News

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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State CASA Holds Annual Meeting, Presents Awards

Tennessee CASA this week recognized State Rep. Charles Sargent, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich and Nashville lawyer Meagan Frazier for their efforts to help abused and neglected children. Sargent, R-Franklin, received the President’s Award, while Hommrich received the Light of Hope Award for shepherding the department through an overhaul of the foster care system. Frazier received the Champion for Children Award for starting a CASA program in Dickson County. The group reported it served 5,250 children last year. “That sounds good,” said Executive Director Lynn Farrar. “But there are 20,000 children abused and neglected in Tennessee who could use a volunteer.” The Tennessean has photos from the event.

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Reminder: 2 Events Taking Place Next Week

The Nashville Bar Association will host its annual member picnic Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Walk of Fame Park. The family-friendly event, co-sponsored by the Metro Law Department, will include a catered dinner and open bar. Members can attend for free. Nonmembers can buy tickets for $20 per person. CASA Monroe will benefit from the fourth annual Muscadine Balloon Fiesta next weekend at the Tsali Notch Vineyard, 140 Harrison Rd. in Madisonville. The event will feature balloon rides, live music, food, games and a Balloon Glow at dusk. 

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Students Earn Courtroom Experience with Children’s Clinic

The University of Memphis School of Law’s Children’s Defense Clinic is giving law students a unique opportunity to represent children in juvenile court and obtain real-world experience. The new program started this year under the direction of Lisa Geis, who moved to Memphis from Washington, D.C., to run the clinic. Almost a month into the semester, clinic students are handling 10 cases ranging from theft to vandalism to cases of aggravated assault, the Commercial Appeal reports. Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush praised the program saying it would be “an important engine” for reform in Shelby County's juvenile defense system.

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Juvenile Court Closes Early Due to AC Issues

Due to ongoing problems with the air-conditioning system at the Shelby County Juvenile Court building, the court’s eight courtrooms closed at 1 p.m. yesterday and today. “The heat in the courtrooms has become excessive, and in consideration of everyone’s health we decided to close the courtrooms,’’ said Pam Skelton, the court’s chief administrative officer. Cases affected by the closure will be rescheduled, Local Memphis reports.

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AC out at Shelby County Juvenile Court Again

The air conditioning is out at Shelby County Juvenile Court for the second time in less than two weeks, as temperatures outside were projected to reach the 90s. Affected locations included part of the juvenile detention area, as well as some courtrooms and offices, the Commercial Appeal reports. Staff reportedly made sure that juveniles were spending time in other parts of the detention area not affected by the outage. The problem is partially due to an old HVAC system that needs custom-made coils, according to the court. The coils should be delivered and installed this week.

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Read About Estates, Torts, Family Law … and Dodge Ball?

Murfreesboro lawyer Josh McCreary examines last wills and testaments, writing that "in the wake of the 2015 Court of Appeals opinion in In Re: Estate of Morris, the Tennessee legislature has stepped in and amended Tenn. Code Ann. §32-1-104 to lessen the formalities of Wills executed before July 1, 2016." Read in the September Tennessee Bar Journal what this will mean for estate practice. Columnist John Day writes about the two times in the past five years that the statute of limitations applicable to personal injury claims filed on behalf of persons with mental impairments has been changed. Columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Manuel Benjamin Russ look into finding and defining income available for child support and alimony, and humor columnist Bill Haltom writes about his dubious experiences with junior high sports, particularly Dodge Ball.

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Tennessee CASA to Recognize Attorney, State Rep.

The 2016 Tennessee CASA Annual Meeting will be held Sept. 20 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville Public Library Downtown Branch. The Light of Hope Award will be given to Commissioner Bonnie Hommrick of the state Department of Children’s Services, the Champion for Children Award will be given to Nashville attorney Meagan Frazier with Smith Harris Carr, and the President’s Award will be presented to State Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin. For more information and to register before the Sept. 13 deadline, visit CASA’s event page.

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Tennessee CASA to Hold Annual Meeting

The 2016 Tennessee CASA Annual Meeting will be held Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville Public Library Downtown Branch. 

The Light of Hope award will be given to Commissioner Bonnie Hommrick of the state department of Children's Services, the Champion for Children award will be given to attorney Meagan Frazier and State Rep. Charles Sargent will receive the President's Award. Space is limited. For more information and to register before the Sept. 13 deadline, visit CASA's event page.

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Chief Justice Highlights Court’s Accomplishments

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee recently spoke to chief justices from across the country at a national conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Lee focused her remarks on accomplishments achieved during her tenure as chief justice. She steps down from that role at the end of the month. Lee praised the state legislature for funding the court’s new electronic filing system and raises for staff. She also talked about efforts to ensure consistency of process and procedures in the state’s juvenile courts and highlighted the Access to Justice Initiative, civics education through the SCALES program, a new business court, a new human trafficking court and an indigent representation task force. Read her full remarks and see a photo gallery of her time as chief justice.

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Court Solicits Comments on 2017 Rules Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include changing the place for filing a notice of appeal to the appellate clerk’s office, requiring payment of fees and taxes to the appellate court clerk at the time of initiation of an appeal, and changes to the Juvenile, Criminal and Evidence rules. Six TBA sections – Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, Criminal Justice, Family Law and Juvenile and Children’s Law – will be asked to review the recommendations and propose comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due Nov. 23.

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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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