News

Juvenile Cases Increase, Judge Asks for More Help

Sumner County Juvenile Court Judge Barry Brown says that he and part-time magistrate David Howard face so many cases that they can't keep them moving through the system fast enough, The Tennessean reports. “DCS (Department of Children’s Services) is filing at least five cases a week where they have to remove children,” Brown told members of the County Budget Committee June 4. “We’re now setting cases going into November and December. That’s just too long in a kid’s life." Brown is asking the county to make Howard's position full-time to help move cases faster. The additional hours with benefits included would add $79,000 to the General Sessions II budget. The Tennessean reports

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Rogersville Race to Benefit CASA for Kids

The 6th annual CASA Road Race to benefit CASA for Kids will be June 23 at Crockett Spring Park in Rogersville. CASA for Kids advocates for abused and neglected children in Hawkins County. The running events will include an 8K, Kids’ Mile and Open Mile. The event is part of the 2012 Skelton Law Racing Series, directed by Rogersville attorney Mark A. Skelton. Download the race application

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DOJ to Set Public Meeting on Shelby Juvenile Court Report

U.S. Department of Justice officials came to Memphis on May 31 and met with Larry Scroggs, the court's chief administrative officer, and other officials, including District Attorney General Amy Weirich and Chief Public Defender Stephen Bush, to address a recent report that showed patterns of discrimination against black youths in Shelby County's juvenile system. The DOJ canceled a public meeting that had been scheduled for May 30, but have said they will schedule another soon, according to the Commercial Appeal

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Shelby DA Candidates Talk About Juvenile Court

The race for Shelby County District Attorney General is tightly contested, with Republican incumbent Amy Weirich and Democrat Carol Chumney, a former state representative, going head-to-head in the August election. Both women say they will be focusing their attention on children's rights, especially the juvenile court system in light of a recent scathing Department of Justice report. In related news, local Democratic chairman Van Turner held a joint press conference with Chumney to show the party's support of her candidacy after a recent opinion column in the Commercial Appeal questioned both’s Chumney level of campaigning and the party’s commitment to her candidacy. WMC-TV interviews both candidates

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Jackson YLD Hosts Wine Tasting for CASA Tomorrow

The Jackson-Madison County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division will host "Pour Your Heart Out for CASA" tomorrow, May 24, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Charlie Bulldog's in downtown Jackson to benefit Madison County CASA. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Admission includes appetizers and various types of wine to sample. Contact YLD President Terica Smith at (731) 426-1337 or terica@wtls.org for more information or to buy tickets.

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Woman Who Returned Boy to Russia to Pay Damages, Child Support

A former Shelbyville woman, Torry Hansen, who sent her adopted son back to Russia two years ago was ordered Thursday to make monthly child support payments and pay damages in the case. Hansen was ordered by Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell to pay damages of $150,206 for breach of contract, legal fees and back child support for the boy, plus an additional $1,000 per month of child support starting June 1 until he turns 18. He is 10. When he was 8, Hansen sent the boy back to Moscow alone on a plane with a letter saying he was violent, had psychological problems and that she didn't want him anymore. The Shelbyville Times-Gazette has more

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Middle School Students Observe Juvenile Court

Students from Inman Middle School in Paris were in the Henry County Juvenile Courtroom a few days ago to observe the morning session of the court as part of a tour of the county’s criminal justice system. After the session, students had a question-and-answer session with those involved with the juvenile court, including General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Vicki Snyder, Paris Police Chief Chuck Elizondo, Assistant District Attorney General Scott Rich, Assistant Public Defender Tas Gardner and Circuit Court Clerk Mike Wilson. Each cautioned the teens about making the right choices so they won’t have to return to the court as defendants. Learn more in the Paris-Post Intelligencer

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2 Juveniles Escape in 2 Days

Two escapes in two days have some asking how Nashville's Department of Children's Services is handling juveniles in its custody. The first event took place Monday when an unrestrained teen was being transported to a vehicle. He was caught fairly quickly. The second incident occurred today when a teen was being transported from the Juvenile Justice Center to a facility in Shelby County. He remains on the run. Judge Adams Green responded quickly, with a new requirement that all DCS workers bring juveniles in and out of court using a secure sally port. WTVF News Channel 5 has more

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Groups Win Grants to Fight Teen Drug Use

The state Department of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services awarded grants to Dyer, Lauderdale and Tipton counties that will allow them to form coalitions to fight drug use among teens. The Tennessean reports

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Justice Dept. Raised Concerns about State Juvenile Laws

In its continuing coverage of the U.S. Justice Department’s report identifying issues with the Shelby County Juvenile Court, the Memphis Daily News focuses on concerns about state law in an article today. The paper quotes Juvenile Court Chief Administrative Officer Larry Scroggs as saying the court was aware that federal officials had concerns about the state’s 72-hour time frame for detention hearings. During conversations with the department, according to Scroggs, it became clear that officials came to believe Tennessee laws conflict with the U.S. Constitution. Such an interpretation certainly would have implications beyond Memphis, and could result in discussions between the department and state officials, according to the paper.

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Editorial: Juvenile Court Should Move Forward, Not Blame

An editorial in the Commercial Appeal, acknowledging the recent Justice Department report critical of the Shelby County Juvenile Court, says it's time to use that information and build on the reforms the court already has put in place. It's not the time, the paper says, "for finger pointing and racial politics."

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Juvenile Court Garden Helps with Behavior

A unique program started by Bradley County Juvenile Judge Daniel Swafford is using a garden to help improve student behavior. Kids from county schools who are either in detention or in a day treatment center program -- part of the Bradley County school system to provide mentoring about behavior -- have an opportunity to spend time weeding and helping out in the garden. Officer Ricky Tallent said about 90 percent of the day treatment center kids go back to their regular classrooms with fewer or diminished behavior issues. The Times Free Press has this story

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Deadline for Child Support Form is June 1

The deadline for using the federal Income Withholding for Support form is June 1, the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Administration for Children and Families reminds those who practice family law. All entities issuing child support income withholding orders must use this form. After this date, employers may begin returning non-compliant income withholding orders. Download more information from U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesread more »

CASA Fundraiser Set for May 11

Dyer-Lake CASA is hosting its "Cupcakes for CASA" fundraising event May 11 at the King Mansion in Dyersburg from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event will feature "decadent desserts in an elegant setting" and a chance for attendees to help abused and neglected children. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased from several area retailers or by calling (731) 334-0192. The Dyersburg State Gazette has more.

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Juvenile Court Meeting Puts Officials on Defensive

Shelby County Juvenile Court officials went on the defensive at a public meeting Tuesday, at times clashing with parents and community leaders, according to the Commercial Appeal. At one point, the paper reports, the court's chief administrator officer left the meeting. The meeting had been planned weeks ago to discuss a new project to reduce the number of minorities brought to court, but it quickly turned into a referendum on the U.S. Department of Justice’s claims of rights violations and racial discrimination in the juvenile system. Read more from the paper

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DOJ: Juvenile Court Misunderstands Its Role

The U.S. Justice Department report released last week about the Shelby County Juvenile Court not only found evidence of discrimination, but also found issues with the culture of the court. According to the Memphis Daily News, the study by the department’s Civil Rights Division found that many of those involved with and working in the juvenile justice system have “a fundamental misunderstanding about the purpose of juvenile court and the roles and responsibilities of its participants.” The study also raised questions about the court’s ability to handle matters involving allegations of serious violent crimes.

In related news, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Memphis Chapter today called for greater oversight of the court by the Memphis Juvenile Court Advisory Board. Dwight Montgomery says he is a member of the board, but that the group never meets and needs to be revived. The Commercial Appeal has more

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Editorial: Shelby Juvenile System Needs Retraining, Oversight

Citing the recent damning report from the Department of Justice about disparities in treatment of African-American children in the Shelby County Juvenile system, the Commercial Appeal in an editoriral says that although Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person has worked to fix the "insular, fraternal culture," it has been a century in the making and complicated to change. The paper says that what is needed now is "a major re-education and re-training of the court's staff, along with strong oversight by the Justice Department that includes community participation" Read the editorial

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DOJ Slams Shelby County Juvenile System

The U.S. Justice Department said today that juvenile offenders in Shelby County are denied due process rights and that black children are treated differently and more harshly than white children by the Juvenile Court. The investigation by the department’s Civil Rights Division began in August 2009 and included the review of 66,000 case files from a five-year period. Among other violations, it found repeated failures to protect children from self incrimination, failure to notify children and their parents of charges prior to hearing dates, a pattern of sending children to detention without warrants if they were arrested on weekends or holidays, a lack of thoroughness in deciding to charge juveniles as adults, and a lack of safe conditions at the detention center. And while these failures applied to all children, the DOJ said there was a verifiable and noticeable difference in how black children were treated. Read more in The Memphis Daily News or download the report

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Grand Jury Praises Community Corrections, Makes Other Recommendations

The Hamilton County Grand Jury's recent report praised the county's community corrections program, saying its use of electronic monitoring is cost effective and its low rate of recidivism is remarkable. Among its many recommendations, the group suggests expanding community corrections for non-violent offenders, providing more work opportunities for inmates, increasing fees for jury service, and hiring truant officers to ensure kids are attending school. Read the full report on Chattanoogan.com

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Juvenile Delinquency Forum on Tap for Saturday

The Montgomery County Disproportionate Minority Contact Task Force will host the 2nd Annual Joint Conference on Juvenile Justice this Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The purpose of the conference is to prevent juvenile delinquency by increasing awareness of issues, programs and available resources. The task force operates under the umbrella of the Tennessee Commission on Children & Youth and the APSU Juvenile Justice Grant. This year the guest speaker will be Lowell Perry Jr., executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee. The event is free and open to the public. Learn more in the Leaf Chronicle

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Two CASA Fundraisers on Tap for Nashville Area

Two Nashville-area CASA agencies have fundraisers scheduled in the next few weeks. On April 21, CASA of Nashville will host its 13th annual Red Shoe Party at the Pinnacle at Symphony Place. This year's event begins at 7 p.m. and features a silent auction, live music and food from Margaritaville. Tickets are available online www.casa-nashville.org or by calling (615) 425-2383. Then on May 1, Williamson County CASA will hold a benefit concert featuring Wynonna Judd at the Franklin Theatre. A silent auction will begin at 6 p.m. The concert will follow at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at FranklinTheatre.com. Read more about the event in The Tennessean

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Collecting Juvenile Fees at Issue

Commissioners on the Cumberland County Budget Committee are concerned about revenue lost when the court stopped collecting fees from juveniles charged and held in county facilities. General Sessions Judge Larry Warner explained in a recent meeting that the court stopped charging juveniles the fees because they were not collecting fees from adults either, and he felt that could be a problem. When a commissioner suggested that the practice should not have been stopped because the county needs the money, Warner countered, "The jail isn't there to make money. Maybe the county should have built a Wal-Mart or a store if you wanted to make money." The Crossville Chronicle details the exchange

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Stuffed Animal Donations Overwhelming; Now Consider Fostering

When Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin asked the community before last Christmas to donate stuffed animals so that children who come to court could be comforted, he didn’t know what to expect. Now the toys fill bookcases and tables in the judge's office, and plastic bags loaded with animals line a hallway outside, as well as a space donated by an area moving company. Irwin says it started last summer when the Black Law Students organization at Lincoln Memorial University donated several bags of the toys to his court. Irwin said he accepted the donations, with no idea how powerful the stuffed animals would be. Irwin asks for the donations from the community to stop for now, but has another request. "We have a big-time need for people to open their hearts and their homes to be foster parents," he said. With so few foster homes available locally, Irwin said, he has been sending East Tennessee children to Memphis foster homes. The News Sentinel has the story.

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Learn More About Child Abuse

A national media campaign to raise awareness about child abuse has come to Tennessee. "One with Courage" encourages children to report child sexual abuse to a trusted adult and to encourage adults to report child abuse to the authorities. "It is critical that we pay attention, listen to our children, and ask questions. In their own way children are trying to tell us about sexual abuse," Tennessee Chapter of Children's Advocacy Centers Executive Director Sharon De Boer said. Visit the One With Courage website to learn the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse. Read more in the Cannon Courier.

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Supreme Court Grants Review to Six Cases

Five cases granted review by the Tennessee Supreme Court this week involve criminal issues, including two Fourth Amendment cases, a statute of limitations question, a technical application of certified questions, and a case involving improper juror communication. One civil case involves termination of parental rights. The Raybin-Perky Hot List reviews them.

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