News

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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ABA Launches Homeless Youth Legal Network

The American Bar Association today announced the creation of the Homeless Youth Legal Network, spearheaded by the ABA Commission on Homelessness & Poverty, Commission on Youth at Risk, and Section of Litigation Children’s Rights Litigation Committee. The network aims to serve homeless youth seeking legal assistance, help service providers working with homeless youth and train lawyers who want to help. The ABA will base some of the network’s practices on 12 model programs from across the country.
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Shelby Juvenile Court Puts Focus on Serious Offenders

A Shelby County program for keeping kids out of the Juvenile Court system is gaining national recognition, WMC Action News 5 reports. Judge Dan Michael said in the past five years, his court has been working with schools and local law enforcement to only bring kids to court on major offenses. In 2012, he said 6,900 kids were detained and charged in juvenile court. The latest numbers from last year show only 890 kids were brought in. 

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Shelby Officials Ask for Relief from Juvenile Court Oversight

Shelby County officials are asking for relief from federal oversight of its Juvenile Court after two new reports show the county has made progress in meeting requirements set forth in a 2012 Department of Justice memorandum, WMC Action News 5 reports. County Mayor Mark Luttrell was joined by the juvenile judge and county sheriff in an eight-page letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking for relief. Several outside experts disagree, saying big inequalities still exist and more improvement is needed.

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New Reports Show Progress at Shelby Juvenile Court

Two new reports have been released concerning the Shelby County Juvenile Court’s efforts to comply with a U.S. Department of Justice agreement reached in 2012, The Commercial Appeal reports. The agreement was originally reached to address confinement conditions at the juvenile court detention center and its administration of justice. The DOJ reports shows that the Shelby County Juvenile Court has maintained compliance for the past year, and several sections will no longer be under review going forward.
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Memphis Juvenile Justice Summit Focuses on Improving Outcomes for Youth

The second annual Juvenile Justice Summit was held yesterday in Memphis at Hickory Ridge Mall, and advocates discussed new programs in the pipeline, the Memphis Daily News reports. One such project on the horizon is the Juvenile Assessment Center, touted by Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael as a way to “divert every child from juvenile court for assessment on the front end before they ever get to court.” Shelby County Schools were represented at the Summit as well, citing a 13 percent reduction in disciplinary incidents this this school year versus the previous one.
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Man Mistakenly Arrested, Jailed for 4 Days

After a grand jury declined to indict him, authorities arrested Quentin Brown and booked him into Shelby County Jail and held him for four days, The Commercial Appeal reports. A grand jury returned a “not true bill” on May 18, but Brown was still arrested and booked on a charge of aggravated child abuse on June 8. Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Bobby Carter ordered Brown’s release after attorney Blake Ballin showed the court Brown hadn’t been charged. Brown will speak with civil lawyers before speaking publicly, his lawyer said.  
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Due to Judicial Vacancies, DCS Will Stay Under Federal Oversight for at Least 2 More Weeks

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services will stay under federal oversight for a few more weeks after U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw asked for more time to catch up on the nearly 600 filings in the case, The Tennessean reports. The backlog is due to two judicial vacancies in the Middle District of Tennessee, one of which was created by the retirement of U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell, who oversaw the case for years. The DCS case was filed in 2000 by a child advocacy organization on behalf of a 9-year-old boy who spent months facing poor conditions in a shelter with little access to education. That triggered federal agents to come in and monitor the department.
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Tennessee CASA Launches Major Volunteer Recruitment Campaign

Tennessee Court Appointed Special Advocates (TN CASA) was recently profiled by The Tennessean to highlight the launch of its new volunteer recruitment campaign and website, BeForTheChild.org. The organization is hoping that with more volunteers, it can serve 15,000 more children who do not currently have an advocate due to lack of volunteers. That would quadruple its reach. The new site will direct volunteers to their local branch of CASA and connect them to get involved. In order to become a CASA advocate, volunteers must undergo 30 hours of training and pass security tests.
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Tennessee CASA Launches Major Volunteer Recruitment Campaign

Tennessee Court Appointed Special Advocates (TN CASA) was recently profiled by The Tennessean to highlight the launch of its new volunteer recruitment campaign and website, BeForTheChild.org. The organization is hoping that with more volunteers, it can serve 15,000 more children who do not currently have an advocate due to lack of volunteers. That would quadruple its reach. The new site will direct volunteers to their local branch of CASA and connect them to get involved. In order to become a CASA advocate, volunteers must undergo 30 hours of training and pass security tests.
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Youth Courts ‘Giving Day’ is Next Thursday

The Tennessee Youth Courts’ “Giving Day” is June 15. Tennessee Youth Courts supports youth courts across the state, which allow teen volunteers to decide sentencing for other teens who have admitted to committing low-level offenses. Volunteers learn about court procedures, sentencing options, trial techniques, structure of the justice system, the meaning of justice and relationships between rights and responsibilities. Donations to Tennessee Youth Courts go towards informing and educating young people about the role of law in our democracy and about their role as active citizens.
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Legislature Announces Task Force on Juvenile Justice

Members of the Tennessee legislature announced this week the formation of a new task force focusing on the state’s juvenile justice system. Called the Joint Ad Hoc Tennessee Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice, it will be chaired by Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. The task force will “undertake a comprehensive review” of the juvenile justice system and develop policy recommendations. 
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Man Not Guilty by Insanity for Threatening Judge

A man was found not guilty by insanity yesterday for making threatening statements about Madison County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Christy Little, The Jackson Sun reports. Omar Ahmad must now undergo mandatory treatment at Pathways Behavioral Services. He may not leave the county without a responsible adult and his social media accounts will be monitored for potential infractions. He was also ordered to stay off the campus of the University School of Jackson, after he was charged with disrupting an assembly in 2014 for Facebook threats that caused the school to go on lockdown.
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