News

AC out at Shelby County Juvenile Court

Some areas of the Shelby County Juvenile Court, including a number of courtrooms, have been without air conditioning for two weeks, the Commercial Appeal reports. Juvenile Court Chief Administrative Officer Pam Skelton said the court’s HVAC vendor has been onsite during that time working to get things fixed. Skelton said the court is using fans and portable air conditioning units, and keeping a close eye on the detention facility. But an attorney interviewed for the story said they had to turn the fans off to hear witness testimony earlier this week.

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Court Issues Order Amending Rule 40A

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order amending Rule 40A of the Rules of the Supreme Court to remove “contested private guardianship cases” from the definition of “custody proceeding.” The court said that including guardianship cases in the definition is an apparent conflict with Rule 40A(6)(b) and Tennessee code section 34-1-107(d)(1). The court solicited comments on this proposed change between May 16 and July 15 but reports that it did not receive any comments.

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New Fee Could Fund Advocacy Centers

Two organizations helping victims of abuse may get additional financial assistance through a new fee assessed by the courts, the Tullahoma News reports. A Coffee County committee recently approved a $45 victims’ assistance fee to benefit the local Children’s Advocacy Center and Haven of Hope. The proposed fee would be collected from individuals convicted of or entering a plea of guilty to a crime that imposes a fine of over $500 and possible imprisonment. The county would keep $3 while the rest would be split between the groups. The full commission will vote on the issue in September.

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Celebration of Life Set for Johnson City Lawyer

The family and friends of Johnson City attorney Janie Lindamood will honor her memory on Sept. 11 at 4 p.m. at the Barn at Boone Falls, 1770 Old Gray Station Rd., the Washington County Bar Association announced today. Visitors are asked to use the entrance at 110 Kim Dr. The celebration will be casual and include live entertainment, food and beverages. Lindamood died Aug. 13 at the age of 65. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Coalition for Kids in Johnson City, which is part of the GoFund Me account set up in her name.

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Johnson City Lawyer Remembered for Mentoring Others

Johnson City attorney Janie Lindamood died Aug. 13 at the age of 65. She is being remembered by colleagues as a fierce advocate for the children she represented in court as a juvenile and family law attorney and as a generous mentor to young lawyers. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Lindamood worked as a hairstylist, as a florist and in healthcare administration. She earned her law degree in 1996 from the Oklahoma City University Law School. The family is planning a celebration of life next month. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Coalition for Kids in Johnson City, which is part of the GoFund Me account set up in her name. The Johnson City Press has more on her life.

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Funding Jeopardized by New Juvenile DUI Law

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper is criticizing Tennessee Republicans for changes to the state’s underage drunken driving law that could lead to a loss of $60 million in federal highway funding, the Associated Press reports. The new law divides teens into two groups: 16 and 17 year olds, who remain subject to the federally-recommended limit of 0.02 blood alcohol content and 18 to 20 year olds, which have an allowable limit of 0.08 percent but are now subject to the same penalties as adult drivers. The bill’s sponsor said legislators were not warned of a potential conflict with federal standards but would work to address the issue. Humphrey on the Hill has the story.

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Juvenile Judges Honored by Judicial Council

Two juvenile court judges were recognized this week by the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges for exceptional service in advancing juvenile justice, the AOC reports. Madison County Judge Christy R. Little and Henry County Judge Vicki Snyder were presented the McCain-Abernathy Memorial Award at the annual conference of the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in Memphis. Both judges serve general sessions courts with juvenile jurisdiction.

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Task Force to Consider Juvenile Justice Department

Legislation approved in 2016 sets up a task force to study the feasibility of creating a Tennessee Department of Juvenile Justice, the Columbia Daily Herald reports. The task force will include legislators and members of the public who have experience or interest in children’s issues, as well as ex-officio members from different state departments. The law also calls on existing children’s services agencies to report on probation programs, recidivism rates, custodial data and system-wide information to guide the task force’s work.

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DA: Increasing Juvenile Age Would Have Broad Complications

Responding to a proposal by Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael to expand the jurisdiction of state juvenile courts to individuals up to 25 years old, District Attorney General Amy Weirich said such a change would prompt a long, complicated process. The issues that would need to be addressed include expanding the number of personnel, facilities and treatment programs. Michael acknowledged his proposal would prompt a “massive change” and that he does not have easy answers on how to pay for it, the Commercial Appeal reports.

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Indigent Task Force Holds Final Hearing

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force held its final listening session today in Franklin, hearing from more than a dozen members of the private bar and parents of children in the child welfare system. The task force will meet in September to consider all comments and recommendations submitted during the tour and discuss the timing of presenting its own findings.

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Judge Wants to Expand Juvenile Court to 25 Year Olds

Speaking before members of the Rotary Club of Memphis on Tuesday, Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael said he is behind a bill in the state legislature that would expand jurisdiction of the Shelby County Juvenile Court to those 25 years of age or younger. Currently, the court has jurisdiction over a child until he or she turns 19. Michael argued that the change would allow young adult offenders to stay in the juvenile justice system longer and receive needed treatment and rehabilitation, according to the Commercial Appeal.

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Dickson County CASA Holds First Awards Dinner

CASA of Dickson County recently held its inaugural Champions for Children Awards Dinner and recognized state Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson, for her contributions to local children in need, the Tennessean reports. The group also announced a new community service award that will be presented next year. Board chair and TBA Government Relations Committee Chair Meagan Frazier Grosvenor addressed attendees, sharing how her experience serving on the local Foster Care Review Board led her and several colleagues to establish a CASA agency in the county. The group, which is in the final stages of formation, is looking for a full-time executive director.

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New ABA President to Focus on Veterans, Election Issues

Atlanta lawyer Linda Klein, senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson, was sworn in as president of the ABA yesterday and outlined her goals for the year, which include a focus on veterans’ legal needs, promotion of voting in the upcoming election and support for quality education. A new ABA Commission on Veterans’ Legal Services will provide resources for local legal groups to serve veterans and their families, and explore ways to provide legal services at VA medical facilities. Tennessee will be represented on the commission by TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur. The voting initiative, ABA Votes 2016, will provide a state-by-state summary of voter laws as well as resources lawyers can use to encourage participation. Finally, a new education commission will study ways to address substandard education in rural and inner city communities and improve opportunities for children with disabilities.

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4th Annual Balloon Fiesta to Benefit CASA Monroe

The fourth annual Muscadine Balloon Fiesta will take place Sept. 23 and 24 at the Tsali Notch Vineyard, 140 Harrison Rd. in Madisonville. The event will feature balloon rides, live music, food, games and an inflatable Kid’s Zone. Each night at dusk, 20 hot air balloons will be lighted for a Balloon Glow set to music. On Friday, the event will run from 3-10 p.m. On Saturday, the event will run from 1-10 p.m. All proceeds will support CASA Monroe.

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Report Alleges Little Has Changed for Memphis Juveniles

An in-depth profile of the Shelby County Juvenile Court system published by the nonprofit organization Next City argues that four years after the Department of Justice found that Memphis treated black juvenile offenders more harshly than white peers “little has changed.” The piece acknowledges that there has been progress, but alleges there is still “a serious lack of movement” to address racial disparities. The report also found “across-the-board deterioration … since the transfer of the [juvenile] facility to the sheriff” and continued patterns of trying black juveniles as adults.

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Washington County Family Justice Center Opens

Thursday marked the grand opening of the Family Justice Center in Johnson City, News Channel 11 reports. The center serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse, bringing victims’ services together under one roof, site coordinator Heather Brack said. Agencies with representatives at the center include the Johnson City Police, Washington County Sheriff, Safe Passage, a local domestic violence shelter, Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the First Judicial District Attorney General’s office.

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State Leaders Participate in National Child Safety Initiative

Tennessee was one of eight states selected to participate in the Three Branch Institute to Improve Child Safety and Prevent Child Fatalities. The Florida event included sessions on identifying and assessing at-risk populations, parental substance abuse and opioid impact on child welfare. Attendees from Tennessee included Amy Coble and Michael Cull; Rep. John DeBerry Jr., D-Memphis; Sen. Ferrell Haile, R- Gallatin; and AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate. The AOC has more.

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Coordinator Named for Sullivan Family Justice Center

A site coordinator has been named for Sullivan County’s future Family Justice Center, the Herald Courier reports. Karen Turnage Boyd, who previously worked in private practice and as a mediator, will guide the center through its developmental phase. Tennessee currently has seven family justice centers. The Sullivan County location, which is set to be fully operational in July 2018, will be number eight.

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Medical Emergency Raises Questions of Courtroom Protocol

When a young man in Shelby County Juvenile Court last week became violently ill -- apparently having a seizure-- it raised questions about what procedures are in place to deal with such events in the court. “It was traumatic for everybody to continue on as if this person didn’t exist,” said attorney Mozella Ross who was not in the courtroom but talked to lawyers who were. Court proceedings did stop as soon as paramedics arrived to tend to the patient, WREG reports. Ross said the incident shows the court needs standard protocols to handle medical emergencies in court.

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CASA Hosts Summer Wines Party

CASA of East Tennessee will host its Summer Wines Party Aug. 6 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Brabham Home, 621 Scenic Dr., Knoxville, 37919. The evening will feature summer foods, chilled drinks, raffle prizes and live music. Tickets are $75 per person and $125 per couple and may be purchased on the group’s website. For sponsorship information, contact Britney Sink, 865-329-3399.

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Memphis Law Hosting Juvenile Justice Conference

The University of Memphis School of Law will host the National Juvenile Justice Network conference July 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Juvenile justice advocates from across the country will be attending and organizers have invited law school students, faculty and staff to attend free of charge. Registration for the event closes tomorrow.

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Precedent Set for Dogs in Courtrooms

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected a claim that the presence of a comfort dog was "overly prejudicial" to a defendant in a rape trial. The case comes from the appeal of a man convicted of raping a 10-year-old in DeKalb County. Prosecutors wrote detailed guidelines for the dog’s courtroom presence during the trial, including instructions that the dog be invisible to everyone but the victim. The appeals court upheld the local court’s decision, citing case evidence from other states that allow service dogs in courtrooms. “This was the first case in Tennessee for a dog to be allowed in the courtroom to provide comfort to the victim,” said Jennifer Wilkerson, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center. With this win under their belts, prosecutors and child advocacy center directors across the state are planning to introduce service dogs into their own courtrooms, the Herald Citizen reports.

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Judge: Community Action Key for Juvenile Justice Reform

As the Shelby County Juvenile Court is working to stay in compliance with federal directives, Judge Dan Michael says community involvement is critical for the next steps on juvenile reform and diversion. Through the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI), Michael is encouraging community members to learn more and be active advocates, News 5 reports. “I need your involvement,” he said. “If we don’t get involved as a community, we won’t solve this problem as a community.”

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Lee: Court Continually Seeking to Improve Services

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee spoke to the Sevierville Rotary this week to update the community on ways the court is modernizing and striving to make itself more accessible. According to the Mountain Press, she highlighted efforts such as allowing e-filing of court documents, improving access for indigent clients, exploring increased pay for indigent representation, consolidating complex business matters in one court, and streamlining the juvenile court system. Lee told local leaders that the court is committed to continually improving its services. “We need to be looking at how we do things to see if we can do them better,” she said.

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Disability Rights Tennessee Wants to Hear From You!

Disability Rights Tennessee has launched a survey aimed at gathering information from people with disabilities, family members, service providers and professionals to help shape the work of the organization.

The organization is looking for as much information as possible, so please feel free to share the survey with partners, colleagues and friends, so that an accurate picture of the needs of those with disabilities in the State of Tennessee can be compiled. Take the survey now. The deadline to respond is July 11.

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