News

Lawsuit Challenges State Sex Offender Registry

Retroactive enforcement of Tennessee’s sex offender registry law is being challenged in a federal lawsuit that mimics a successful suit that struck down similar laws in Michigan, the Tennessean reports. The case, filed Tuesday in federal court in Nashville, argues that the state’s registration laws, which have been added piecemeal over the years, are illegally applied retroactively. The suit alleges the increasingly burdensome requirements are onerous, vague and arbitrary, and cites 10 cases from around the country that have found retroactive enforcement of registries unconstitutional.

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Youth Courts Expand, Maintain Low Recidivism Rate

Tennessee has seen growth in its youth court program recently with new pilot programs at Antioch Middle Prep and Dupont Hadley Middle Prep in Nashville, a new program at Stratford High School in Nashville and a new program in Union County. Tennessee Youth Courts Executive Director Denise D. Bentley also recently reported that a review of the statewide program showed a recidivism rate around three percent for the third year in a row with 2,000 youth served this past year. The program celebrated October as National Youth Justice Awareness Month. In a proclamation designating the month, President Barack Obama praised the work of youth courts and called on Congress to “increase protections for youth and limit the number of minors held in adult jails and prisons.”

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Court: Videos Do Not Meet Statutory Standard for Exploitation Conviction

The Tennessee Supreme Court today reversed and dismissed the conviction of a Knoxville-area man for “especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor” saying the videos he took of his 12-year-old daughter showed nudity but not sexual activity, both of which are needed to meet the requirements of the statute. The decision sends the exploitation convictions back to the lower court for a new trial on different charges with the justices suggesting the state might want to consider a charge of "attempt to commit especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor." The justices let other convictions related to the case stand. Read the decision

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Chili Contest, Lunch, Auction to Benefit Foster Kids

The Knoxville Bar Association will hold its annual chili cook-off, lunch and basket auction on Nov. 18 at the Knox County Juvenile Court, 3323 Division St. Chili judging will occur at 11 a.m. followed by lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A silent auction will open at 11:30 a.m. A live auction will begin at 12:45 p.m. All winners must be present to accept their items. All proceeds from the event go to an annual foster care parents’ appreciation dinner and to meet any emergency needs of foster care children. Those interested in donating a basket should complete a donation form. For more information, call 865-215-6475.

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More than 50 Students Join Hamilton County Youth Court

More than 50 students from 12 Chattanooga area schools have been trained and sworn in to the Hamilton County Youth Court, the Hamilton County Herald reports. Juvenile Court Judge Robert Philyaw administered the oath to the students, who have undergone significant training by local juvenile court staff. After the ceremony, Philyaw thanked local school administrators and attorneys at Miller & Martin and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee for their support. “While youth courts contribute to a decrease in recidivism … its true value and long-lasting effect lies with the students who are exposed to the law, the judicial process, and professionals like these,” he said. Tennessee now has 19 counties with 26 youth courts

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Mediation Webcast Series Coming in November

Starting next week, a series of webcasts produced by the TBA’s Dispute Resolution Section and Special Committee on Evolving Legal Markets will offer CLE and CME credit. On Nov. 2, the series will kick off with a focus on creating and managing productive relationships in mediation. On Nov. 17, the series will look at the impact of online dispute resolution tools on the practice of law. Then on Nov. 29, the series will wrap up with a session on mediation in juvenile court. Learn more or register for the courses at the links above.

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New Family Justice Center to Open Nov. 22

About 100 people attended yesterday’s ribbon cutting at Chattanooga’s new Family Justice Center, which will provide free services for victims of sexual assault, human trafficking, elder abuse and domestic violence. The center, which has been operating out of another space, will officially open in the new location on Nov. 22, Nooga.com reports. Dignitaries at the ceremony included Mayor Andy Berke, Police Chief Fred Fletcher, Judge Christie Sells and Child Advocacy Center of Hamilton County Executive Director Shelley McGraw.

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Playhouse Raffle to Benefit Williamson CASA

Williamson County CASA, with the help of the Franklin Firefighters’ Charities, has built a one-of-a-kind playhouse for its Fourth Annual Playhouse Raffle. Tickets are available for $20 by calling CASA at 615-591-2699 ext. 2, or emailing Kat@williamsoncountycasa.org. Tickets also will be on sale at the downtown Franklin Pumpkinfest this coming Saturday. The raffle winner will be drawn that day. Check out the playhouse on the front lawn of First Bank. Williamson Source has more details about the fundraiser.

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DOJ Campaign to Help Children Exposed to Violence

The White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have launched a national campaign to raise awareness, teach skills and inspire public action to address children’s exposure to violence. The campaign, called Changing Minds, is a collaboration led by DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Futures Without Violence, the Ad Council and the advertising agency Wunderman. The campaign will make digital and print content available to adults who interact with children and youth.

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DOJ to Webcast Juvenile Justice Event

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs is convening a panel of experts and government officials on Friday to discuss recent research in developmental psychology, the current youth prison model and community-based programs that prioritize age-appropriate rehabilitation. The event will be held at the department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., but also will be available via web video. The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern time. News 5 has details.

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CASA Monroe Holding Fundraiser Tuesday

CASA Monroe is holding a Pampered Chef fundraiser Tuesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Rarity Bay Community Activity Center, 150 Rarity Bay Pkwy. in Vonore. The event will feature free food samples and gift drawings every half hour. All proceeds will benefit the work of the organization. Those who cannot attend in person can support CASA by ordering online. Questions about products should be directed to Cheryl Madenford, 239-825-5607.

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Volunteers Needed for Shelby Youth Court Program

Training for attorneys interested in helping with the Youth Court Program in Memphis and Shelby County will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 at the Juvenile Court, 616 Adams Ave. in Memphis. Presented by youth court specialist Jasmine Newsom and Tennessee Youth Courts Executive Director Denise Bentley, the session also will provide two hours of free CLE. For information contact Jasmine Newsom or Pamela James, 901-222-0905 or 901-222-0906.

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Shelby County Launches 2nd Phase of Anti-Violence Program

Shelby County this week launched the second phase of a multi-partner public education campaign to aid children who are exposed to violence, the Commercial Appeal reports. The county is one of eight that was selected by the U.S. Department of Justice for the Defending Childhood Initiative, known locally as the Network for Overcoming Violence and Abuse. The program seeks to address the impact violence has on children through counseling, mentoring and training for law enforcement. The initiative is a continuation of work that began in 2011 with a $2 million federal grant from the department. The initial project set up networks for training and education.

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ABA Urges Senate Vote on Child Welfare Bill

The ABA is urging the Senate to pass the Family First Prevention Services Act (S. 3065) by the end of the month. The bill, which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives this summer, reforms the federal child welfare financing structure and extends the Court Improvement Program (CIP), which provides resources for child welfare courts in all 50 states. Since its creation more than 20 years ago, the CIP has supported courts’ ability to play an essential role in ensuring the safety and permanency for abused and neglected children, the ABA says.

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State CASA Holds Annual Meeting, Presents Awards

Tennessee CASA this week recognized State Rep. Charles Sargent, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich and Nashville lawyer Meagan Frazier for their efforts to help abused and neglected children. Sargent, R-Franklin, received the President’s Award, while Hommrich received the Light of Hope Award for shepherding the department through an overhaul of the foster care system. Frazier received the Champion for Children Award for starting a CASA program in Dickson County. The group reported it served 5,250 children last year. “That sounds good,” said Executive Director Lynn Farrar. “But there are 20,000 children abused and neglected in Tennessee who could use a volunteer.” The Tennessean has photos from the event.

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Reminder: 2 Events Taking Place Next Week

The Nashville Bar Association will host its annual member picnic Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Walk of Fame Park. The family-friendly event, co-sponsored by the Metro Law Department, will include a catered dinner and open bar. Members can attend for free. Nonmembers can buy tickets for $20 per person. CASA Monroe will benefit from the fourth annual Muscadine Balloon Fiesta next weekend at the Tsali Notch Vineyard, 140 Harrison Rd. in Madisonville. The event will feature balloon rides, live music, food, games and a Balloon Glow at dusk. 

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Students Earn Courtroom Experience with Children’s Clinic

The University of Memphis School of Law’s Children’s Defense Clinic is giving law students a unique opportunity to represent children in juvenile court and obtain real-world experience. The new program started this year under the direction of Lisa Geis, who moved to Memphis from Washington, D.C., to run the clinic. Almost a month into the semester, clinic students are handling 10 cases ranging from theft to vandalism to cases of aggravated assault, the Commercial Appeal reports. Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush praised the program saying it would be “an important engine” for reform in Shelby County's juvenile defense system.

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Juvenile Court Closes Early Due to AC Issues

Due to ongoing problems with the air-conditioning system at the Shelby County Juvenile Court building, the court’s eight courtrooms closed at 1 p.m. yesterday and today. “The heat in the courtrooms has become excessive, and in consideration of everyone’s health we decided to close the courtrooms,’’ said Pam Skelton, the court’s chief administrative officer. Cases affected by the closure will be rescheduled, Local Memphis reports.

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AC out at Shelby County Juvenile Court Again

The air conditioning is out at Shelby County Juvenile Court for the second time in less than two weeks, as temperatures outside were projected to reach the 90s. Affected locations included part of the juvenile detention area, as well as some courtrooms and offices, the Commercial Appeal reports. Staff reportedly made sure that juveniles were spending time in other parts of the detention area not affected by the outage. The problem is partially due to an old HVAC system that needs custom-made coils, according to the court. The coils should be delivered and installed this week.

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Read About Estates, Torts, Family Law … and Dodge Ball?

Murfreesboro lawyer Josh McCreary examines last wills and testaments, writing that "in the wake of the 2015 Court of Appeals opinion in In Re: Estate of Morris, the Tennessee legislature has stepped in and amended Tenn. Code Ann. §32-1-104 to lessen the formalities of Wills executed before July 1, 2016." Read in the September Tennessee Bar Journal what this will mean for estate practice. Columnist John Day writes about the two times in the past five years that the statute of limitations applicable to personal injury claims filed on behalf of persons with mental impairments has been changed. Columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Manuel Benjamin Russ look into finding and defining income available for child support and alimony, and humor columnist Bill Haltom writes about his dubious experiences with junior high sports, particularly Dodge Ball.

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Tennessee CASA to Recognize Attorney, State Rep.

The 2016 Tennessee CASA Annual Meeting will be held Sept. 20 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville Public Library Downtown Branch. The Light of Hope Award will be given to Commissioner Bonnie Hommrick of the state Department of Children’s Services, the Champion for Children Award will be given to Nashville attorney Meagan Frazier with Smith Harris Carr, and the President’s Award will be presented to State Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin. For more information and to register before the Sept. 13 deadline, visit CASA’s event page.

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Tennessee CASA to Hold Annual Meeting

The 2016 Tennessee CASA Annual Meeting will be held Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville Public Library Downtown Branch. 

The Light of Hope award will be given to Commissioner Bonnie Hommrick of the state department of Children's Services, the Champion for Children award will be given to attorney Meagan Frazier and State Rep. Charles Sargent will receive the President's Award. Space is limited. For more information and to register before the Sept. 13 deadline, visit CASA's event page.

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Chief Justice Highlights Court’s Accomplishments

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee recently spoke to chief justices from across the country at a national conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Lee focused her remarks on accomplishments achieved during her tenure as chief justice. She steps down from that role at the end of the month. Lee praised the state legislature for funding the court’s new electronic filing system and raises for staff. She also talked about efforts to ensure consistency of process and procedures in the state’s juvenile courts and highlighted the Access to Justice Initiative, civics education through the SCALES program, a new business court, a new human trafficking court and an indigent representation task force. Read her full remarks and see a photo gallery of her time as chief justice.

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Court Solicits Comments on 2017 Rules Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include changing the place for filing a notice of appeal to the appellate clerk’s office, requiring payment of fees and taxes to the appellate court clerk at the time of initiation of an appeal, and changes to the Juvenile, Criminal and Evidence rules. Six TBA sections – Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, Criminal Justice, Family Law and Juvenile and Children’s Law – will be asked to review the recommendations and propose comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due Nov. 23.

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AC out at Shelby County Juvenile Court

Some areas of the Shelby County Juvenile Court, including a number of courtrooms, have been without air conditioning for two weeks, the Commercial Appeal reports. Juvenile Court Chief Administrative Officer Pam Skelton said the court’s HVAC vendor has been onsite during that time working to get things fixed. Skelton said the court is using fans and portable air conditioning units, and keeping a close eye on the detention facility. But an attorney interviewed for the story said they had to turn the fans off to hear witness testimony earlier this week.

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