News

Juvenile Judge Reprimanded for 'Sneaky Snake' Comment

The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct issued a public reprimand Monday to Rutherford County Juvenile Judge Donna Davenport after she described a father and/or his counsel as a “sneaky snake” following the transfer of a child custody case. Davenport had signed off on the transfer and acknowledged it as lawful, but later accused the father of “manipulating the court schedule.” As part of the reprimand, the judge agreed to issue a letter of apology to the father and his counsel.  

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DA Drops Charge Against Ooltewah Assistant Coach

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston today dropped the charge of failing to report child sexual abuse against a volunteer-assistant basketball coach at Ooltewah High School. The Times Free Press reports the charges were dropped against Karl Williams because he "was not provided any training regarding the mandatory reporting law.” The school’s head basketball coach was indicted last week on four counts of failing to report child sexual abuse. 

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Editorial: Improve Pay for Court-Appointed Attorneys

“Tennessee pays its court-appointed attorneys so little that it threatens to undermine the right of their clients to a fair trial.” A Knoxville News Sentinel editorial argues why the state must increase compensation for court-appointed lawyers, calling the current rate – $40 per hour for work outside the courtroom – “ridiculously low.”   The comments come after the Indigent Representation Task Force held a public hearing in Knoxville last week as part of the group’s statewide listening tour. 

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Juveniles Rarely Understand Miranda Rights, Studies Show

Juvenile advocates say that juveniles rarely understand Miranda rights, even though several studies show they waive their rights at the rate of 90 percent. The ABA Journal takes a closer look at the issue, reporting there is no set script for the warnings, the wording varies widely and that at least half of the scripts require an eighth grade reading level. 

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Detective in Ooltewah Rape Case Indicted for Perjury

A Hamilton County grand jury today indicted Gatlinburg Detective Floyd Rodney Burns on two counts of aggravated perjury, following his testimony in the rape case of an Ooltewah basketball player. According to court documents, Burns is accused of making false statements as to whether the victim in the case cried out in pain and when Burns alerted children's services about the assault. Read more from WRCB

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Arrests Raise Questions on Juvenile Justice Procedures

The arrests of 10 children in a Murfreesboro school --  all African-Americans from 9 to 12 years of age -- are drawing continuing attention with an Associated Press report today that says school officials and some police officers tried to prevent the action at the school. The 10 were arrested for a bullying episode that took place off school grounds weeks before the arrests. 

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Principal Agrees to Pre-trial Diversion

An item in Wednesday's TBAToday referenced a news story from WBIR that said that Ooltewah High School assistant principal/athletic director Allard “Jesse” Nayadley had been "sentenced" to community service for failing to report child abuse. According to his lawyer, Lee Davis, Nayadley actually had agreed to pre-trial diversion on the class A misdemeanor of failing to report. After performing the community service and 90 days of pre-trial diversion, he can have the matter expunged.

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Judge: Juvenile Solitary Confinement Suit Can Proceed

U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell today denied a request by attorneys for the state and Rutherford County to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to release a 15-year-old from solitary confinement in Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center. However, Campbell declined to issue an injunction barring the use of solitary confinement for children in Tennessee. Attorneys for the boy and his mother said the boy was locked down for five days, a portion of which he was held in a cell 23 hours a day with a window covered by a board. Jail officials dispute that claim, The Tennessean reports. Campbell ordered the release of the boy in April on the same day as the lawsuit was filed.

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Former Memphis Mayor Proposes Juvenile Facilities

Former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton presented before the Shelby County Commission today his plan to build two 200 bed-facilities to house Shelby County juveniles. Herenton said the project, named NewPath, would partner with Juvenile Court and would not require county funding. The facilities, planned for Frayser and Millington, would provide services that include mental health care and vocational training. County Mayor Mark Luttrell supports the idea, but noted the plan will face more scrutiny on the state level. Read more from The Commercial Appeal

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Juvenile Justice Experts Argue for Less Police Action

Last year, nearly 2,000 of Tennessee law enforcement’s juvenile arrests were of children ages 6-12. The highest ranking offense for that age group was simple assault, The Tennessean reports. "Arresting children of that age is just not appropriate, except in extreme circumstances,” Craig Hargrow, director of juvenile justice for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. Juvenile justice experts argue the focus needs to be on “alternative restorative practices” instead of police action. 

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Donate Online to Tennessee Youth Courts Tomorrow

Tomorrow, May 3, is Middle Tennessee’s largest online giving day: The Big Payback. During the 24-hour giving cycle, you can support Tennessee’s Youth Courts by donating at least $10 online. The program allows students who are facing misdemeanor accusations to go before a jury of their peers and provides education about the legal system. The Big Payback is offering prizes/incentives for the nonprofit with the most donations from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (CDT), and for the nonprofit with the largest number of unique or individual donors.

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'Culbertson': Confusion or Clarity?

In protecting children of divorce, two strong camps exist when it comes to including mental health records of a parent in custody matters. The May Tennessee Bar Journal looks at both sides of this conflict that has arisen from the Culbertson cases, with articles from Memphis lawyer Amy Amundsen and Nashville lawyer Jeff Levy. Also, Chattanooga lawyer Russell Fowler examines Tennessee historical figure Montgomery Bell and the surprising impact he had on the law. Read the May issue.

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Tennessee Near Top of List for Children with Incarcerated Parents

A new study revealed Tennessee is tied with five other states in third place for the highest number of children with incarcerated parents, with Kentucky in first. The Kids Count report also found one in 10 children in Tennessee currently have or have had a parent in prison. The Tennessean reports on the state's efforts to help children with incarcerated parents, including training for schools and county health departments. 

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YWCA's Annual Stand Against Racism, May 4

On May 4, the YWCA will host its annual Stand Against Racism at noon at Nashville’s downtown Public Square Park. The event will be co-hosted by Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. Juvenile Court Judge Shelia Calloway will be one of the speakers. Registration is available online

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DOJ: Inequalities Still Present in Shelby Juvenile Court

A representative of the Department of Justice yesterday said “there has been little movement in addressing overrepresentation of black youth” in the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County. Speaking at a community meeting, Special Litigation Counsel Winsome Gayle said, "The court has done a good job of collecting data, but there hasn't been enough movement in figuring out how to address the problems that are showing up in the data.” Gayle did note an improvement in the court’s respect for due process rights of children, The Commercial Appeal reports.

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Op-ed Criticizes New Teenage Sexting Laws

In many states, teenagers who share sexually explicit images of themselves are punished with decades-old laws that were meant to be applied to adults who exploited children. But an opinion piece in The New York Times asserts new sexting laws that criminalize teenage sexting are being unfairly applied. “A better solution would be to bring child pornography laws in line with statutory rape laws by exempting teenagers who are close in age and who consensually create, share or receive sexual images,” the author writes.  

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Report: Shelby County, Memphis Juvenile Court 'More Dangerous'

A report released last week revealed detention at Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County has become more dangerous after Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham took over detention operations on July 1. David Roush, a consultant with Juvenile Justice Associates of Michigan, explained in the report that detention for juveniles should not be operated by local law enforcement and cited concerns about unapproved restraint techniques constituting excessive force. The latest review comes after a 2012 U.S. Department of Justice investigation revealed deficiencies in the court system. Read more from The Commercial Appeal

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LAET Attorney to Serve on Domestic Violence Task Force

Legal Aid of East Tennessee staff attorney Kathryn Ellis was elected co-chair of the Blount County Task Force against Domestic Violence. The volunteer task force is an Action Team of the Blount County Community Health Initiative, focusing on domestic violence prevention and reduction, bullying prevention education in schools, and training for law enforcement.

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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Attorney Hired to Investigate Ooltewah Student Assault

The Hamilton County School Board has hired attorney Courtney Bullard, a partner at Spears, Moore, Rebman and Williams PC, to conduct an investigation at Ooltewah High School into the alleged rape of a student by three basketball teammates. The Times Free Press reports the Office of Civil Rights requires school systems to conduct investigations after incidents such as those that happened at Ooltewah.

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Mother of Child Who Killed Himself Waives Rights to Pretrial Hearing

The mother of a three-year-old boy who shot himself with a pistol in the family’s vehicle waived her rights Monday to a pretrial hearing, the Chattanoogan reports. Kelly Pittman’s charges – criminally negligent homicide and child endangerment – now go straight to the Grand Jury.

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Bill Would Repeal 'Spiritual Treatment' Exemption to Child Neglect Law

The state Senate last week unanimously approved a bill that would repeal the "spiritual treatment" exemption to the state's child abuse and neglect statute, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The measure (SB 1761 / HB 2043) is sponsored by Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, a cardiac surgeon. The exemption was at the center of a case involving the 2002 death of a Loudon County girl after her mother refused medical care in favor of “spiritual treatment” and prayer. The state House Criminal Justice Committee is scheduled to consider the bill Wednesday.

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Judge Sammons Barred From Handling Child Neglect Case

Eighth Judicial District Judge Shayne Sexton today removed Campbell County General Sessions Court Judge Amanda Sammons from presiding over a child neglect case, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Sammons is currently facing an investigation for her handling of the case, in which she is accused of changing the defendant’s charges without notifying her or prosecutors. Also today, the News Sentinel reports that a number of jailers with the Campbell County Sheriff's Office appeared in Sexton's court prepared to confirm that Sammons had changed the charge.

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$10M Suit Filed Against Bus Driver Charged With Rape

A $10 million lawsuit was filed Thursday against a Hamilton County bus driver charged with the 2015 rape of a teenage student, the Times Free Press reports. The teen’s guardians are seeking the amount in punitive and compensatory damages and have requested a jury trial.

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Lebo Appointed to Williamson County Juvenile Court

The Brentwood Home Page reports Magistrate William C. Lebo was appointed to serve in Williamson County Juvenile Court. Lebo replaces Magistrate Joshua L. Rogers, who is leaving the position after nine years. Lebo previously served as a Guardian Ad Litem in private practice and as a Magistrate for the Montgomery County Juvenile Court.

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