News

Juvenile Task Force Reports Findings, Recommendations

A special task force on juvenile justice today presented state leaders with a set of data-driven policy recommendations. The Joint Ad-hoc Blue Ribbon task force – composed of leaders from the executive, legislative and judicial branches – made recommendations that focused on 1) how to focus resources on the highest-risk youth; 2) how to prevent deeper juvenile justice system involvement of lower-level youth through early response; and 3) how to sustain effective practices through continued oversight and reinvestment in a stronger continuum of evidence-based services. Read more details on the recommendations from the Tennessee Courts website.

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CLE Webcast on Juvenile Law: Rights and Obligations

Stacie Odeneal will present a special CLE webcast on Rights and Obligations in Juvenile Law at noon on Tuesday. An overview of the rights and obligations of juveniles will be covered including right to counsel, due process, timelines, appeals and indigent and pro se resources. If you are unavailable to attend on this date, the webcast will be available online for up to one year.
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State Legislator to Run for Nashville Juvenile Court Clerk

State Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), has announced she will run for Davidson County Juvenile Court Clerk next year, The Tennessean reports. She will face former Metro Nashville Councilman and current director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods, Lonnell Matthews Jr., in the May primary election. Jones and Matthews jumped in the race after current Clerk David Smith announced his retirement earlier this year. Jones has served in the House since 1994.
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Juvenile Delinquent Crime Down in Shelby; Violent Crime Up

Delinquent charges against juveniles in Shelby County so far this year are continuing a steady downward trend that began in 2011, the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission and the Public Safety Institute at the University of Memphis report. Their analysis of Juvenile Court figures show a 59.7 percent drop from 2011 and 25.2 percent from last year. For major violent criminal acts, however, the figures show a 35.8 percent increase from last year.

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Court Issues Proposed Rules Amendments, Asks for Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the 2018 Proposed Rules Amendments. Several TBA sections are reviewing the recommendations for possible comment. Comments are due to the court no later than Nov. 22.

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Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies Process for Determining Best Interests of a Child in Parental Termination Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that courts must consider all nine statutory factors, as well as any other relevant facts, when deciding whether terminating parental rights is in a child’s best interests. The Supreme Court explained that requiring courts to consider all relevant facts and circumstances ensures each case receives individualized consideration before fundamental parental rights are terminated. Justice Cornelia A. Clark authored the unanimous opinion.

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Lawsuit Alleges Teacher Restrained 4-year-old in Locker

A lawsuit has been filed against a Nashville elementary school teacher for allegedly physically restraining a 4-year-old in a locker on three occasions, The Tennessean reports. The boy’s mother filed the suit on his behalf and also names Metro Nashville Public Schools as a defendant, seeking $800,000 in damages. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services confirmed it was investigating the allegation and MNPS confirmed the teacher is on "administrative leave."
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Attorney Claims Suit Against Parent by Baseball Coaches is ‘Retaliatory’

Two high school baseball coaches, accused by a team parent of being abusive to players, have filed a $6 million defamation lawsuit against the parent, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The mother’s attorney, Rocky McElhaney, called it a “baddish, retaliatory lawsuit.” Court documents filed by the defense cite Tennessee laws that require anyone with knowledge of child abuse to report it. McElhaney argues that a ruling in the coaches’ favor would discourage others from coming forward.
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Family Accepts Settlement After Children Arrested in Elementary School

A family that sued the city of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County after its children were arrested at an elementary school has accepted an $86,500 settlement, the Daily News Journal reports. The children were arrested in April 2016 at Hobgood Elementary in connection to an off-campus bullying incident. The charges were dismissed just two months later. The Murfreesboro Police Department disciplined the officers involved.
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Juvenile Justice Conference Focuses on Opioid Crisis

Tennessee’s opioid crisis was the primary focus of the recent Juvenile Justice conference, which attracted juvenile court judges, judicial staff, attorneys and other professionals from across the state. Judge Duane Slone of the 4th Judicial District discussed the success of many of the state’s drug courts, but stressed the capacity is not there to handle the opioid epidemic. Though nearly half the conference focused on the opioid crisis, attendees also discussed the psychological mindset of school shooters and other topics.
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Brentwood Academy Plaintiffs File 2nd Lawsuit Against Families of Alleged Perpetrators

The mother of a Brentwood Academy student who alleges that her son was sexually assaulted at school has filed a second lawsuit connected to the case, this time against the families of the boys who allegedly did the assaulting, the Tennessean reports. The suit, which seeks $6 million in damages, argues the parents share the responsibility for the actions of their children. The first lawsuit was filed against the private school and its officials for allegedly not reporting or responding to the attacks.
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Coffee County Judge Honored with Juvenile Justice Award

Judge Timothy R. Brock of Coffee County was awarded the McCain-Abernathy Award by the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (TCJFCJ) for his service in advancing juvenile justice. The award is given annually to a judge with juvenile court jurisdiction who has demonstrated outstanding service dedicated to the improvement of juvenile justice in Tennessee for the benefit of the children and families served by the state’s juvenile courts. Judge Brock currently presides over the Coffee County Drug Recovery Court, Coffee County Mental Health Court, Coffee County Family Treatment Court and Coffee County Juvenile Recovery Court. First elected as a general sessions judge in 1990, he added juvenile court jurisdiction to his duties in 1998.

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Tenn. Supreme Court Holds Attorney's Public Reprimand

The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed a 2014 disciplinary action by the Board of Professional Responsibility that found a Knoxville attorney guilty of professional misconduct. A petition for discipline filed against Danny C. Garland II alleged that while handling an adoption case, he failed to communicate appropriately with clients, failed to exercise reasonable diligence in his representation and committed professional misconduct. A hearing panel found that he should be publicly reprimanded, a ruling affirmed after Garland’s appeal to the Knox County Chancery Court. The Supreme Court's ruling agreed as well, although a dissenting opinion was authored by Justice Holly Kirby.
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Woman Sues Franklin Police, Williamson Sheriff, Alleging Multiple Civil Rights Violations

An Alabama woman in suing the Franklin Police Department, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Division of Children’s Services (DCS) in federal court alleging civil rights violations, the Tennessean reports. A woman with no priors, Tracy Marie Garth, was arrested by Franklin PD for traffic violations while she was driving with her children in the car. Garth’s complaint alleges that since she wasn’t allowed to bring her purse, she was unable to post bond after her arrest and she wasn’t allowed a phone call until 14 days after her arrest, leading to the loss of her job. Further, DCS allegedly placed Garth’s children in Tennessee foster care without attempting to transfer them to Alabama, where Garth’s family lives.
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Mini-Bootcamp in Memphis Focuses on Juvenile Law

The TBA will host a mini-bootcamp in Memphis on Aug. 11 that will provide an overview of the rights and obligations of juveniles. Other topics include the right to counsel, due process, timelines, appeals and indigent and pro se resources.

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Former Memphis Mayor Offers New Path for Juvenile Justice

Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton promoted his New Path Initiative for dealing with the city’s juvenile justice issues during an appearance Tuesday in front of the city council, WMC Action News 5 reports. His plan calls for purchasing the city's old inspection station at Washington Avenue and High Street and turning it into a detention campus to house juvenile offenders, while also providing them with health and education services. Mayor Jim Strickland's office confirms it has been in preliminary talks with Herenton about the idea.

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Vice Chair Announced

Dear Section,  

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Vice Chair Greta Locklear, who is a child welfare attorney with seven years of experience practicing in East Tennessee, 14 years total having been first licensed in Mississippi. Prior to attending law school, Greta was a paralegal in Tennessee and Georgia for 10 years. She enjoys Chattanooga Football Club matches when she is not advocating for children and families in Tennessee. I am excited about the passion and energy she brings to the position of vice chair, and look forward to working with her this year.  

If you are interested in joining us in our leadership of this section, please contact Wil Hammond at whammond@tnbar.org

Stacie Odeneal
Juvenile and Children's Section Chair

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Judge Ends 17 Years of Federal Oversight for DCS

A judge has ruled that the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has shown enough improvement to warrant the removal of the federal oversight that has intervened in the office for more than 17 years, The Tennessean reports. Gov. Bill Haslam praised the ruling, noting that the state spent hundreds of millions on program improvements. An independent commission will continue to conduct oversight of DCS for 18 months after the federal oversight ends, according to terms agreed to by the agency and Children’s Rights, a child advocacy organization that first brought the case against DCS in 2000.
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Racial Disparities in Shelby County Juvenile Court Highlighted

Officials have weighed in on the problem of racial disparities in the Shelby County Juvenile Court system, which is currently under consideration for the removal of federal monitors who have been reviewing the court since 2012, WREG reports. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Judge Dan Michael and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell want the court removed from federal oversight. Although Strickland notes that the number of children who are brought to Juvenile Court has been reduced over the past few years, this month the federal monitors "found race still matters in detention and black youth are more likely to be pushed to adult court." Michael said that transports have gone down 78 percent and the number of children in detention has been reduced from 6,200 in 2010 to 890 last year. 
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Sevier Bar to Host Juvenile Law Program

The Sevier County Bar Association is hosting an all-day Juvenile Law education program that will benefit the Sevier County Children’s Shelter. The program will be held Oct. 24 at the Sevierville Civic Center, 200 Gary R. Wade Blvd. Sessions will feature local judges and attorneys as well as Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Assistant Commissioner Dr. Stephen Loyd, who will speak on opioid addiction.

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Item of Interest

Below is an article that was published in the the Disability Section Connect. We thought it had information that would be of interest to those of you in this section as well.  

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Federal Judge Rules Immigration Agents Violated Rights of Detained Juveniles

A judge ruled this week that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have been violating the rights of detained immigrant juveniles, the ABA Journal reports. Los Angeles federal district judge Dolly Gee found that some facilities fail to meet the standards set by a 1997 settlement, with infractions such as spotty access to clean water, insufficient food, poor sleeping conditions and intentional use of air conditioning to create very cold temperatures. The ruling also found instances of juveniles being detained for longer than the allowed 20-day waiting period.
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Task Force on Juvenile Justice Holds First Meeting

The newly formed bipartisan Ad Hoc Tennessee Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice, chaired by Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, held its first meeting today. The task force is comprised of representation from Gov. Haslam’s office, legislators, prosecutors, law enforcement, juvenile court officials and representatives from key state agencies. Following a comprehensive study of Tennessee’s juvenile justice system, the group will create a series of recommendations. It will soon begin the compilation and review of data that will hopefully result in the enactment of effective juvenile justice reforms based on its recommendations as soon as the 2018 legislative session.
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Memphis Leaders, Advocacy Groups Send Letter to Sessions Over Juvenile Court Oversight

Shelby County leaders have penned a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking the Justice Department to continue its oversight of the Shelby County Juvenile Court, The Commercial Appeal reports. Signed by Rep. Raumesh Akbari, County Commissioner Van Turner and 19 advocacy groups, the letter claims the court continues to discriminate against black children. On June 9, Mayor Mark Luttrell, Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael and Sheriff Bill Oldham requested the federal government cease monitoring the court.
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Shelby County Commission Opposes Ending Federal Oversight of Juvenile Court

The Shelby County Commission approved a resolution last night opposing the end of federal oversight of the Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court, the Memphis Daily News reports. Last week County Mayor Mark Luttrell and other officials sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking for relief from the five years of Justice Department oversight. Commission chairman Melvin Burgess expressed dismay that commissioners were not informed of the plans for the request and lamented that no one involved in the decision making was a person of color. Luttrell said that he will veto the resolution.
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