News

Shelby Juvenile Defense to Move to PD's Office

Shelby County Juvenile Court defense operations will be transferred to the Public Defender's Office in response to a federal investigation that found juvenile court "discriminates against black children," WMC-TV reports. Court officials say they will move the juvenile defense system from Juvenile Court oversight and place it under the office in charge of defending adults. Chief Public Defender Stephen Bush will head up the attorneys handling cases ranging from vandalism and minor theft to aggravated assault and murder, said Bill Powell, the county's criminal justice coordinator. The public defender's office in Memphis hasn't held that role in 35 years, Bush said. The Commercial Appeal has more

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Conference on Juvenile Justice Held, Officers Elected

Putnam County Judge Nolan Goolsby was elected president of the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Tennessee Juvenile Court Services Association last week during the 29th Joint Conference on Juvenile Justice in Nashville. Those elected to the TCJFCJ executive committee are Judge Robert Lincoln, vice-president, Washington County; Judge Dennis Humphrey, secretary-treasurer, Roane County; and Judge Ray Grimes, vice-president, Montgomery County. Those elected to the council are Judge Tim Brock, Coffee County; Judge Tim Irwin, Knox County; Judge Christy Little, Madison County; Judge Jeff Rader, Sevier County; Judge Vicki Snyder, Henry County; and Judge John Whitworth, Benton County. Learn more from the AOC.

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Juvenile Inmates Moved After AC Breaks

A broken air conditioner at the Memphis Juvenile Detention Center is forcing officials to move about 50 juvenile offenders to the adult jail. The boys will be housed separate from adults on a lower level with plenty of security, says Juvenile Administrator Rick Powell. WMC-TV Memphis reports

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Judge Green Honored for Legacy

Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green was presented with the juvenile justice conference’s McCain-Abernathy Memorial Award for outstanding service yesterday. In accepting the honor, she reflected on the advancements Tennessee has made in keeping children safe while she has served on the bench. Though she did not take credit for any of the improvements, local observers said her impact could not be overstated. Read more in the Tennessean.

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Juvenile Judge Announces Retirement

Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green plans to retire from the bench in six weeks, ending 14 years in that role, the City Paper reports. The Metro Council will choose a replacement.

Golf Scramble Benefits CASA

CASA of Northeast Tennessee will hold its seventh Annual Golf Tournament on Aug. 20 at 11 a.m. at the Johnson City Country Club. Funds raised by the event will go to the local agency’s programs. Teams will play four-person scramble. Warm up and registration will take place 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., with a shotgun start at noon. Lunch will be provided, as will prizes for the longest drive and the ball closest to the hole. Donation amounts range from $25 to $100. Download an informational brochure

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Youth Program Helps With Decrease in Detentions

An at-risk 17-year-old girl who faced charges just months ago was congratulated last week by Judge Christy Little for working hard to better herself by participating in a youth employment program created by Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist’s Gang Prevention Task Force. She was one of 42 who came through the program created "to take young people off the streets, to give them jobs, to teach them a work ethic and to show them that a sense of accomplishment comes with earning your own living." Little has seen a decrease in detention hearings this summer, which she said she attributes not only to the youths involved in the program, but also to the influence those young people carry with them when they interact with their peers. The Jackson Sun has more

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State Grant Helps Children of Prisoners

State prison officials awarded a $250,000 grant today to the Big Brothers Big Sisters Amachi initiative, which provides mentors for the children of incarcerated parents. According to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Correction, the initiative is designed to break the intergenerational cycle of crime and incarceration and give an often forgotten group of children the chance to reach their highest potential. Memphis Daily News has more

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Judge Asks for Help in Sumner County Juvenile Court

Sumner County commissioners were expected to vote today on whether to add resources to the county’s Juvenile Court in an effort to reduce the current backlog of cases. Sumner County General Sessions Judge Barry Brown asked commissioners to change a part-time magistrate position to full-time because he said the backlog can put children in danger and delay decisions in sensitive cases involving families, WKRN-TV reports.

Incoming DA Encourages Involvement in Fight Against Alcohol, Drug Abuse

Recently appointed Eighth Judicial District District Attorney General Lori Jones rallied support for the Stand in the Gap anti-drug program Sunday. Other counties taking part in the coalition include Claiborne, Campbell, Hawkins, Hancock, Union, along with Lee County, Va., and Bell County, Ky. Learn more about he coalition’s efforts from the Claiborne Progress.

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DCS Slow to Comply With Reform

A report shows issues with a new computer system are preventing the Tennessee Department of Children's Services from fully complying with a court-ordered plan to improve foster care across the state. The Memphis Daily News reports that the new computer system has prevented the collection of DCS data in over 20 areas of court-ordered reform, including response times, compliance with caseload standards and compliance with required visits between case workers and foster care children.

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Gang-Related Crimes Triple in Small Tennessee Towns

Gang-related crimes statewide rose by nearly 25 percent in 2011, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. They have more than doubled since 2005, the first year gang crimes saw a significant spike. But the real story isn’t necessarily in cities -- in that same time period, cities with fewer than 50,000 residents saw gang crime more than triple. The Tennessean reports

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Court: Constitution Bans Life without Parole for Juveniles

Justice Kagan announced the opinion for the court in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs today, holding, in a five-to-four vote, that “the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.” SCOTUSblog has the story. The American Bar Association hailed the ruling saying, “We are gratified that the court followed its precedents…in determining that juvenile offenders are constitutionally different from adults for sentencing purposes. Juveniles are less morally culpable and more capable of rehabilitation than adults convicted of the same crimes.” Read the ABA’s brief in the cases

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DOJ Meets With Memphians, Names Powell to Investigate Juvenile Court Failings

Last night in Memphis, Department of Justice officials held a forum that allowed citizens to pose questions to the department, which conducted a recent investigation that found a pattern of unconstitutional conduct in several areas of the Shelby County Juvenile Court system. Bill Powell, criminal justice coordinator for the county, announced his appointment to help correct the failures. He said he will head a committee of officials and citizens to brainstorm ideas to correct issues in the local juvenile justice system. County Commissioner Henri Brooks, who filed the complaint that triggered the federal investigation, criticized Powell's appointment, saying "it looks like the Department of Justice is asking Juvenile Court to monitor itself." The Commercial Appeal has the story

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DA Candidates Discuss Juvenile Court Reform

Contenders for the Shelby County District Attorney General post addressed problems plaguing the Memphis Shelby County Juvenile Court at a forum on Monday. In discussing the Department of Justice's recent report about the court, Republican incumbent Amy Weirich focused on the lack of attention to victims of the system. "What is frustrating as a prosecutor of 21 years is that nowhere in that report does anyone mention the victims." She also defended the work being done to clean up the problems saying, "We're addressing those issues...In fact, we have a much more aggressive plan than the Department of Justice even asked us to accomplish." By contrast, Democratic challenger Carol Chumney maintained that the problems have been ongoing and persistent and "need to be dealt with." The Daily News reports

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Event Raises $8,600 for Teen Court

The annual Mary Ann Williams Scholarship Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction raised $8,600 for the Sumner County Teen Court earlier this summer. The event honored Williams, who worked for 20 years with the Department of Children Services before becoming the program coordinator with the Sumner County Juvenile Court. While serving in that role, she was instrumental in starting the first teen court program in the state. Money raised at the event funds several college scholarships, which the court awards to teen participants. This past year, the court awarded $7,500 in scholarships. The evening also included the presentation of awards and a celebration of the program’s 10-year anniversary. Download an article about the event

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CASA Monroe Gets New Executive Director

CASA Monroe, a volunteer organization that advocates for abused and neglected children in the juvenile court system, has hired a new executive director, Alisa M. Hobbs. She replaces Marion Leudemann, who retired as executive director earlier this year. The Advocate & Democrat has the story

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Will Sandusky Take the Stand? Experts Say It May Be His Only Hope

As Jerry Sandusky begins his defense today in his child sex abuse trial, the "million-dollar" question is whether or not the defense will call Sandusky. Criminal defense attorney Michael Engle said he doesn't see many other options for the former Penn State assistant football coach, saying that taking the stand in his own defense may be Sandusky's "only shot at convincing this jury he didn't do this." Legal experts analyze the options in The Legal Intelligencer and USAToday has details from today's testimony.

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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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