News

CASA to Host Juvenile Court Judicial Forum July 14

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Tennessee Heartland, which serves Blount County, will host a forum for juvenile court candidates Kenlyn Foster and Susan Rushing at 6 p.m. Monday at the Blount County campus of Pellissippi State Community College. Each candidate will have an opportunity to address the group and answer questions from the audience. The public is invited and no RSVP is necessary. The Daily Times has more.

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DCS Grant Expands Children's Center

The Claiborne Children’s Center (CCC) has received a Community Partnership Program grant from the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) to its expand programming and allow DCS to regain its presence in Claiborne County, the Claiborne Progress reports. The old Juvenile Detention Center has been used to house the offices of the CCC but the limited space did not provide adequate room for the Center to expand its programs and projects inside the county. The new center is expected to open in July.

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Juvenile Court Judges, Magistrates Face Lawsuit

A complaint filed in Shelby County Chancery Court on Tuesday alleges longstanding violations of due process in the juvenile court system of Shelby County. The complaint argues that people with business before the court have the right to have their cases heard before the elected judge, and claims the judge has declined to hear cases, passing that responsibility on to appointed magistrates. The juvenile court responded, saying it handles approximately 50,000 cases each year and that state laws do authorize Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person to appoint magistrates who have the power of trial judges. News Channel 5 has more.

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Juvenile Court Addressing Mental Health

The Shelby County Juvenile Court has improved its approach to mental health, one of the many reforms outlined in the 2012 mandate from the U.S. Department of Justice. The report called for improvements in the competency evaluations used in court and in the detainees’ overall mental health care. Changes began in August 2013, the Commercial Appeal reports, when the court’s health care budget jumped from $100,000 to $800,000 annually, thanks to a $700,000 contribution from the Shelby County Commission. Now, there is a nurse on call 24 hours a day and full-time mental health professionals available seven days a week. 

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DCS Computer Errors Have Human Impact

According to a Tennessean editorial, the Department of Children’s Services’ four-year-old computer system TFACTS is still riddled with glitches, an issue that the newspaper claims was made rosier than the reality in a recent progress report. The system, which tracks child deaths, caseloads and other core tasks, was supposed to be fixed in January but will not be completed until October at the earliest. “This is not a case about a computer system,” U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell said. “It’s about actual care for actual foster children.”

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Tennessee Chosen for Juvenile Justice Aid

Tennessee is one of four states chosen for a federal program to better help juveniles with behavioral disorders stay out of custody. Along with Georgia, Indiana and Massachusetts, Tennessee state officials are getting support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the MacArthur Foundation to create better ways to screen for behavioral health disorders and care for juveniles in community settings. Although the state has been praised for reducing its jailing of teens in the past 15 years, the new program seeks to help youth long before they come into contact with the justice system. The Tennessean has more.

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New Reports Find Progress, Work to Do at Juvenile Court

Two new reports released this month largely praised Shelby County Juvenile Court for its continued progress in making reforms ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice, but both highlight shortcomings that need attention, the Commercial Appeal reports. The first report dealt primarily with protecting those detained from harm. Progress was noted in the areas of employee training and performance evaluations as well as availability of medical and mental health services. However, concerns were raised with the lack of adequate staffing. The second report looked at due process for detainees. It found that while compliance rates had increased, none had reached substantial compliance. The report praised the creation of a juvenile unit in the public defender’ office and improvements in administering Miranda rights. Concerns with the transfer of juveniles to adult court and defense attorney access to psychological evaluations, however, continue to be an issue for the court.

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'Justice in Motion' Proceeds Presented to Domestic Violence Shelters

First Judicial District Attorney General Tony Clark and Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal presented checks to two local domestic violence shelters yesterday, WJHL reports. Clark and Graybeal presented the proceeds from the April 26 Justice in Motion 5K run/walk to Safe Passage of Johnson City and CHIPS of Erwin. The checks totaled more than $5,000.

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New Anti-Trafficking Effort Focuses on Visitors’ Centers

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Department of Transportation rolled out a new campaign this week to compliment existing efforts to combat human trafficking in the state, the Tennessean reports. The new effort will focus on working with the state Department of Tourism to reach out to interstate travelers who might notice any suspicious activity. The campaign will feature posters of women in visitors centers across the state with captions such as, “You see a girl who can do anything. He sees a girl he can force to do anything.” In announcing the effort, the Tennessee Department of Tourism noted the posters would be seen by some 12 million visitors who pass through the welcome centers each year.

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Golf Tournament to Benefit CASA Monroe

CASA Monroe will benefit from this year’s "Chip in for a Child,” an annual golf tournament sponsored by Fritts and Associates and Fritts Financial in Knoxville. The tournament will take place Monday at Rarity Bay Golf Club, beginning at 11:30 a.m. It is $75 to play, which includes golf, a boxed lunch, giveaways, and a master’s buffet dinner. Prizes will be awarded for closest to the pin, longest drive and a chipping contest. Hole sponsorships also are available. Knoxnews has details on the event.

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Report: DCS Rebounding Under New Leadership

An expert panel tasked with monitoring the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (DCS) says the agency has flourished under new leadership, the Memphis Daily News reports. Jim Henry became DCS Commissioner after Kate O'Day resigned early last year following a public outcry over problems at the agency. The report says that DCS has improved the way it keeps track of child deaths and investigations, recruited new foster families, invested in ways to help foster children after they turn 18 and fixed a computer system that had hindered caseworkers.

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Chattanooga Youth Court Students Selected

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw introduced the county's first Youth Court members to county commissioners Wednesday. Philyaw, who administered an oath to the group, also announced that 24 attorneys with Miller & Martin and nine in-house lawyers with BlueCross Blue Shield will be helping with the program. See a photo of the students on Chattanoogan.com.

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CASA Honors Director, Previews New Resource

New Tennessee CASA Director Lynne Farrar shared some of the group’s most notable achievements and honored Rutherford County CASA Director Susan Maguigan during CASA's recent state conference. Maguigan is the group's longest-serving director, with 17 years now behind her. Attendees also learned about a new resource called KidCentral TN, a website that provides information about adolescent health, development and education. Nashville lawyer Kevin Balkwill is the current president of the CASA board.

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Williamson CASA Fundraiser Set for May 21

Williamson County CASA will hold its 2014 Voices for Children event May 21 at the Franklin Theater. Billed as “An Evening with Music City Hit-Makers,” the event will feature some of Nashville’s hottest songwriters accompanied by the Nashville Studio Symphony. The evening will begin with a cocktail hour as well as a silent and live auction to be followed by the show. Items to be auctioned include a mandolin signed by Dolly Parton and a football signed by Tennessee Titans’ quarterback Jake Locker. All proceeds will support the work of Williamson County CASA. Tickets are $125.

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CASA Road Race May 31

The 8th annual CASA Road Race will be held May 31 at Crockett Spring Park in historic downtown Rogersville. The event will include 8K and one mile races. All proceeds from the events will benefit CASA for Kids Inc. to advocate for abused and neglected children in Hawkins County. The event is part of the 2014 Skelton Law Racing Series and is directed by Rogersville attorney Mark Skelton. For information, contact Mark Skelton at (423) 272-4812 or markskelton@markskelton.com. Skelton, a University of Tennessee College of Law alum, founded the racing series with his wife in 2002 to promote fitness and health in East Tennessee. Today, his children -- avid runners Todd and Amy -- will follow in his footsteps, with both graduating from UT Law on the same day.

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Blue Ribbon Walk May 14

Junior’s House Child Advocacy Center will host the 10th Annual Blue Ribbon Walk Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at Stone Bridge Memorial Park in Fayetteville. State Sen. Jim Tracy and State Rep. Pat Marsh will be this year’s grand marshals. Nationally, April is known as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. Pinwheels that are placed in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse represent 500 child abuse referrals reviewed by Junior’s House and child protective investigative team this year. For additional information please call Crystal Guess, director of Junior’s House, at (931) 438-3233. The Elk Valley Times has more. 

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Knoxville Dinner to Honor Judge Irwin

The Knoxville Leadership Foundation is hosting an event on May 22 to honor Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin and raise money for Amachi Knoxville, a mentoring program operated by the foundation for children with incarcerated parents. The dinner will take place at the Orangery from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The annual Legends Event highlights an individual who has had an impact on youth in the community. Tickets are still available.

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Judge Presides over Youth Court Swearing-In Ceremony

Judge Sophia Brown Crawford today presided over the swearing-in ceremony for 14 Whites Creek High School students into the Tennessee Youth Court Program, a juvenile delinquency intervention program initiated by the Tennessee Bar Association and funded by the state. The students, including three seniors, will get to hear their first case before graduation.

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State to Criminalize Moms Using Drugs while Pregnant

Gov. Bill Haslam today signed legislation allowing women who use drugs while pregnant to be criminally charged for harm done to their infants, the Tennessean reports. “The intent of this bill is to give law enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs,” Haslam wrote in a statement. Tennessee officials have wrestled with what to do about the growing numbers of infants born dependent on drugs. The law brings back criminalization, which lawmakers had eliminated two years ago as the state moved toward programs that incentivize expecting mothers to get into treatment.

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Tennessee CASA Names New Director

Tennessee Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) has named Lynne Farrar as its new executive director. She will take office April 28 after serving for four years as executive director of CASA Works Inc., which serves children in Bedford, Coffee and Franklin counties. Farrar's “wealth of experience and demonstrated leadership in serving as a local CASA program executive director will ensure continuity and a seamless transition,” Tennessee CASA Board President Kevin Balkwill said. She replaces recently retired director Cheryl Hultman.

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Former Knox Court Employee Charged with Child Porn

Former Knox County Criminal Court employee Joshua Ryan Fettig, 20, was arrested Wednesday on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor, Knoxnews reports. Investigators began looking at Fettig last December after receiving tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that someone had attempted to use their email account to send images of child pornography. Fettig worked as a night clerk in the judicial commissioner’s office at the time the probe was initiated. A forensic examination of “confiscated computers” revealed 356 images of child pornography, investigators said. Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey fired Fettig after his work computer was seized in mid-January.

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Juvenile Court Candidates Meet Again

The Tennessean looks at the race between two candidates who have faced off before: former Magistrate Sheila Calloway and Judge Sophia Crawford are running for for Davidson County Juvenile Court judge, this time in May's county primary elections. In 2012, Crawford won the appointment in a Metro Council vote, despite Calloway being recommended by the Nashville Bar Association.

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Divorce, End-of-Life Care and Cybercriminals

In this issue, Helen Rogers and George Spanos outline strategies for the timing of filing for divorce in Tennessee and Eddy R. Smith discusses the painful topic of pregnancy and end-of-life care. If you weren't scared of people stealing your money electronically before, Kathryn Reed Edge's column on cybercriminals will send you running to change all your passwords and tighten your firm security.

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DCS Releases First Child Fatality Data Since Agency Overhaul

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) this week published child fatality statistics for the first time since the agency overhauled how deaths are reported, counted and investigated. The report showed DCS investigated the deaths of 245 children in 2013, finding evidence of abuse or neglect in 40 cases, although almost a fifth of investigations haven’t concluded. The new method of counting makes comparisons to prior years impossible, but DCS officials have vowed to be faster in reporting deaths, be transparent with records and more rigorous in their internal investigations into cases in which state investigators had contact with families before children died. The Tennessean has more.

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Support Youth Courts Through Facebook Grant Challenge

The Tennessee Legal Community Foundation, which supports youth courts across the state, is one of several hundred nonprofits taking part in a Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee Facebook campaign that could net it a $1,000 grant. To support Tennessee youth courts, visit the Community Foundation's Facebook page, "like" the $1,000 Comment Contest image pinned to the top of the page, and write "Tennessee Youth Court Program" in the comment section. The grant challenge runs through April 4 at noon.

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