenile justice system and reduce youth involvement in criminal activity and gangs. The office is sponsoring a training program this Saturday for those who are interested. The session will take place from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the Office of Youth Services and Community Affairs, 315 S. Hollywood at Central. Prospective mentors who plan to attend should notify program director Harold Collins, (901) 222-1395.

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Editorial: Rehabilitation vs. Incarceration a Tough Choice

In an editorial, the Commercial Appeal on Monday looked at a local case of two teenage boys accused of participating in a mob attack, and whether some youths can be rehabilitated within the juvenile system or if the severity and nature of their crimes warrant transfer into the adult system. A decision by Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael is pending on whether they should remain within the juvenile justice system, where they may have a better chance to be rehabilitated, or have their cases transferred to Criminal Court, where they would be handled as adults.

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Sprinkler Vandalism Causes Damage, Security Issues at Juvenile Facilities

Shelby County Juvenile Court officials hope to upgrade detention facilities to stop flooding and security problems that are occurring when detainees damage overhead fire sprinklers. The current system pours down water and unlocks cell doors when a sprinkler head is damaged. “When this happens, it drops water in offices and in hallways, doing damage to the ceilings and computers and desks and that sort of thing,” Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael told the Commercial Appeal.

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U.S. Attorney: Justice System Needs to Catch Up with the Times

U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III spoke in Memphis Thursday about youth violence, WREG reports. Stanton says it’s time for a change in the justice system because Memphis, and the rest of Shelby County can’t arrest their way out of violence. He argued mass incarceration has never made our streets safer. Stanton brushed off suggestions the Department of Justice mandate that gives most kids court summons instead of jail time is leading to more violent crime, stating this mandate protects kids from a potentially racially biased system.

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Shelby DA Asks for Additional Resources

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich says her office needs a larger budget and additional staff to effectively combat crime, which includes operating a number of youth crime prevention programs. Weirich told the county commission’s law enforcement committee this week that her office has not received additional staff since 2007 and no new prosecutors since 2009. Enforcement and holding people accountable is “job one,” she said. “But, but, but, but, there also has to be much focus and much commitment to prevention and to intervention because arrest alone is not going to solve many of the issues that we deal with in this community.” Read the full interview in the Commercial Appeal.

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Haslam Stands By Closure of Taft Youth Center

Gov. Bill Haslam is defending his decision two years ago to close the Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County, though some argue that loss of that facility has led to increased violence at Nashville’s Woodland Hills Youth Development Center. “I think the move to close Taft was right, and I think if you talk to anybody who’s actually involved there, I don’t think closing Taft has anything to do with some of the challenges we’ve had at Woodland Hills,” the governor told reporters last week. But state Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, who led legislative opposition to Taft’s closure, believes the state would not be seeing these problems if Taft were still open, arguing it was better suited to deal with the “worst of the worst” teens. Sexton recently wrote a letter urging Haslam to consider reopening Taft, the Times Free Press reports.

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Another Breakout Hits Youth Facility

Late Friday night, 13 teens overpowered a guard and escaped from the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville but all were captured by Sunday morning, according to WSMV TV. The station also reports that the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) says preliminary indications suggest that Woodland Hills staff did not follow proper procedures during the incident. DCS says it is “conducting an expedited internal affairs investigation into the most recent escape” – the fourth known breakout in the last five months.

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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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CASA Celebrates 30 Years of Service

CASA Nashville today celebrated its 30th anniversary of serving abused and neglected children in Davidson County. Mayor Karl Dean, Rep. Jim Cooper and Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway were on hand to join CASA staff, board members, donors and volunteers in celebrating the milestone. “Please know how much we appreciate the work that you do, “ Dean said. “It is absolutely vital to the juvenile court, it’s vital to the kids here in our city, and it is just a critical service.” At the close of the ceremony, Judge Calloway read a proclamation issued by Gov.Bill Haslam declaring Sept. 26 as CASA Inc. Day in Tennessee.

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Data Reveals Prior Problems at Youth Detention Center

Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Middle Tennessee was already having problems in the months leading up to the escape of 32 teens from the facility, according to recent data. The information obtained by The Tennessean shows between January and early September, there were 145 reported incidents of violence at Woodland Hills. Everette Parrish, an attorney appointed to represent the civil rights of youths at the facility, said he has received several reports from youths who escaped and returned, or were captured, that physical abuse had factored into their decision to flee. A special unit within the Department of Children's Services has opened investigations into abuse and neglect of teens at the facility, officials said last week. The Johnson City Press has more

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Student Volunteers Sought for Teen Court

Teen Court representatives have been speaking at high schools throughout Sumner County this month to recruit new members, the Tennesseean reports. Any student in grades 9-11 interested in participating in the court should apply by Sept. 30. Youth court programs intervene early in delinquent or unruly behavior and provide first-time offenders an opportunity to face a jury of their peers. The Sumner County program has helped 348 youth since its inception. For more information, contact Tammy Kellogg, programs coordinator for Sumner County Juvenile Court, at (615) 451-6035. Learn more about other youth courts from the TBA.

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