News

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.

read more »

'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.

read more »

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. 

read more »

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

read more »

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.

read more »

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.  

read more »

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

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

$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.

read more »

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.

read more »

Student Facing Charges for Emojis in Threat

A 12-year-old Virginia girl is facing criminal charges after making threats against her middle school using emojis in an Instagram post. The case may force authorities to determine exactly what emojis – cartoonish symbols depicting emotions and items – mean, The Washington Post reports. The article details other recent cases where the use of emojis and emoticons in criminal proceedings has been debated.

read more »

Judge Dismisses Charges Against Former Bristol Principal

Judge Jerry Beck on Wednesday dismissed charges of child abuse and attempted child neglect charges against former Bristol school principal Jerry Poteat, the Herald Courier reports. Poteat, who was accused of locking a 5-year-old out of the school in January, cannot be charged again for the incident.

read more »

Trial Begins for Principal Accused of Locking Child Outside

The trial of a former Bristol principal accused of locking a five-year-old student out of school in winter temperatures is underway, the Herald Courier reports. Jerry Poteat, who resigned as principal but remains an employee of the school system on unpaid suspension, shared photos and videos of the little girl outside in January with others at the school. Poteat pleaded not guilty to felony attempted child abuse and attempted child neglect. “You’ll need to apply common sense to what is presented,” Assistant District Attorney General Julie Canter told jurors.

read more »

Gang Investigator Starts New Program for Teens

Troubled teens in Memphis now have a new place to go to learn how to stay out of trouble, News Channel 3 reports. Jimmy Chambers from the Shelby County DA’s Office has started Camp Chambers. “They on the borderline,” Chambers says. “We want to grab those children to let them know there is another chance. You don't have to go that way.”

read more »

Campbell County Judge to Face Investigation

Campbell County General Sessions Judge Amanda Sammons faces an investigation for her handling of a child neglect case, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The newspaper says that records show Sammons ordered the defendant's charge changed without knowledge of police, prosecutors or the judicial magistrate who authorized the original warrant. The Tennessee District Attorney General's Conference confirmed Thursday that it is seeking a special prosecutor to conduct the probe, requested by Eighth Judicial District Attorney General Jared Effler, whose district includes Campbell County.

read more »

Vogel Suspension Complicates Child Torture Case

Jessica Ann Cox, a stepmom accused of tortuous abuse of her stepsons, has requested new legal counsel be provided by the state following the Tennessee Supreme Court’s suspension of her former counsel, Robert Vogel. Cox says she cannot afford to hire new counsel. Vogel was suspended earlier this month for having sex with a client in a court-appointed case and the incident has repeatedly delayed Cox’s case. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

read more »

Bill Would Extend Statue of Limitations for Child Abuse Civil Actions

The House Civil Justice Committee today passed HB2593 by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Nashville.  As amended, the bill extends the statue of limitations for civil actions based on an injury resulting from child sexual abuse that occurred when the person was a minor but was not discovered until after the person became an adult. The bill would extend the period to seven years from the discovery of the abuse. The bill, supported by the TBA, has also been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate version is sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville.

read more »

Attorneys Needed for Child Support Contempt Services in Davidson County

The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts is seeking attorneys to represent indigent respondents facing contempt of court charges for failure to pay court-ordered child support in Title IV-D child support enforcement proceedings in Davidson County Juvenile Court. Judges will continue to have the discretion to appoint attorneys, however the AOC is seeking licensed attorneys to contract with the office. The application form is available online; contact David Byrne, 615-741-6285, for more information.

read more »

Judge Seeks Clarification of Mandatory Reporting Law

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw asked lawmakers to clarify the state’s mandatory reporting law, including the time frame of reporting. The judge’s request comes after he sent a case against three Ooltewah High School officials to a grand jury after the officials failed to report the abuse of a student. "There's an argument that could be made that Victim 1 was reported the next day, but that's not good enough. And there's no proof that the other three were reported," Philyaw said. Read more from WRCB.

read more »

Brentwood Toddler Rape Case Moving Forward

Kathryn Barnett, attorney for the family of a 3-year old rape victim, said she is moving forward with discovery in the case following a judge's decision last week not to strike "offensive" allegations from the lawsuit. The alleged incident took place at Brentwood's Fellowship Baptist Church in 2014 while the toddler’s parents were attending a service. Barnett said the church failed to respond to discovery requests submitted Nov. 30 and she will now gather depositions from the church's leadership. In the suit, the parents say the church urged them not to pursue criminal charges and did not contact them about the incident until nearly a year after it occurred. The trial is planned for April 2017, Brentwood Home Page reports

read more »