News

State's 'Fetal Assault Law' to Expire in 2016

Tennessee’s “fetal assault law”, which charges pregnant mothers with assault for babies exposed to drugs, is set to expire next year. WCYB reports Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus is working to keep the law. "It is the incentive (mothers) need that otherwise they would not have gotten into a program, except for the fact if you don't get into a program, you could be charged,” he said. State Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said he expects lawmakers to renew the law.

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Bradley County CASA's Efforts Outlined by its Executive Director

Josiah Vacheresse, executive director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Bradley County, says CASA assisted children in 150 court cases in the last year.  “We are for the child who has been abused and doesn’t want to go home,” Vacheresse said during a Community Crime Reduction meeting Tuesday at Bradley County Juvenile Court. “We are for the child who has been in five foster homes and attended six schools in four years.” Read more from The Cleveland Daily Banner.

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Parents Sue Brentwood Church Following Sexual Assault

A Nashville-area family has filed a lawsuit against Fellowship Bible Church of Brentwood after alleging that a teenage volunteer sexually assaulted their three-year old child in a church bathroom. The teen has pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual battery, according to Nashville News 5. The civil suit alleges that the church did not perform adequate background checks or provide sufficient training to protect children, and sought to hide the incident from other families.

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Juvenile Court Reforms Slowly Helping, Leaders Say

Two years into reform of the Shelby County juvenile justice system, leaders warn that there needs to be more contact with teenagers before and after they enter juvenile court, not just while they are in custody. “The real effort long term has to be geared toward prevention, toward stopping the school-to-jail pipeline,” says Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush. Others argue more resources are needed for job creation or long term contacts that move teenagers away from gangs, the Memphis Daily News reports.

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Haslam to Hear From 26 Agencies Before Crafting Budget

Gov. Bill Haslam is kicking off a week of budget hearings today, the Associated Press reports. Among the 26 agencies that will testify are the Departments of Safety and Children’s Services on Tuesday, two education agencies on Wednesday, the Department of Correction on Thursday and the Department of Transportation on Friday. The Memphis Daily News has the story.

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Training Conference for Parents of At-Risk Males

The Conference for Single Parents Rearing At-Risk Males, a new three-day program implemented by Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway, will offer training for 250 parents of at-risk males referred to Building Families and Communities Missions. The program is planned for Dec. 11-13 in Nashville. For more information, including a program schedule, contact BFC Missions at 615-498-4669.

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A Glimpse into Nashville's Youth Courts Program

The Tennessean reports on the process and success of Nashville's youth courts, a system that allows students who are facing misdemeanor accusations to go before a jury of their peers. Teens who participate as lawyers and jurors are trained by Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway. According to advocates for the program, fewer than four percent of students who go through youth courts reoffend -- a much better success rate than those processed in juvenile court.

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Child Abuse Cases Hidden in Military Justice System, AP Report Says

The Associated Press reports child sex offenders are the largest category of inmates in U.S. military prisons and that their crimes and how much time they spend in prison are often shielded by an “opaque system of justice.” Court records are released only after “many Freedom of Information Act requests, appeals and fees,” according to the AP. "It's not as if there are child sex crimes being swept under the rug somewhere," Air Force Col. Chuck Killion, director of the Air Force judiciary, said.

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Mothers Share Experiences With State's Fetal Assault Law

NPR reports on Tennessee’s new “fetal assault” law, which punishes pregnant women who abuse drugs. The article features two mothers: one who sought help for her addiction because of the law and another who says the law scared her away from seeking pre-natal care.

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New Family Justice Center Complex Approved in Chattanooga

The Chattanooga City Council approved $3.7 million for a new city complex that will house the Family Justice Center, the Children’s Advocacy Center and other organizations serving victims of abuse, The Times Free Press reports. The complex, expected to open in October 2016, will be located on Eastgate Loop and replace a temporary structure now there.

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Juvenile Law Reform, 6 Hours of CLE

Get access to a variety of juvenile law topics to help you build a successful practice at Juvenile Law Forum 2015: Keys to a Successful Practice. This year's program on Dec. 3 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville will focus on key areas of advocacy, law, representation and ethics for juvenile law practitioners. Speakers include representatives from the Department of Children’s services, juvenile law practitioners, and the Board of Professional Responsibility. The course is scheduled from 9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. and is approved for six CLE credits.

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Attorney Questions Juvenile Judge's Haircut Orders

Attorney Meggan Sullivan is questioning Wilson County juvenile Judge Barry Tatum’s practice of periodically ordering and paying for haircuts for boys. The haircuts – ordered when Tatum feels the boy's hair is too long – can only occur with the consent of parents or guardians, but Sullivan recently witnessed an incident where she did not see a parental consent form. “Judicial bullying is what it was. That kid did not feel he had choice, and I didn’t feel like the dad did either,” Sullivan said. Read more from The Tennessean

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Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway Featured

The Tennessee Tribune features Davidson County Juvenile Court Sheila Calloway in this week’s Take 10 on Tuesdays. Judge Calloway discusses her first year on the bench and youth courts now functioning in four high schools.

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DA Wants Fetal Assault Law Strengthened

Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus, who championed a new state law that allows drug-addicted mothers to be charged with assault to a fetus if they refuse treatment, said the law should be reworked to include meth. The statute currently only applies to narcotics like prescription pain pills, heroin and crack. Statewide, roughly 100 women have been prosecuted under the law, Nashville Public Radio reports.

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State Officials Attend Summit on Juvenile Jailing

Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) led a team of state officials, including Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby, to a summit in Austin aimed at reducing the likelihood youth will be rearrested and end up in the adult criminal justice system. Humphrey on the Hill reports the summit is sponsored by the Council of State Government’s Justice Center and the MacArthur Foundation. “If we can get to the root causes of juvenile justice, we can intervene before it’s too late,” Sen. Norris said.

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Shelby County Woman Jailed for Failing to Pay Guardian ad Litem

Shelby County resident Angela Gilmore spent time behind bars after failing to pay Guardian ad Litem Shari Myers – an attorney Judge Donna Fields appointed to Gilmore’s divorce case involving children. WREG reports Gilmore claims she was unable to pay the $3,300 owed to Myers, prompting the attorney to file a petition of contempt against Gilmore.

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Hamilton County Celebrates 30 Years with CASA

Hamilton County Juvenile Court celebrated its 30th anniversary with the Court Appointed Special Advocated Program (CASA), a national program that trains volunteers to work with abused children within the legal process, the Times Free Press reports. Since the late Judge Dixie T. Smith applied for CASA in 1985, the program has provided abut $22,000 in services to the county. "CASA volunteers are the lifeblood. They are extremely effective and are able to bring immediate concerns to members of the court's Volunteer Services Department for review,” Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw said. 

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Child Custody, Immigration Law Covered in New TBJ

In the November Tennessee Bar Journal, Memphis lawyer Miles Mason Sr. details what you need to know about an independent child custody evaluation, and Nashville lawyer Milen Saev considers Kerry v. Din and the consular non-reviewability doctrine. Tennessee Bar Association President Bill Harbison points out the many reasons why 1881 was a very important year (besides that the TBA was formed!). Read these articles and more.

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Prosecutors Discuss Trafficking, Sexting and More at Fall Meeting

Prosecutors from across the state gathered this week to discuss possible changes to laws at the annual fall Tennessee District Attorneys General conference, the Times Free Press reports. Topics included cyberbullying, human trafficking and sexting, where there isn't always a clear legislative solution, Jennifer Moore Mason said. The problem, she said, is that no specific statute exists for juvenile sexting, where teens exchange sexually explicit photos via email or text. Instead, teenagers can get hit with charges of sexual exploitation of a minor, or harassment. 

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Seminar on Human Trafficking Comes to Brentwood

The Brentwood Library will host a program on human trafficking, how to identify it and steps to prevent it on Oct. 29. Co-sponsored by the Brentwood Woman’s Club and You Have the Power, the “No Girl’s Dream” program will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Brentwood Library, 8109 Concord Rd. Brentwood Homepage has more.

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Knox County Juvenile Court to Hold Fundraiser

The Knox County Juvenile Court will hold an auction and chili cook-off on Nov. 13 to raise money for its Volunteer Advisory Board and annual appreciation dinner for foster care parents and children. The event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Attendees can purchase an all-you-can-eat lunch for $5. Contact Patrice Staley at (865) 215-6475 for more information.

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CASA Agency Seeking New Volunteers

CASA of the Ninth Judicial District is seeking more volunteers in Loudon County, says Rosemary Quillen, CASA assistant director. The nonprofit organization “desperately” needs more volunteer participation, as the local agency currently oversees 14 active cases with three more on the way, Quillen says. For more information on volunteering or taking an upcoming training course, contact Quillen, (865) 988-2311. The News Herald has an interview with CASA leaders.

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Anderson County Juvenile Court Honored

Judge Brian J. Hunt and his staff of the Anderson County Juvenile Court were honored with the inaugural Community Award by the Legal Aid Society’s Oak Ridge office. “The Anderson County Juvenile Court pioneered the first ever Guardian ad litem project between a local juvenile court and Legal Aid Society,” said Janet Mynatt, managing attorney of Legal Aid Society’s Oak Ridge office. “With the court’s help, attorneys are able to identify and provide post-adjudication guardianship for children in the care of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services – some of our most vulnerable youth.”

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DCS to Remain Under Court Oversight

The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) could be out from under federal court oversight by 2017 if the agency can continue to make progress in its care of foster kids, The Tennessean reports. DCS has been under court oversight since 2001 after New York city-based Children’s Rights filed suit over mismanagement. "We've done a lot of hard work in recent years, and we think we are very close to meeting court orders,” DCS commissioner Bonnie Hommrich said. 

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Legal Nonprofit Wins Access to Knox County Juvenile Court

Knoxville nonprofit Lawyers Education Advocacy Group has won the right to offer free legal services during truancy cases in the lobby of the Knox County Juvenile Court, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Their request last year to distribute literature on legal rights and offer free legal representation in the court was denied. "We are pleased that Knox County is now allowing the Lawyers Education Advocacy Project access to young people who need help," American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee legal director Thomas H. Castelli said.

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