News

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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Nashville Bar Foundation Awards Nearly $25K in Grants

The Nashville Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Nashville Bar Association, has awarded $24,925 in grants to four area nonprofits to support their law-related educational and charitable initiatives. The recipients are: the Family Center was given $2,000 to develop a new child abuse prevention program that will help lawyers more effectively respond to abuse cases; the Legal Aid Society was given $10,000 to expand legal assistance for immigrant and refugee communities; Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee was given $1,500 to educate the legal profession on how to deal with clients who have personality disorders, high anxiety or mental illness; and Nashville Community Education was given $1,425 to expand The People’s Law School, a program that offers a series of free legal classes to the public about important legal issues.

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Sugarmon Opens Juvenile Court Campaign

Memphis City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon says the Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court is “administratively top-heavy” and too expensive to operate but that he will change that if elected. Sugarmon made the comments as he filed his petition to run in the August election for juvenile judge, the Memphis Daily News reports. Sugarmon also said he plans to talk about problems with the court that were identified by the U.S. Justice Department, including lack of due process, disproportionately harsher punishments for minorities and a greater number of minority youth transferred to adult court. Sugarmon will face Juvenile Court Chief Magistrate Dan Michael in the nonpartisan race for the position, now held by outgoing Judge Curtis Person.

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2 Candidates Formally Announce Campaigns

Two additional judicial candidates have now formally announced their election bids. Andrew Mark Freiberg is seeking the Republican nomination for Circuit Court Judge, Part 3 in the 10th Judicial District. Freiberg, who currently is in private practice, previously served six years as a prosecutor in the district, which covers Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties. On the other side of the state, Memphis City Judge Tarik Sugarmon has made his candidacy for Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court judge official. He will face Juvenile Court Chief Magistrate Dan Michael in a nonpartisan race for the position, now held by outgoing Judge Curtis Person. Read more about the candidates in the Cleveland Banner and the Memphis Daily News.

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Lawsuit Challenges Policy of Shackling During Delivery

Hamilton County’s policy of shackling female prisoners during labor, delivery and postpartum is being challenged in a new federal lawsuit. Attorney Chris Clem told the Chattanoogan that the suit seeks to declare the practice “as cruel and inhuman and a violation of civil rights.” A Metro Davidson County policy was also challenged in the high-profile case of Juana Villegas, an undocumented Nashville resident who was arrested and later held in shackles while giving birth.

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New Advocacy Group Tackles Women’s and Children’s Issues

Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Sara Beth Myers recently founded Advocates for Women’s and Kids’ Equality (AWAKE), which works to foster public policy to “improve the wellness, safety, opportunity and equality for women and children in Tennessee.” Since its inception in November, the group has worked to build a base in Nashville and establish itself within the state. Myers and her team have worked on mandatory sentencing laws for domestic violence offenders, but in an interview with the Nashville Scene, she said she does not want AWAKE to be pigeonholed as strictly a domestic violence organization, and plans to work on other issues such as improving state children’s services and pay equity.

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Boy Pleads Guilty in Shooting Death

The mother of a Nashville boy who was shot and killed earlier this year stood with the grandmother of the 17-year-old who on Monday pled guilty to reckless homicide in the death. Kaemon Robinson shot 15-year-old Kevin Barbee when, witnesses told police, a handgun Robinson was holding accidentally fired. The victim's mother had originally requested Robinson to be tried as an adult, but has since forgiven him. Had he been tried and convicted as an adult, he would have faced up to 51 years in prison, according to Fox 17. As a juvenile, he will likely be out of jail in less than two years.

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Georgia's Juvenile Justice Department Hiring

Georgia's Department of Juvenile Justice is recruiting veterans. NewsChannel 9 reports that the department has openings for administrative roles, corrections and transportation officers, security emergency response teams, probation and parole specialists, nurses, doctors, social workers, teachers and more.

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Drug Courts See Successes

Cookeville area lawyers, judges and others involved in the 13th Judicial District Drug Court celebrated the graduation of the four members of its first class last week, according to the Herald-Citizen. So far, there have been 31 people recommended by the District Attorney’s office in the district to go into treatment. There are 17 in the treatment facility and 10 in outpatient status. Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Seth Norman oversees the Drug Court. Nearby in Coffee County, drug court executive director Mike Lewis and other drug court officials run “Recovery Academy” -- an outlet for youth who have slipped off the educational tracks and are in danger of not getting a high school diploma. Judge Tim Brock serves as the drug court judge and often refers youth to the Recovery Academy, which began last November. The Tullahoma News has this story.

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Youth Courts Train Teens in Hamilton Co.

About 40 students gathered in Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Robert Philyaw's courtroom on Saturday to train to be on the county's new Youth Court, one of 16 diversionary programs in the state that allows non-violent, first-time offenders the opportunity to have their cases heard by a jury of kids their own age. In Chattanooga, the program is supported by the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, Miller & Martin PLLC and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and administered by the Tennessee Bar Association. Miller & Martin partner Randy Wilson tells the Times Free Press that 25 lawyers are volunteering time. Philyaw says he hopes to increase the court members 120 and to have the first actual court session with two cases in April and have a monthly session thereafter. Denise Bentley, the TBA's Youth Court coordinator, says fewer than 7 percent of respondents who participate in Tennessee youth courts re-offend within a year.

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Child Abuse Prevention Month Events

CASA agencies across Tennessee will mark Child Abuse Prevention Month with events, fundraisers and educational programs throughout the month of April. To get involved contact the appropriate invidual below. Don't see your area listed? Find a CASA agency near you at the Tennessee CASA website.


CASA OF THE 9TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT

Contact: Karren Herman, jb020707@yahoo.com

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Racing Series Benefits Local CASA Agency

Rogersville lawyer Mark A. Skelton is again hosting the Skelton Law Racing Series, which this year includes a 10-mile road race, a four-mile road race and four trail races. Proceeds from the 8K and mile run, set for May 31, benefit CASA for Kids, which serves families in Sullivan and Hawkins counties. Events start in February and run through next fall.  Download a schedule of races or contact Skelton at (423) 272-4812 or markskelton@markskelton.com for more information.

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New Candidates Join Race for Juvenile Judge

Several new candidates have joined an already crowded field seeking to replace retiring judge Brandon Fisher as Anderson County Juvenile Court judge. They include longtime Oak Ridge lawyer David Dunkirk, who is running for the Democratic nomination, and Lauren Biloski and Victoria E. Bannach, who are seeking the Republican nomination. Read more about the candidates from Knoxnews.

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Memphis Law Hosts Juvenile Justice Symposium

The University of Memphis School of Law is hosting its annual Law Review Symposium on the topic of “Juvenile Courts in Transition: Where We Have Been and Where We are Going.” The event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 28 and feature a variety of regional and national experts on the subject of juvenile justice and reform. Topics include special education for juvenile detainees, confidentiality in juvenile proceedings and advocacy for juvenile clients. Speakers, including Sandra Simkins, the Justice Department official monitoring the local court, also will focus on the specific situation in Memphis. Learn more in this press release. Register for the event on the school’s website.

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