News

Truancy Class Action Rejected

Two lawyers who sought to challenge Knox County’s handling of more than 140 truancy cases have been turned back in their attempt to create a class action for young people they say should not have been jailed for minor offenses such as truancy, smoking or running away from home. In rejecting the appeal, Fourth Circuit Judge Bill Swan said that it was an issue for the state legislature to decide. The News Sentinel reports.

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Haslam Appoints Siskin to 16th Circuit

Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Keith Siskin to the 16th Judicial District Circuit Court, which serves Rutherford and Cannon counties. He fills the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Don Ash to a senior judge position earlier this year. Siskin has been a juvenile court magistrate since 2004 and is a past president of the Rutherford and Cannon County Bar Association. The Daily News Journal has more.

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Crawford to Fill Nashville Juvenile Court Post

The Nashville Metro Council Tuesday night chose Sophia Crawford to fill the Juvenile Court judicial post vacated by Judge Betty Adams Green. Crawford, who currently serves as a Judicial Court magistrate, initially received 18 votes, beating magistrates Carlton Lewis and Sheila Calloway, who received 11 and nine votes respectively. In a run-off, Crawford defeated Lewis by a vote of 25 to 13, the City Paper reports.

NBA Releases Juvenile Judge Candidates Poll

The Nashville Bar Association (NBA) has released results of a member poll of candidates for the juvenile court judgeship vacated by Judge Betty Adams Green. Lawyers were asked to comment on three candidates: Sheila Calloway, Sophia Crawford and Carlton Lewis. Calloway received the greatest percentage of “highly recommend” votes (32.1 percent), followed by 28.6 for Lewis and 22.3 for Crawford. Download the survey results

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Report: Jail Must Improve Suicide Prevention Measures

Memphis' juvenile jail needs to take both immediate and long-term steps to better prevent detained youths from harming or killing themselves, according to a new national assessment. The report, authored by jail suicide prevention consultant Lindsay Hayes, is part of an ongoing overhaul of the Shelby County Juvenile Court and its detention center following the U.S. Justice Department's finding of due-process and safety violations. The jail has not had a suicide in almost 40 years, but the evaluation states that the court needs to improve suicide prevent training for staff and in-jail school teachers. The Commercial Appeal has more

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Tennessee CASA Honors Legislators

The Tennessee Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association recently held its annual meeting in Nashville and recognized several state legislators for supporting its mission. Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, was given the association’s first ever President’s Award, which honors an individual who makes a significant contribution to the growth and success of CASA in Tennessee. Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, another strong supporter of CASA, accepted the award on behalf of McNally, who unable to attend. Other honorees included Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, and Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, who were presented with Legislator of the Year Awards. They were chosen for their work helping colleagues understand barriers faced by older youth transitioning from foster care to independent living, and their efforts to pass the Transitioning Youth Act. Read more from CASA.

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Deberry Defends DCS Commissioner

Tennessee state Rep. John Deberry, D-Memphis, is defending Department of Children’s Service (DCS) Commissioner Kate O’Day from the critical media scrutiny she has been under since the agency released a report showing 31 children died during the first six months of 2012. Although Gov. Bill Haslam reviewed the report and said he found no evidence that DCS acted inappropriately, the Memphis Daily News reports that critics are calling for O’Day to be replaced. Deberry, who has criticized DCS over the years, stated in a letter, "In my opinion, Commissioner O'Day should be given a reasonable amount of time to assimilate a plan of action that will combat these ongoing issues involving the children of Tennessee.”

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Memphis Seeks Alternatives to Juvenile Lockup

As part of a national trend to reform the juvenile detention system, the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore is holding a two-day training workshop in Memphis for local law enforcement, school officials, nonprofit organizations and city workers, among others, the Commercial Appeal reports. The training was intended to find ways to decrease the disparate treatment of black youth in the juvenile system, and to replace lockup with counseling, mentoring and mental health services. 

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State to Spend $3.96 Million to Fix DCS Computer System

The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) has identified more than 1,700 defects in its computer system, the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System. The system, which has been in place since 2009, is said to account for a multitude of DCS problems such as skipped payments to foster parents and failure to identify children's abuse histories. The $27 million system will cost the state $3.96 million to fix. The Tennessean has the story

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Imprisoning Juveniles at Issue in Appeal Against Knox Judge

Knox County Juvenile Court officials have locked up more than 140 children over the past four years for truancy, two lawyers claim in an appeal on behalf of four teenagers. All four either went to juvenile detention or ended up on probation, threatened with jail, for failure to attend school. Lawyers Dean Hill Rivkin and Brenda McGee argue Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin's handling of the cases violated Tennessee law and the children's Constitutional rights. Rivkin, a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, and McGee want to expand their case into a class action to cover other teens they believe were jailed for truancy. The News Sentinel has the story

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Bradley County Hosts Annual Walk in Memory of Child Abuse Victim

On Oct.11, the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Bradley County will host its third annual Moonlight Walk in memory of Melisha Gipson, a four-year-old Cleveland girl who died tragically in 1976 from child abuse. The case gained national exposure and resulted in increased child abuse laws in Tennessee and across the country, the Chattanoogan reports.

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Court: Don't Lie About Who Child's Father Is

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld a trial court’s damage award against a mother who misled her boyfriend by telling him he was the child’s father when he was not. In its ruling, the court stated that an intentional misrepresentation claim, which is already recognized in Tennessee’s courts, is broad enough to apply to circumstances where a mother intentionally misrepresents the parentage of her child. Learn more about the case

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3 Magistrates Run for Davidson Juvenile Judge

Three county magistrates hope to replace Judge Betty Adams Green to serve on the bench of the Davidson County Juvenile Court, the Tennessean reports. Sheila Calloway, who served under Green as magistrate; Sophia Crawford, a magistrate in juvenile court; and Carlton Lewis, also a magistrate in the juvenile court, are all in the running. Green announced her retirement last month after 14 years in the post.

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Memphis Prosecutors Speak on Sex Trafficking

U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton of Memphis and other federal prosecutors spoke to students at the University of Mississippi School of Law about sex trafficking in America, the Commercial Appeal reports. The attorneys discussed the difficulty in prosecuting trafficking cases and effective ways for prosecutors to ensure violators receive longer prison sentences with no parole.

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Accusations Fly Over Agency's Failure to Report Child Deaths

Former Legislative Director Aaron Campbell says he personally briefed Department of Children's Services (DCS) Commissioner Kate O'Day about her responsibility to inform lawmakers of each child fatality and near-fatality in the state — which DCS now acknowledges it has not done in nearly two years. The agency last week released partial information about 31 children who died in the first six months of 2012. The children had all either been in state custody, the subject of an open DCS investigation or had been investigated but whose cases had been closed before they died. DCS lawyer Douglas Dimond conceded that the agency had been violating the law in its requirements to report child deaths. The Tennessee has the story

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Demolition Derby to Benefit CASA

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Cumberland County will have a demolition derby Oct. 6 to benefit its work. According to program director Lee Chiomos, it costs $950 per child per year to have a CASA volunteer. In 2011, the group had 13 advocates working with 41 children in Cumberland County. Chiomos said that number could be doubled if there were enough volunteers, but funding is needed to provide the extensive training necessary. Donations of food for concessions and sponsorships are needed, as are volunteers to work at the event, which will be at the Cumberland County Community Complex at 6:30 p.m. Learn more from CASA and The Crossville Chronicle

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Documentary: Kids Tell What Not to Do in Divorce

A guide for divorcing couples called "Don't Divorce Me! Kids' Rules for Parents on Divorce," debuts next week on HBO. The half-hour documentary tells about divorce from the kids' point of view. The messages include "Tell me it's not my fault," "Don't put me in the middle," and "Don't take your anger out on me." WBIR has details

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Knox County Advocates: Education Now or Prison Later

Knox County police administrators and government representatives joined Fight the Crime: Invest in Kids to stress the importance of early childhood education to reduce crime, the News Sentinel reports. Officials, including Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols, joined the nonpartisan organization on Thursday at a Knoxville Head Start center to read to children and spread their message that paying to educate children now is better than sending them through the justice system as adults.

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Williamson Law Officers to Learn Skills for Combating Child Abduction

Police officers from Franklin, Brentwood, and the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office will be attending a four-day child abduction federal training program starting today, the Tennessean reports. The officers will join other school and legal professionals to participate in the free Department of Justice program. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation currently has the only certified Child Abduction Response Team in the state. Upon completion of the program, the Williamson County group will be the first contingent of local officials in Tennessee to be trained and develop its own protocol for responding to abduction.

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Solutions Needed for Juvenile Court Racial Disparity

Police, school and court representatives in Memphis met last week to discuss the racial disparity within juvenile court. WRCBtv reports that officials are participating in a training program intended to reduce the number of minority youth who are sent to the juvenile system at a rate 3.4 times as often as white youth.

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Charter School Coming for Juvenile Court Clients

Memphis City Schools leaders are expected to announce on Wednesday the opening of a new charter school for children in Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court custody. Court officials hope the school setting will provide consistency for children in court custody and beyond their custody. The new charter school will also provide counseling services for behavior, discipline and mental health issues, the Memphis Daily News reports.

Policies Under Review at Juvenile Center

A Rutherford County juvenile detention center's release policies are under review after a man allegedly signed for the release of his stepdaughter under false pretenses, the Daily News Journal reports. The man has been charged with criminal impersonation and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to Nashville attorney David Raybin, the center has a legal obligation to ensure only appropriate parental or legal guardians sign a child out of the facility in case the child is harmed upon release.

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Public Defender Likely to Take Role in Memphis Juvenile Court

The office of the Public Defender will likely represent minors who cannot afford legal counsel in Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court proceedings, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell told the Memphis Daily News last week, but that funding issues are still being worked out. Appearing on Behind the Headlines, Luttrell said he believes it is a necessary and beneficial change and that staffing and funding issues can be overcome.

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Balkwill is New CASA Association President

Kevin Balkwill, disciplinary counsel in the Litigation Division of the Board of Professional Responsibility, is the new president of the Tennessee CASA Association. Meagan Frazier Grosvenor steps down from the position after serving two years.

Editorial: Don’t Let Costs Block Needed Reforms

In response to reports that Shelby County Commissioners are concerned with the cost of Juvenile Court reforms, editors at the Commercial Appeal write that the “commission should have a formal voice in what is happening with the reforms.” But “at the same time…should be a voice of flexibility and cooperation, not obstructionism.” It concludes “it would be a shame if [changes] were derailed by stubbornness over…cost.”

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