News

January TBJ Includes 'War Stories,' Family Law, Pro Bono Heroes

Former TBA President Landis Turner is interviewed in this issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal, in which he recounts helping pass the bill that would create Public Defender offices statewide, a bill that lead to the availability of liquor-by-the-drink, and a few other "war stories" from early practice. Let's face it, you just don't want to miss this issue -- which showcases Pro Bono Heroes, and also includes ethics in family law mediation, by Marlene Eskind Moses and Ben Russ, and a book review by Jason R. Smith.
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Lawmakers Intend to Address Juvenile Sentencing Reform

The recent decision to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown has lawmakers discussing Tennessee’s treatment of juvenile defendants and sentencing reform, The Commercial Appeal reports. Currently, juveniles in the state convicted of first-degree murder must serve a mandatory 51 years behind bars, the same as their adult counterparts. This is in stark contrast to many states which have reduced sentencing for adolescents on similar charges, with almost half doing away with life sentences for juvenile offenders altogether. A bill supported by Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), would give juveniles sentenced to life in prison a chance at parole after serving 20 years, and require the parole board to consider youth as a factor when making its decision. The measure, as proposed, would not affect those already sentenced. 

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Sexual Assault of Aging Victim Draws Attention to Elder Abuse

After reporting on the sexual assault of an 80-year-old woman in an unnamed Memphis nursing facility, WREG is providing information on signs and reporting of elder abuse. According to Sandy Bromley with the Shelby County Crime Victims Center and Rape Crisis Center, sexual assaults involving seniors are rare, however, family members should always be aware of suspicious injuries, bruises or unexplained maladies like urinary tract infections. The victim in this most recent case was taken to Methodist Hospital by family members after they noticed changes in her behavior, where the hospital performed a rape assessment and determined that she had been sexually assaulted. No charges have yet been filed regarding the incident.

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AG Slatery Defends Participation in ACA Lawsuit

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is defending his participation in the lawsuit that led to a federal judge to rule the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as unconstitutional, saying “the Commerce Clause of our Constitution that, according to the court, prevents Congress from compelling Tennesseans to buy insurance, especially if they can't afford it or don't want it,” The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor last December ruled in favor of the 19 Republican state attorneys general, who argued that the law was unconstitutional after the 2017 Tax Act eliminated penalties for adults without health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously upheld the mandate, saying it was constitutional because it fell under Congress's taxing power. State Democrats have blasted the ruling, warning of consequences for the 1.7 million Tennesseans with pre-existing health conditions and the quarter of a million people in the state who obtain their insurance coverage through the ACA.

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Shelby Commission to Consider Money for New Juvenile Detention Center

At their first committee sessions of the new year on Jan. 9, Shelby County commissioners will discuss $25 million for a new Juvenile Court detention center to be run by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, The Daily Memphian reports. The meeting will include discussions beyond the building itself, as some commissioners still want some oversight of Juvenile Court to replace six years of U.S. Justice Department oversight that ended in October.
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Lt. Gov. McNally Wants to Eliminate Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Crimes

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said this week he would support legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations on felony child sex abuse crimes in Tennessee, The Tennessean reports. He also said he would back a temporary window for reviving expired civil claims related to child sex abuse cases. Support on such measures from the high-ranking lawmaker bolsters efforts underway to give victims more time to come forward and hold their abusers accountable. It also could have financial implications if offenders and their organizations, like the Catholic Church, are found civilly liable for past actions. 
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Council on Aging Adds 2 Tennessee Benefits Enrollment Centers

The National Council on Aging has added 25 organizations to its Benefits Enrollment Centers (BECs), including two new locations in Tennessee, according to a press release on its website. The Blount County Community Action Agency in Maryville and the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee have joined the network of enrollment centers, which aid low-income Medicare beneficiaries in seeking access to programs that assist with payments for health care, prescriptions, food and utilities, among other services. The organizations will receive grants to create or expand these programs. 

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Woman Draws Attention to Guardianship Practices

A New York woman deemed incompetent after Adult Protective Services (APS) forcefully entered her apartment is bringing attention to national guardianship practices, The New York Times reports. Phyllis Funke — who is a former freelance journalist for The Times — holds a master’s degree from Columbia University, a pilot license and what she estimates as several hundred thousand dollars in investments, however, an APS caseworker and city psychiatrist determined that she was incapable of making her own decisions after she did not respond to court motions to evict her for hoarding, and determining she was malnourished and dehydrated. The city psychiatrist testified that she suffered from “unspecified bipolar and related disorder, hoarding disorder and unspecified personality disorder,” therefore was unable to manage her personal needs and property, or to understand the consequences of her hoarding. Her own psychiatrist, however, maintains that she is stable and “perfectly competent to handle all her affairs.”  Since being placed under guardianship, Funke has been billed $16,800 by her court-appointed lawyer; $3,437 by a court evaluator and $5,000 by her first temporary guardian. “I feel as if I have absolutely no rights at all in the country in which I was born, and therefore in the rest of the world,” said Funke. “It’s worse than incarceration. At least in prison, you have rights.”

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Law Tech Blast: Feb. 15, 2019

Discover the newest technology for your law practice and law office at this year's Law Tech Blast on Feb. 15! This is a free program available to all practicing lawyers. The flexible open house format allows you to create your own schedule. You can attend CLE sessions, enter to win prizes, network with attendees, visit with sponsors and interact with speakers. Take as many or as few CLE hours as you need. Only those seeking to be awarded CLE Credit will be charged. The registration desk will be open all day, so you can come and go for the hours you need when it is convenient for you. Attendees can earn up to 6.5 hours of Dual CLE credit.

FREE SIGN UP: Sign up now so we know you are coming.

  • You will only pay for the hours you wish to be awarded CLE credit.
  • Programming will be available throughout the day with dual credit hours available.
  • The registration desk will also be open all day.
CLE TOPICS:
  • GDPR, Cloud and Technological Competency
  • The Bill and Phil Tech Show
  • Best Practices: Information Security for Firms
  • Judicial Panel: Technology in the Courtroom
  • Preparing for eDiscovery Before Litigation 

ATTEND TO WIN: Attendees will have a chance to win prizes, including a hot, new tech product. The tech prize drawing will be held at the 10:30 a.m. break. Must be present to win.

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Give the Gift of TBA Membership

Give yourself (or a friend) the gift that keeps giving — one-year of unlimited access to professional development opportunities and a number of programs and services designed to help you become a better practitioner. Founded in 1881, the Tennessee Bar Association is dedicated to enhancing fellowship among members of the state's legal community. Oh, and did we mention some of the benefits? Earn three pre-paid credits to use on any live or online course featured in the 12-days of CLE. Join now!

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Woman Files Lawsuit Against Rutherford County Regarding Guilty Plea in Child Abuse Case

A woman who pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse in 2007 is suing the Murfreesboro Police Department and Rutherford County, claiming the plea was made under duress, The Daily News Journal reports. Catherin Funk-Vaughn filed the pro se lawsuit in federal court on Nov. 28, asking for $9.9 million, alleging she thought that she was pleading to a diversion charge — not a guilty plea — and that her attorney told her the only way she would see her children again was if she pleaded guilty. She also says her name was misspelled as “Catherine” on court documents, making them void and claims violations against several of her constitutional rights. Funk-Vaughn has also filed a separate suit against the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

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Woman Files Suit Against Murfreesboro, Rutherford County 10 Years After Guilty Plea

A woman who pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse more than 10 years ago has filed a lawsuit against the Murfreesboro Police Department and Rutherford County claiming that she was forced to take a plea deal, The Daily News Journal reports. Catherin Funk-Vaughn, who pleaded guilty to felony aggravated child abuse and neglect in 2007, filed a federal lawsuit on Nov. 28 seeking $9.9 million. Her 2007 plea agreement stated she had to serve three years of diversion rather than serving time in jail, which involved joining a rehabilitation program. She also lost rights to her children after a doctor said she was incompetent to raise her children due to her narcissistic personality disorder.
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Elder Law Basics Programming Now Available Online

Several videos from this year’s Elder Law Basics program are now available to purchase on the Tennessee Bar Association website. Topics for these videos include:
 
These online programs offer an opportunity for you to brush up on essential issues related to the practice while allowing the flexibility to work around your busy schedule in the last-minute rush for CLE credit. You can view other upcoming programs and online video options on our CLE webpage.
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Le Bonheur President and CEO Announces Retirement

President and CEO of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital Meri Armour will be retiring from the position after more than a decade of leading the hospital, which has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a Best Children's Hospital nationwide, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Armour oversaw Le Bonheur as it grew into a national institution, making strides to improve its medical care, facilities and fundraising efforts. She was also a key figure in the hospital opening a 225-bed facility in the Memphis Medical District. 

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Tennessee Supreme Court Adopts Changes to Rule 22

The Tennessee Supreme Court today approved amendments to Rule 22, which cover the appointment of magistrates in child support cases. The court filed an order soliciting public comments on the proposed amendments on Oct. 18. It received no written comments.

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Best Twitter Accounts for Legal Issues

Looking for some great social media follows? The American Bar Association is out with its list of best legal Twitter accounts of 2018. Included for the first time this year is @inspiredcat, the account of Vanderbilt Law School professor Cat Moon. Members can also always keep up locally with the TBA at our Twitter accounts, @TennesseeBar, @TennBarJournal or @TBAYLD.

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Next Month: Estate Planning & Probate Forum 2019

This year’s Estate Planning & Probate Forum to be held at the Embassy Suite Cool Springs on Feb. 22. The annual staple allows you to learn from seasoned practitioners and top players in the field while being a beneficiary of necessary CLE credits. Topics for the forum will include:
 
  • Income tax planning for estates
  • Medicaid protection
  • Charitable planning
  • Legislative updates
  • Ethics in estate planning
  • A Clerk and Master’s panel
  • And more
A networking event will follow the program. Don’t sleep, missing out is irrevocable.
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December CLE in 6 Cities

TBA offers CLE in six locations during December. See offerings in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, Johnson City and Jackson. Find last-minute by the hour through Dec. 31 or take any of the TBA's online CLE packages.
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Mark Your Calendars!

Juvenile and Children's Law Forum Set For Dec. 6

Make plans to join us today! Register here!

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Adoption Law Updates Online CLE Available

Need a few CLE credits? Want to learn more about the new Adoption Laws? We have you covered with our online video series! This program focuses on changes to adoption law including modifications to Tennessee’s Adoption code and the First in Adoption Act. To learn more or sign up click here.

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Child Support Magistrate Training Session Held in Knoxville

Child support magistrates from throughout the state recently gathered in Knoxville for an annual training session organized by the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Tennessee Department of Human Services. The session dealt specifically with updates and issues surrounding cases being enforced under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Attending magistrates heard from DHS officials about the latest developments in child support policies and had the opportunity to dialogue with those officials and each other about issues they encounter in the course of their work. Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee also spoke at the event, kicking the day off and introducing visiting guest speakers.
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Shelby Commission Votes No Confidence in DOJ Decision to End Juvenile Court Oversight

The Shelby County Commission has approved a resolution proclaiming a vote of no confidence in the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to end federal oversight of Shelby County Juvenile Court, Daily Memphian reports. Commission Chair Van Turner, who sponsored the resolution that was approved Monday, said there is little chance the DOJ will change its mind but it's important for the County Commission’s voice to be heard on the issue. Commissioners in favor of the resolution pointed out the agreement was not complete at the time the DOJ ended the memorandum of understanding that all parties had originally agreed to, with at least 20 provisions not fully resolved.
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AOC Nets Federal Funds to Establish Community Court for Young Offenders

Tennessee’s Administrative Office of the Courts recently received $200,000 in federal money to establish a new community court serving offenders in early adulthood. The C.A.R.E. (Creating Avenues for Restoration & Empowerment) court will be created using funds that the AOC, on behalf of the General Sessions Music City Community Court, received after being named one of five 2018 Community Court Grant Program winners. In addition to funding, the AOC will also receive technical assistance from the Center for Court Innovation to implement the C.A.R.E. court, which serves offenders aged 18 to 26. While the C.A.R.E. court will be the first of its kind in Nashville, national research has shown that the community court model can reduce crime and substance use, increase services to victims, reduce unnecessary jail time, save money and improve public confidence in justice.
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Juvenile Justice Reform Act on Tap for TBA Forum

Mark your calendars for Dec. 6 and join your colleagues at the Tennessee Bar Center for this year’s Juvenile Law Forum, covering hot topics in the field such as the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, new adoption laws and updates in case law. There will also be a session on ethics and professionalism. Earn up to 5.5 general credits and 1 dual credit.
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