News

CSI Actor Speaks on Youth and Justice Issues

Film, television and stage actor Hill Harper will speak on “Youth and Justice” at East Tennessee State University this Thursday, WJHL reports. His free public lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in the D.P. Culp University Center’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium. Perhaps best known as coroner Dr. Sheldon Hawkes in “CSI: NY," Harper now stars in the USA Network spy drama “Covert Affairs.” Off the screen, he has founded the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, which is dedicated to empowering underserved youth through mentorship, scholarship and grant programs. He holds a law degree from Harvard as well as a master’s degree from the university’s Kennedy School of Government.

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Children’s Advocacy Center and Family Justice Center Joining Forces

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Hamilton County has formalized a partnership with Chattanooga’s Family Justice Center, News Channel 9 reports. In a letter of intent submitted to the city, the advocacy center says it will “co-locate and lease approximately 10,000 square feet at the Family Justice Center facility.” “We are incredibly excited to have a leading organization such as the Children’s Advocacy Center partner on this important initiative,” said Mayor Andy Berke. “Their commitment and willingness to collaborate will produce maximum impact in the community’s effort to address family violence.”

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Should Vaccination Be a Choice?

The question of whether parents should be forced to vaccinate their children spilled into the 2016 presidential race this week as potential Republican contenders Kentucky Sen. Ran Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended and clarified comments they made expressing support for voluntary immunizations. A review of state laws, however, shows that parents already have a fair amount of freedom in deciding whether to vaccinate their children. Every state requires school-aged children to receive certain vaccines, but many states also carve out exemptions — some broader than others — that give parents the choice to opt-out. The Wall Street Journal law blog has more.

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Nonprofit's Role Unclear with New Chattanooga Family Justice Center

With the opening of the new Chattanooga Family Justice Center later this year, the role of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults is no longer clear, WDEF reports. Established 137 years ago, the Partnership is a non-profit group that deals with family violence, elder abuse and human trafficking. It already offers most of the same crisis one-stop services at its downtown location that the new Family Justice Center will offer. The city's goal with the new facility is to also offer those in crisis one-stop service, but the question arises: what role will Partnership will play?

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Shelby Juvenile Court to Report on Progress

The Juvenile Court of Memphis & Shelby County will hold a public forum Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. to update residents on its progress in meeting the goals of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Memorandum of Agreement, which is designed to address issues such as the disparate treatment of black youths, the high number of youth transferred to adult court, and due process rights violations. The meeting will take place at the Memphis Public Library on Poplar Ave.

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Overspending on Juvenile Court Leads to State Audit for Greene County

The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury discovered that Greene County’s expenditures exceeded its appropriations in various funds, including juvenile services. The county anticipated spending around $112,000 but instead spent $170,000. General Sessions Court Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr. said the fund went over in fiscal year 2013- 2014 because of extreme cases and housing more juveniles at the Johnson City Juvenile Detention Center for $189 per day. The Greeneville Sun has more.

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Antioch High Launches Youth Court

Davidson County Juvenile Judge Sheila Jones Calloway today swore in 30 Antioch High School students who will run the school’s new youth court. The move marked the end of a yearlong effort to launch a youth court at the school. There are now four youth courts in the county, including Cane Ridge, Whites Creek and McGavock high schools. The courts are supported by the Tennessee Bar Association, Metropolitan Nashville Juvenile Courts, Metro-Student Attendance Center and the MNPS Student Services Division. Read more about the Antioch program.

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New Years Polar Bear Plunge and 5K to Benefit Children’s Advocacy Center

The Children's Advocacy Center of the First Judicial District will host the Polar Bear Plunge and 5K on New Year’s Day, WJHL reports. You can start your New Year's resolution with an icy cold dip in the pool at the Wellness Center in Johnson City. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the race starts at 9 a.m. All proceeds benefits the center.

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Court to Consider Ban on Lifetime Sentences for Juveniles

The U.S. Supreme Court today said it would decide whether its 2012 decision prohibiting mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile murderers under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes is retroactive. After turning away a number of cases raising the retroactivity question since its decision in Miller v. Alabama, the justices agreed to hear arguments by George Toca, who was 17 in 1984 when he accidently shot his best friend during a botched armed robbery. The National Law Journal has more (sub. req.).

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Christmas 5k Benefits Child Abuse Advocacy Group

The annual Music City 5k Christmas Run will be held Dec. 13 at Public Square Park in Nashville. Presented by Kinnard, Clayton, & Beveridge law firm, the Run/Walk is one of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee’s primary fundraising events, which helps support programs and services that assist in preventing child abuse and neglect.

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Broken Elevator at Juvenile Court Raises Safety Issues

Problems at the Juvenile Justice Center in Memphis are causing big safety issues for law-enforcement, WREG reports. The secure elevator used to bring detainees up from the garage area hasn’t been working for months so law enforcement officers have to walk them up two flights of stairs, which means a need for added security. Detainees with handicaps or injuries who cannot take the stairs now have to be taken up on the public elevator, adding even more safety concerns. The hydraulic system, which was put in during the 1983 construction phase, will cost the center about $60,000 to fix.

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Johnson City Awarded Family Justice Center Grant

Johnson City was awarded a three-year, $240,000 grant to establish a Family Justice Center for Johnson City/Washington County by the state's Office of Criminal Justice Programs, WJHL reports. The grant will be used to help reach the goals of Gov. Bill Haslam's Public Safety Action Plan to reduce the number of domestic violence incidents locally by establishing a Family Justice Center, a model that brings together a multi-disciplinary team of professionals under one roof to work together to provide coordinated services to family violence victims. According to the press release, Tennessee currently has two established Family Justice Centers, one in Knoxville and one in Memphis.

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Youth Detention Likely an Issue at Budget Hearings

Gov. Bill Haslam began hearing from state agencies yesterday on their budget requests according to the Memphis Daily News. Among the first to meet with Haslam were representatives from the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), which has come under fire recently for rioting and escapes at one of its youth detention facilities. According to Fox 17 News, DCS Commissioner Jim Henry testified that he has ordered 144 locks to be installed at three facilities, though the agency is still in the process of getting legal authority to confine teens to certain areas. Critics of the current leadership say a better ratio of guards to teens is needed, which means an increase in funding for staffing. Everette Parrish, an attorney appointed to defend the civil rights of youths at Woodland Hills, says, “Without more budget, you will not see change … It’s paramount that they have more funding.”

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Juvenile Clerk, Judge at Odds Over Order

Shelby County Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos filed a petition Friday against Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, the Commercial Appeal reports. She is asking the court to dismiss Michael’s Nov. 14 order that she “provide services normally provided by clerks of the court,” which would include recording all proceedings, producing minutes of the court and ceasing “any and all destruction of files.” Touliatos is claiming that the order is “unlawful” and “overreaching,” arguing that the mandates are either contrary to state law, contrary to county attorney opinions or already being performed. Touliatos also says she “fears the immediate and irreparable harm of facing contempt charges for not complying.” A hearing is set for Dec. 5.

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DCS Considers Transferring Teens to Texas Facility

The Department of Children's Services is exploring the possibility of transferring 12 teenagers who were involved in the recent disturbances at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center to a Texas facility, Fox 17 reports. In September, Woodland Hills had two sets of escapes beyond the perimeter fence. All youth have since been returned to custody, although some had since turned 18 and are being charged as adults. The department said transferring some of the teens would balance community safety and the youths' educational and therapeutic needs. If approved, the first transfer of three teens could begin within two weeks.

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Commission Makes Juvenile Court Clerk an Elected Office

Johnson City commissioners have voted to make the position of juvenile court clerk an elected office. The new position will be on the ballot for the first time in August 2016, WCYB-TV reports. Commissioners reported that the change was made to comply with a state law requiring the post to be an elected position. The municipal court clerk will serve as interim juvenile court clerk until the 2016 election.

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Survey: Discontent Among Court-Appointed Attorneys

A recent TBA survey of private attorneys who handle court appointed work shows they feel undervalued, overworked and unfairly compensated. More than half of those who took the survey reported that they frequently hit the fee cap on appointed cases, while 77 percent reported that they do not bother submiting a fee claim given the issues associated with getting paid. Survey responses also indicated an overwhelming number of cases are not adult criminal cases, but dependency, neglect and abuse work, generally as a guardian ad litem or a parent's attorney. More than half of respondents left lengthy comments on their experience with court appointed work, with many reporting that they love doing the work but cannot continue doing so at the current compensation rates, likening the work to doing pro bono. Respondents also reported that the filing requirements frequently add stress to an already difficult-to-handle clientele. With a compensation rate that has not changed since 1994, Tennessee court-appointed attorneys are among the lowest paid in the nation. Read more from the survey results.

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Judge Seeks CASA Volunteers in Lincoln County

Juvenile Court Judge Andy Myrick praises the work of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in his Lincoln County court, but tells the Elk Valley Times that he needs more volunteers. Since starting this summer, CASA has trained a number of citizen volunteers to advocate for the best interest of children in the courtroom and the community. These volunteers meet with the children and the family, go to the homes and schools, investigate the case and work with the court and attorneys to insure the needs of the at-risk children are being met in the best way possible. "These volunteers can really make a difference in the life of a child,” Myrick said.

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ABA Launches Website to Aid Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

The American Bar Association Working Group on Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors has launched the Immigrant Child Advocacy Network, a comprehensive website to provide information and resources for volunteer attorneys, advocates, policymakers who shape immigration policy and journalists who report on immigration issues. The Working Group was created by ABA President William C. Hubbard in response to the immigration crisis affecting unaccompanied minors and the critical need for additional pro bono lawyers to ensure children are provided legal representation in immigration proceedings. Learn more about the initiative at the ABA website.

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Juvenile Court Fundraiser Set for Friday

The Knox County Juvenile Court will hold its annual Chili Cook-Off & Basket Auction for Kids this Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the court’s Volunteer Advisory Board and assist with hosting the annual Foster Care Appreciation Dinner for foster parents and kids. To enter the chili contest, contact Patrice Staley at (865) 215-6475.

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Blount County Youth Court Helps Juvenile Offenders

Twenty-two high-school students were sworn in to the Blount County Youth Court Wednesday at the county courthouse, the Daily Times reports. Launched last year, the Blount youth court provides an alternative for first-time offenders accused of certain nonviolent crimes. Youth jurors — chosen from applicants from across the county’s school systems — hear cases, ask questions, make evaluations and are vested with the power to take any number of remedial actions. Learn more about youth courts across the state on the TBA website

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TBA to Pursue Divorce Notice Legislation

The Tennessee Bar Association announced today it is pursuing legislation that would require respondents be served notice of the filing of a petition for divorce or separation before the court action is made public. “Our Family Law Section has been in discussions about how to address what they see as a growing problem,” said TBA President Jonathan Steen. “Respondents find out that their spouse has filed for divorce before safety plans can be put in place or before restraining orders can be served. We think a targeted solution to this problem is that information about the filing of divorce should be delayed until the respondent is served.”

The TBA will work with domestic violence prevention groups, lawmakers, judges and court officials to craft a solution that balances protection of those involved in divorce cases with the public’s need to know about what is happening in their courts. For more information, visit the TBA website.

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Memphis Stakeholders Discuss Juvenile Reforms

Newly elected Shelby County Juvenile Judge Dan Michael was part of a roundtable discussion Friday with the mayor, district attorney and county school leaders to discuss how to address youth violence in Memphis, News 5 reports. Michael said his office is working on an Evening Reporting Center, an after school facility for troubled kids on probation. The group also discussed expanding a program that allows police to check prior offenses of a juvenile in custody; expanding a program designed to decrease the number of minority students sent to court for minor infractions; Mayor Wharton's idea of creating centers for youth arrested on curfew violations; and assigning juvenile court liaisons to police precincts to meet with young offenders brought in by officers.

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Knox Court Calms Kids with Stuffed Animals

Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin is making a plea for donations of new stuffed animals, which he uses to calm children and mothers who appear in his courtroom. “We go through thousands of these a year and we’re down to less than 100,” Irwin told Knoxnews this week. More than 28,000 stuffed animals have been distributed in the past year. Irwin began offering the animals in the spring of 2011 when the Black Law Students organization at Lincoln Memorial University first approached him with a 7-foot-tall bag of the toys. Three other county court judges have stuffed animals in their courtrooms as well. Donations can be dropped off at the Carey E. Garrett Juvenile Court Building, 3323 Division St. Financial donations may be mailed to Compassion Coalition, 107 Westfield Dr. Knoxville, TN 37919.

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Wharton Proposes ‘Juvenile Safety Centers' For Curfew Violators

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is proposing a rule change that would make it easier for police to detain young people caught outside after curfew, the Commercial Appeal reports. Current state and city rules do not allow police to transport curfew violators anywhere other than the youth’s own home or the Shelby County Juvenile Court. To avoid further overcrowding in juvenile court, Wharton is asking the city council to allow police to transport minors to new community “juvenile safety centers,” which would be specially staffed. Youth would stay there until a parent or guardian picks them up. Juvenile Court official Larry Scroggs says Memphis police rarely enforce the curfew, given limited manpower, the city’s large size and the number of more serious crimes.

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