News

Commission Accepting Applications for Vacancy in 24th Judicial District

The Trial Court Vacancy Commission is accepting applications for a Chancery Court Judge in the 24th Judicial District, which covers Benton, Carroll, Decatur, Hardin and Henry Counties. This vacancy was created by the appointment and confirmation of Judge Carma Dennis McGee to the Court of Appeals, Western Section. Qualified applicants must be licensed attorneys who are at least 30 years of age, have been residents of the state for five years, and are residents of the 24th Judicial District. Interested applicants must complete the Trial Court Vacancy Commission Application, which is available at www.tncourts.gov, and submit it to the Administrative Office of the Courts by noon on May 29.
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Group Home for Developmentally Disabled Investigated for the 72nd Time in 5 Years

A Murfreesboro group home for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities is under investigation on allegations of abuse for the 72nd time in the past five years, the Daily News Journal reports. Employees of the Stones River Center are most recently accused of choking and assaulting a patient who became combative when asked to remove his headphones. After the altercation, the man told his mother that he was assaulted. The mother noticed unexplained injuries on the man’s body and notified authorities of the incident. Staff members involved maintain that that they did nothing wrong and that the restraint performed was approved for use on aggressive patients. 

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Amazon Under Fire for Harvesting Children's Data

Consumer advocacy groups are drawing attention to the way Amazon treats privacy regarding its Echo Dot Kids Edition, The New York Times reports. The company markets the device as an easy way for children to interact with its voice assistant software Alexa, but the groups involved allege that Amazon additionally included data-mining software in the device that violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by gathering names, home addresses, Social Security numbers and other private information. Amazon released a statement maintaining that the product is compliant with COPPA; however, more than a dozen organizations have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on the issue.

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Judge Will Allow Lawsuit Against Metro Schools to Continue

A multi-million dollar lawsuit against Metro Nashville Public Schools will go forward after a federal judge ruled there was "ample evidence" to show officials knew there was a sexual harassment problem in Nashville's public schools but failed to protect students, the Tennessean reports. The lawsuit involves four girls who claim they were pressured into sexual encounters at their high schools that were videoed without their knowledge. Metro lawyers sought summary judgement in the case - asking the judge to rule in the district's favor without a trial. In her opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger laid out how a reasonable juror could conclude that Metro officials failed to protect children before and after they were subject to unwanted sexual contact.
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Rutherford County Adult Detention Center Offers Parenting Program to Incarcerated Mothers

The Rutherford County Adult Detention Center has started a novel initiative to assist incarcerated mothers by offering parenting classes and increased visits with their children, the Daily News Journal reports. The program, incepted in January, is operated in cooperation with the Family Center, an organization that provides guidance and assistance to families coping with trauma. There are currently four moms enrolled in the program and the jail plans to offer participation to fathers in the future. Rutherford County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Chris Fly believes the resource will be beneficial to deputies as well by showing them a different side of inmates.

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Stewart County Director of Schools Facing DUI Charges

Stewart County Director of Schools Leta Jo Joiner on Tuesday was arrested on DUI charges, The Leaf Chronicle reports. Joiner, who has been the director since 2014 after serving as a principal at Dover Elementary School, is due in court on May 28.

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Shelby County Owes Suburban School Districts Millions

Shelby County’s suburban school districts are owed about $5.2 million by the county regarding funding of capital school projects, The Commercial Appeal reports. Current policy states that there be an equitable disbursement to each district; however, recent changes to the schools’ funding system when the suburban school districts seceded has created a two-year backlog on project development. Several of the schools affected were forced to find creative funding for existing projects such as bond sales, dipping into reserves — which cannot be reimbursed with county money — and completing projects piecemeal over several fiscal years.

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Heritage Law Group to Host Elder Care Expo on May 23

The Heritage Law Group will host the third annual Elder Care Expo on May 23 at Gallatin First United Methodist Church. The program provides older adults with information on healthy aging, dementia, general primary care for seniors and understanding the continuum of care. Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet local exhibitors specializing in senior concerns and enjoy complimentary breakfast and lunch. There is no charge for this event. Here is the key info:

When: Thursday, May 23, Registration at 8 a.m., CDT
Where: Gallatin First United Methodist Church, 149 West Main St., Gallatin
 

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Wife of Warner Bros. Executive Who Suffers from Alzheimers Accused of Elder Abuse

The son of former Warner Bros. chief and Alzheimers sufferer Terry Semel filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court to appoint a temporary conservator for his father, accusing his stepmother of elder abuse, The Los Angeles Times reports. That son, Eric Semel, says that his stepmother is “in serious breach of her fiduciary duties” and “causing serious harm to Terry’s health and safety,” further accusing her of telling his father’s caregivers to change the dosage of his medications, refusing to take him to routine exams, refusing to let him leave the facility and limiting his social interactions, among other claims. The elder Semel is one of the most powerful men in Hollywood and has an estate valued at several hundred million dollars.

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Congressional Budget Office Releases Report on Single-Payer Health Care System

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last week released a 30-page study exploring the pros and cons of a national single-payer health care system, The New York Times reports. An anomaly amongst other CBO reports, this analysis did not offer any cost estimates for the transition, omitting any speculation of a price tag other than the nebulous declaration that “government spending on health care would increase substantially.” Congressional Democrats have introduced several bills in an effort to lay the groundwork for such a plan and most Democratic presidential candidates also support a single-payer system. The CBO said that it may provide firm estimates for a proposal if current legislation sees progress in various committees.

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Tennessee Lawmakers Increase Annual Funding for Voluntary Home Visit Program

The General Assembly on Tuesday added an additional $1 million in annual funding for voluntary home visiting programs, the Lebanon Democrat reports. The program provides trained volunteers to assist parents with young children and offer them guidance to promote early childhood development. Proponents of the program include Save the Children Action Network, Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee, Children’s Hospital Alliance of Tennessee, Tennesseans for Quality Early Childhood Education and the Nurse-Family Partnership, among others. 

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More Than 1,400 Metro Nashville Public School Employees Call Out Sick to Protest Budget

More than 1,400 Metro Nashville Public School employees — including 1,091 teachers — called out sick today in protest of the 3 percent pay raise suggested by Mayor David Briley in his budget, saying that it’s simply not enough, The Tennessean reports. The action comes in response to Briley’s proposed $28.2 million increase in Nashville public schools' operating budget, far less than the requested $76.7 million. Most of the money asked for was to be earmarked for teacher raises. President-elect for the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association Amanda Kail said of the protest, "You have to understand that teachers haven't had a cost-of-living or a significant raise, depending on how you define significant, in 10 to 15 years … People are getting pretty fed up."

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General Assembly Passes Bill for Stiffer Penalties When Children are Harmed in Drive-By Shootings

The General Assembly this week passed a law that will provide stiffer penalties when children are harmed in drive-by shootings, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The JuJuan Latham Act — HB0002, SB0010 — is named for a 12-year-old Knoxville boy who was killed in the crossfire of a gang-related attack while attending a birthday party in 2016. The shooting also claimed the life of an unborn child when the mother fell trying to escape the situation. To date, no one has been charged for either crime.

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Lawmakers Move to Fully Fund Katie Beckett Waiver

The Tennessee Senate on Monday moved to fully fund the Katie Beckett waiver program that will provide health insurance for disabled children, even if their families do not financially qualify for Medicaid, The Tennessean reports. Initially, the Senate proposed funding at $15.6 million, just over half of the estimated cost of the program. Lawmakers expressed concerns regarding House budget funding, which proposed paying for the initiative through expanded online sales tax. The Senate now agreed to fund the full $27 million using other revenue sources.

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Some Gold Star Families See Tax Increase on Survivor Benefits

After the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, some Gold Star families saw taxes on their survivor benefits more than double, CNN reports. Under the law, children of deceased service members that were previously taxed at the parents’ rate now fall into a new tax bracket known as the “Kiddie Tax,” which has a rate of 37 percent. According to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit that assists the families of fallen soldiers, the bracket is to prevent wealthy families from hiding money in their children's names by taxing 'unearned income' and is intended as a trust and estate tax.

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Stripping Protections for Gay-Straight Alliances Raises Concerns of Outing Students

Gay-straight alliances (GSAs), clubs where students offer support to their gay peers, have been a contentious topic since their inception in 1988, most recently sparking a debate in the Canadian province of Alberta over whether parents can be notified if their child joins such a club, BBC News reports. The issue arose during the recent provincial election, with conservative party leader and incoming provincial premier Jason Kenney expressing that he will undo legal protections regarding identifying students involved in the clubs, saying "parents know better than politicians what is best for their kids.” Critics of the move argue it could unwillingly out children to parents who might not be supportive of their sexuality or identity and could endanger relationships, or even the children’s lives. In the US, GSAs have prevailed in 17 federal lawsuits under protections of the Equal Access Act, Title VIII of Public Law 98-377.

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Family Law Forum Set for May 15

At the 2019 Family Law Forum, explore the recent changes affecting the practice area, including high-profile cases, legislative updates, changes in domestic violence law and best practices in Juvenile Court. We will also have a renowned psychiatrist discussing The Scientific Basis for Parental Alienation. Don't miss this opportunity to brush up on the intangibles, develop new tools and meet lawyers of a similar focus. Earn up to five hours of general CLE and one ethics Hour. 
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School Voucher Plan May Fall Short of Tuition Costs in Urban Areas

Governor Lee’s controversial school voucher program may fall short in its goal to provide alternative options for children of failing schools, particularly those from low-income families in urban districts, the Tennessean reports. The governor’s plan would provide families with up to $7,300 to fund private school tuition, however, that sum falls well short of the average cost of attending most private schools in urban areas. Detractors of the program argue that under its current iteration, the voucher program will do little to assist these children and would only take money away from public schools that desperately need funding. Proponents of the plan say that the funding disparity will be bridged with tuition assistance from the schools, or financial assistance from a third party. According to the plan, families would be required to make less than double the federal guidelines to qualify for free lunch, approximately $54,000 annually for a family of three or $65,000 annually for a family of four.

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Tennessee General Assembly Moves to Ban Child-Like Sex Dolls

Tennessee lawmakers last week advanced legislation that would bar possession or distribution of child-like sex dolls, the Tennessean reports. The ban is part of an amendment to HB1168/SB0659, which defines the entities “a child-like sex doll is an obscene anatomically correct doll, mannequin, or robot that is intended for sexual stimulation,” making possession of the dolls a Class E felony and distribution a Class A misdemeanor. A similar ban, known as the CREEPER Act, was submitted to the U.S. House in its last session. The Tennessee ban now heads to Governor Lee for his signature.

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Juvenile Court Judge Speaks Out Against Bill Allowing Exemptions for Adoption Agencies

Nashville Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway recently spoke out against proposed adoption legislation in an opinion piece in the Tennessean. The bill would allow adoption agencies to deny placement to LGBT families based on religious grounds. She references one bill in particular — HB0836/SB1304, sponsored by Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, and Sen. Paul Rose, R-Shelby, Tipton counties — that has passed the House by a 67-22 vote. Calloway expresses concerns that this legislation could serve as a jumping point for discrimination and could have a ripple effect, affecting children who may not share common religious beliefs with agencies or those who themselves identify as LGBT. She further cites a case in Philadelphia where a federal judge upheld the city's non-discrimination policies for adoption agencies that sought denials for LGBT families and legal challenges for several states that have attempted to instill similar legislation. The Senate bill will be considered by its Judiciary Committee today.

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Study Finds Same-Sex Couples Encounter More Denials, Higher Interest Rates for Mortgages

A just-released study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that mortgage lenders are more likely to deny loans, or charge more on approved loans for same-sex couples, the Washington Post reports. National mortgage data from 1990 to 2015 shows that these couples were 73 percent more likely to be denied, and on average paid 0.2 percent more in interest and fees than heterosexual couples with comparable financial standing. Since mortgage applicants cannot be asked about sexual orientation, the study identified same-sex couples as co-applicants of the same gender in its model. The researchers involved cite the probe as evidence that sexual orientation should be added a protected class under federal lending laws.

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5 New Job Postings on TBA’s Joblink

See who is hiring in Tennessee. Recent job postings this month offer opportunities in litigation, real estate, health law and more. See full listings or post positions in your firm on TBA’s Joblink.
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Convention Hotel Deadline THIS FRIDAY

The cut off to reserve your hotel room at the discounted rate is 5 p.m. on Friday, May 17. 

The Tennessee Bar Association returns to Downtown Nashville's Renaissance Hotel for its Annual Convention June 12-15, with even better programming, exhibits and fun! Register NOW and receive:

  • Free Access to ALL 9 Hours of CLE, including the Bench Bar Program, co-sponsored by the Tennessee Judicial Conference
  • Opening welcome reception
  • Bench Bar Luncheon (featuring keynote speaker, Ken Starr)
  • Law School and General Breakfasts
  • Lawyers Luncheon (featuring special honor for Sen. Lamar Alexander)
  • Thursday night joint reception sponsored with TLAW and TABL
  • Thursday night Dinner/Dance Party featuring My So-Called Band
  • Friday night TBALL/YLD Party
  • Access to activities and programming designed for well-being including massages, contemplative space and more.
  • Access to TBA's sponsorship hall to meet with exhibitors, participate in our special TBA Wellness Corner and win prizes.
• QUESTIONS: Just email convention@tnbar.org to get help.
 
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17th Edition of the Alimony Bench Book Now Available

The17th Edition of the Alimony Bench Book is now available. Developed and produced by the TBA’s Family Law Section, the new edition includes information on how alimony is affected by the new tax law, how to argue alimony before the court, what traps you need to avoid and how to enforce your alimony awards. The new book is available to Family Law Section members as a free download. Others can purchase a copy of it through the TBA’s online bookstore. Not a member of the Family Law Section? You can join online now.

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New Study Features Data on Foster Child Placement

The Annie E. Casey Foundation — a private philanthropy that assists children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes — recently published an assessment on trends in U.S. foster care placement. The study highlights disparities among placements for African American and older children, placement data among different institutions and offers insight on how states can improve services. The examination also shows Tennessee as one in only three states or territories that saw a decline in placement, with numbers down two percent between 2007 and 2017, as compared to an average five percent increase nationally. You can view the complete article here.

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