Bill Would Allow Parole for Juvenile Murder Convicts

A new piece of legislation in Tennessee that would allow juveniles convicted of murder to get a parole hearing after serving 30 years, even if they were given a life sentence, is causing controversy in a community still scarred by a 20-year-old case, the Greeneville Sun reports. Third Judicial District Attorney General Dan Armstrong is leading a charge against the measure, as it could lead to the eventual release of some of the perpetrators of the 1997 Greene County Lillelid murders. In that case, a family was kidnapped and murdered by six young people, two of which were underage.
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House Committee Approves In-State Tuition for Immigrants

The Tennessee House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee today approved a bill that would grant in-state tuition to undocumented and immigrant students, The Tennessean reports. Last year, the bill failed in the same committee by a 7-6 vote. Gov. Bill Haslam has expressed support for the measure, and even took photos with students who came to the Capitol to rally for the bill’s passage.
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GOP Stalls Child Marriage Bill, Citing Connection to Gay Marriage Case

House Republicans effectively killed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit child marriages in Tennessee, citing an obscure legal theory that passing the bill could deter a conservative lawyer's case against gay marriage. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, calls for the state to outlaw marriages where one of the parties is under 18 years of age. The Times Free Press reports that House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, cited an email he received from attorney and former state Sen. David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, arguing that passing Jernigan's bill could interfere with a lawsuit he is mounting to counter the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage.

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Putnam County Approves New Service for Domestic Violence Victims

The Putnam County Commission yesterday approved a request from General Sessions Court judges to appoint Candie Cooper, a youth services officer in the juvenile court system, as a judicial commissioner and have her serve at the Upper Cumberland Family Justice Center, the Herald-Citizen reports. It will simply the process for victims of domestic violence to obtain orders of protection. The Family Justice Center provides services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse.
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Lawmakers Push for Study of Juvenile Homicides, Prostitution

Two lawmakers have introduced legislation to create a fund for the study of juveniles involved in homicides and prostitution, The Tennessean reports. Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, and Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, said the bill aims to decrease youth violence. In 2017 in Nashville alone, nearly one fourth of homicide victims were teenage or younger, a trend Stewart referred to as a “civic emergency.” 
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The Protest Movement as a Tool for Social Change: Fifty Years Post-King

The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association presents a dynamic day of programming in recognition of 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis. This program explores the protest that brought Dr. King to Memphis in 1968 and the legacy that his untimely death has left on the fabric of the city. The event will focus on the protest movement in its current state as well as provide updated information on the law surrounding assembly, protest and municipal responsibility.
The program features local historical figures who worked with Dr. King, representatives of the media, City of Memphis, local activists, attorneys and judges.
Speakers and producers include:
  • Barbara Arnwine, Esq., CEO and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Washington, D.C. 
  • Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse, Municipal Court Judge, Memphis
  • Bill Cody, Burch, Porter and Johnson, Memphis
  • Earle Schwartz, Memphis Bar Association President, Memphis
  • Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Memphis
When: Feb. 23, 9 a.m. CST
Where: Fogleman Business Center, First Floor Amphitheater, 330 Innovation Dr., Memphis, Tennessee 38152
Contact Florence Johnson by email or call her at 901-725-7520 for more information.
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TBA Gears Up for 2018 Mock Trial Tournament

The Tennessee Bar Association will host the upcoming Tennessee High School Mock Trial Tournament on March 23 and 24 in Nashville. The Mock Trial is a two-day, single-elimination bracket-style competition where 16 high schools face-off against each other in the Davidson County Courthouse. Each team is scored on their trial preparation and skills. 

We need TBA volunteers to help be bailiffs and jurors (scorers) for the event. After signing up, we will send you a Volunteer Memo with all the information you need for competition including; parking, hotel, downtown map, courthouse rules, and reimbursement information. Come be a part of the Young Lawyers Divisions’ March Madness! Feel free to contact YLD Director Stephanie Vonnahme with any questions.

To volunteer for this event, click here.

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Haslam Unveils Juvenile Justice Reform Bill

Based on recommendations from a task force on juvenile justice, Gov. Bill Haslam released a bill aimed at changing the juvenile system, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 focuses on a push for uniform data collection, implementing reasonable limits on length of custody, reserving detention for youth who have committed serious crimes or pose a public safety risk, and more. See the full bill here.
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Access to Justice Commission Seeking Feedback

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission is seeking input from the legal community to help in planning efforts as it develops a new strategic plan in March. A brief survey is available for all who wish to share thoughts and feedback. The survey will remain open through Feb. 7. Please contact Anne-Louise Wirthlin at the Administrative Office of the Courts with questions or for more information. 

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Extraordinary Appeal Granted in Brentwood Academy Assault Lawsuit

Last week, the Tennessee Court of Appeals granted an application for extraordinary appeal in the Brentwood Academy assault lawsuit, according to The Tennessean. This decision reignites the controversial dispute previously dismissed by Williamson County Circuit Court Judge Deanna Johnson. The suit, filed in August 2017, alleges John Doe was repeatedly sexually assaulted in a locker room by older students during the 2014-15 school year. It also alleges that school officials failed to appropriately respond to and prevent the attacks. 
The case took a surprising turn last month when it was dismissed by Johnson amidst an argument over the deposition of Bureon Ledbetter, an attorney for the John Doe and family. Ledbetter argued the information he was asked to reveal through the deposition would violate attorney-client privilege. Johnson said Ledbetter could file an objection but must answer. If he did not, she threatened to put him in jail for contempt, according to court documents. At that point, the Does' second attorney, Justin Gilbert, tried to withdraw the case without prejudice, with the intent to refile. However, the same day Johnson granted an order requested by Brentwood Academy attorneys to dismiss the case with prejudice. Despite Johnson's order dismissing the case, the Williamson County court docket states the case is technically still open as Johnson still needs to file a findings of fact offering an explanation as to why the case was dismissed. 
Both the school and the accused students have denied all wrongdoing.
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Judge Lovell Retires After 30 Years

Judge George Lovell retires this week after 30 years in Maury County General Sessions Court, with the last 20 being mostly juvenile cases. “Juveniles are part of the system and deserve to be heard,” Lovell told the Columbia Daily Herald. “I often hear that certain juveniles are ‘gaming the system.’ My response is, ‘Good, I want them to know as much about the system as possible.’ Many come through with obvious mental health problems. It was my job to make sure they’re treated fairly. I want them to go out saying, ‘I had my day in court.’ ” In 1988 there were four cases in appellate court dealing with juvenile cases; now there are more than 700, he says.

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LAET, Hospital Form Children's Health Law Partnership

Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital have partnered to create the Children’s Health Law Partnership (CHLP), the first program of its kind in the Knoxville area. The new program places a civil legal aid attorney on the care team with the doctors, nurses and social workers at the hospital. The attorney works to address non-medical issues that impact positive medical outcomes. The Children’s Health Law Partnership is funded through a 2017 grant from Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee. For more information on this program, contact the Knoxville office of Legal Aid at (865) 637-0484.
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Kentucky Teen Shooting Suspect to be Tried as Adult

The 15-year-old arrested in the mass shooting at a high school in Marshall County, Kentucky, will be prosecuted as an adult, the Louisville Courier Journal reports. The juvenile, who has not been named, was arrested following a shooting at his high school where two other 15-year-old students were killed and 18 others injured. He was charged with two counts of murder and 12 counts of first-degree assault, and is currently being held in a regional juvenile jail in Paducah.
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Don't Forget: Winter CLE Blast Tomorrow!

Need CLE hours fast? We can help! The annual Winter CLE Blast is less than a day away. With this program, you can complete up to 11 hours of Dual CLE credit on your own time. Our registration desk will be open from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 21, providing you the flexibility to create your own schedule and take as many or as few hours as you need. Payment will be determined at checkout depending on the number of hours you attend. 


  • Flexible to your schedule
  • Up to 11 Hours of CLE
  • Ethics Credits
  • Compliance CLE
  • Live Credit Hours

When: Feb. 21, registration begins at 7 a.m., CST

Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219


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Bill Proposes Amendments Regarding Children's Testimony in Criminal Trials

Proposed amendments to Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 24, Chapter 7, Part 1 aim to permit out-of-court statements made by children from being excluded as hearsay. Under HB1480, an out-of-court statement made by a child who is under 12 years of age at the time of a criminal trial describing any sexual act performed by, with, or on the child or describing any act of physical violence directed against the child will not be excluded from evidence at the criminal trial as hearsay if all of the following apply:
The court finds that the totality of the circumstances surrounding the making of the statement provides particularized guarantees of trustworthiness that make the statement at least as reliable as statements admitted under certain rules of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence. This bill lays out in detail the circumstances a court must consider in making a determination of the reliability;
1. The child's testimony is not reasonably obtainable by the proponent of the statement. This bill details the circumstances in which a child's testimony is not reasonably obtainable;
2. Independent proof exists of the sexual act or act of physical violence;
3. At least 10 days before the trial or hearing, a proponent of the statement has notified all other parties in writing of the content of the statement, the time and place at which the statement was made, the identity of the witness who is to testify about the statement, and the circumstances surrounding the statement that are claimed to indicate trustworthiness of the statement.
4. The bill will require the court to make the findings based on a hearing conducted outside the presence of the jury and to make findings of fact on the record as to the bases for the court's ruling. 
Similar proposed legislation has been met with consternation out of constitutional concerns for defendants. The bill has passed the first reading and has been assigned review by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. More information is available on the General Assembly website.
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Shelby Looks for State Approval to New Approach in Juvenile Justice

Shelby County and the city of Memphis will be looking to the state legislature this session to approve a new method of handling juvenile crime, WMC Action News 5 reports. The Juvenile Assessment Center is a planned pilot program and could be fully operational by next summer, should state lawmakers give the greenlight. The Center would be a place for juveniles to be taken for assessment prior to simply being brought to detention. The location has not been decided yet, but it would not be located at the current Juvenile Court site.
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Dog Bites, Alimony Deductions and a New Superhero

The January Tennessee Bar Journal carries a full slate of legal information from our columnists, ranging from a column covering the law regarding dog bites by John A. Day, to the elimination of alimony deductions by Marlene Eskind Moses and Manuel Benjamin Russ; and Bill Haltom's thoughts on the possibilities for a new superhero: Super Spiderman Batman Lawyer.

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Hawkins Commission Won’t Appoint Interim Juvenile Judge

In a reversal from previous reports, the Hawkins County Commission will not be appointing an interim juvenile judge to serve during Judge Daniel Boyd’s 120 suspension, the Kingsport Times News reports. The Administrative Office of the Courts contacted Hawkins County Attorney Jim Phillips to inform the county commission that because the suspension is temporary, it is not a vacancy that the commission will be allowed to fill.
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Supreme Court Overturns Appellate Court Ruling in Child Custody Case

In a case involving the custody of two minor children, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that the father had established that a material change of circumstances had occurred and that it was in the children’s best interests for the father to be designated as the primary residential parent. Previously, a juvenile court ruled that the mother's newly discovered employment at the Moonlight Bunny Ranch in Nevada, as well as what the court determined as her hostility towards the father, was enough to establish a material change of circumstance. The mother appealed and the appellate court reversed the ruling. When the case made it to the Supreme Court, the court concluded that the Court of Appeals usurped the role of the juvenile court by declining to extend deference to the juvenile court’s findings. The unanimous opinion was written by Justice Roger A. Page.
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Juvenile Task Force Reports Findings, Recommendations

A special task force on juvenile justice today presented state leaders with a set of data-driven policy recommendations. The Joint Ad-hoc Blue Ribbon task force – composed of leaders from the executive, legislative and judicial branches – made recommendations that focused on 1) how to focus resources on the highest-risk youth; 2) how to prevent deeper juvenile justice system involvement of lower-level youth through early response; and 3) how to sustain effective practices through continued oversight and reinvestment in a stronger continuum of evidence-based services. Read more details on the recommendations from the Tennessee Courts website.

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CLE Webcast on Juvenile Law: Rights and Obligations

Stacie Odeneal will present a special CLE webcast on Rights and Obligations in Juvenile Law at noon on Tuesday. An overview of the rights and obligations of juveniles will be covered including right to counsel, due process, timelines, appeals and indigent and pro se resources. If you are unavailable to attend on this date, the webcast will be available online for up to one year.
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State Legislator to Run for Nashville Juvenile Court Clerk

State Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), has announced she will run for Davidson County Juvenile Court Clerk next year, The Tennessean reports. She will face former Metro Nashville Councilman and current director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods, Lonnell Matthews Jr., in the May primary election. Jones and Matthews jumped in the race after current Clerk David Smith announced his retirement earlier this year. Jones has served in the House since 1994.
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Juvenile Delinquent Crime Down in Shelby; Violent Crime Up

Delinquent charges against juveniles in Shelby County so far this year are continuing a steady downward trend that began in 2011, the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission and the Public Safety Institute at the University of Memphis report. Their analysis of Juvenile Court figures show a 59.7 percent drop from 2011 and 25.2 percent from last year. For major violent criminal acts, however, the figures show a 35.8 percent increase from last year.

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Court Issues Proposed Rules Amendments, Asks for Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the 2018 Proposed Rules Amendments. Several TBA sections are reviewing the recommendations for possible comment. Comments are due to the court no later than Nov. 22.

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Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies Process for Determining Best Interests of a Child in Parental Termination Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that courts must consider all nine statutory factors, as well as any other relevant facts, when deciding whether terminating parental rights is in a child’s best interests. The Supreme Court explained that requiring courts to consider all relevant facts and circumstances ensures each case receives individualized consideration before fundamental parental rights are terminated. Justice Cornelia A. Clark authored the unanimous opinion.

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