Attorneys still have the ability to contact inmates via Skype, Zoom, Face-time, or other video chats during the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, shut-ins at nursing homes can be contacted by attorneys because the legal profession is deemed an “essential service” by state and federal governments. Most of these contacts are actually easier for the attorney than a face-to-face visit because the attorney does not have to leave their office. The attorney instead merely sets up a video visit time with the nursing home, jail or prison and then uses a laptop computer or cell phone for the visit, telling the nursing home, jail or prison how long the visit is expected to take. For the inmates, these visits are confidential, so the attorney/client privilege is not violated. For shut-ins, it depends on the circumstances of the shut-in’s health or understanding. Recently, I’ve had incarcerated clients ask that I check on family members they have not spoken to recently because of COVID-19. I simply call the loved one, then send a note to the client on how the loved one is doing. Most attorneys will offer a similar courtesy, if asked. If you need an attorney, and your case is on appeal anywhere in Tennessee, or your civil or criminal case is in the Montgomery County, Tennessee area, call attorney Gregory D. Smith at 931/647-1299.

The COVID-19 pandemic may temporarily delay a lawsuit, but it does not stop a lawsuit. While courts may be closed for all but extraordinary or emergency circumstances, cases can still be filed, discovery continues, and mediation occurs. Be sure to check with your attorney because time deadlines may be running. Legal representation is one of the listed “essential services” that continue, even though most businesses are closed, so your attorney should be available, either in person, via Skype, or by phone. On April 22, 2020, I have the honor speaking to approximately 800 judges from across the U.S. (and in several other countries) about the judge’s ethical duty to move cases along during a pandemic as part of a National Judicial College country-wide podcast. If you wish to talk with an attorney about your case in the Montgomery County, Tennessee area, and you have not already retained a lawyer, call attorney Gregory D. Smith at 931/647-1299. #covid19 #lawyer #lawyers

A juvenile cases is a civil, not criminal proceeding. For practical purposes, the ramifications of a juvenile court adjudication of delinquency or unruly will not appear much different from an adult criminal conviction in the Minor’s immediate perception. Both carry potential probation and possible incarceration. Both can be a hinderance for future career decisions. The main difference is that a juvenile finding of delinquency or unruly is civil in nature, not criminal. Therefore, on job applications, if the application asks “Have you been convicted of a crime?” The answer is “No.” Since a juvenile case is not criminal in nature, a minor cannot be convicted of a crime in juvenile court. On the other hand, it is possible to transfer a juvenile proceeding to adult criminal court pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 37-1-134. If a transfer is ordered, the minor, (age 17 years 364 days or less), suddenly becomes an adult for trial purposes. This procedure is usually reserved for major crimes, such as murder or armed robbery, or for the minor who just won’t quit coming before the juvenile court. A transfer to adult court is generally considered a “last ditch option.” While a juvenile proceeding is designed to rehabilitate the misguided minor, an adult criminal proceeding is designed to protect society and punish the criminal offender. Simply put, the whole concept of what a court is suppose to do with the defendant changes drastically from juvenile court to adult criminal court.

When a juvenile is facing court proceedings, especially significant criminal charges, one should have an experienced advocate on their side. Attorney Greg Smith is a former juvenile court referee, (a type of judge), and he wrote a reference book on Tennessee juvenile law that is used throughout Tennessee. If you have a case in Montgomery County, Tennessee or the surrounding area, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 for a free consultation. Any juvenile court delinquency finding can see a minor in juvenile detention until their 19th birthday. A transferred juvenile case that is tried in adult court can carry significantly more time in jail or prison. Do not under-estimate the importance of legal representation in juvenile court.

Presenting an appeal is different from presenting a trial because an appellate record is a “closed record.” This means the appellate record is similar to a photograph. The trial is real-time and moving. The appellate record is a snapshot of a moment of that flowing concept of real-time. At trial, a party can present live evidence, explain their intent, and answer follow-up questions. On appeal, just like a photograph, time stops and time does not change an answer given. No new evidence is offered. Nobody gets to explain their answer after the trial ends. One must look to the photograph taken, (the appellate record), to determine the contents of the photograph or “record.” While one may wish to add or subtract from the photograph; the photograph (record) is already taken, developed, printed, and remains as taken. Appellate records usually include trial transcripts, pleadings and arguments of counsel. One must show, just reviewing what is in the appellate record, that the trial court committed reversible error.

To show “reversible error,” one must show a mistake was made at trial, and that mistake adversely impacted on the outcome of the case. Error, without impact, is called “harmless error” and will not get a decision overturned. The Appellant, (the person appealing), must show both error and adverse impact for appellate relief. This task is very different from the tactics used by lawyers at trial. One needs an experienced appellate attorney for this function. Greg Smith has presented hundreds of appeals over thirty years. If you wish to discuss your appeal, and you have a Tennessee, federal or military appeals case, you may call The Law Office of Gregory D. Smith at 931/647-1299. Initial consultations are free.

The first, and most important point, before one changes legal counsel, is to carefully consider if that move is actually in your best interest? Is the change being done out of anger, panic, or logic? No attorney can promise an outcome in court. The attorney you currently have knows your case, has been paid, and previously earned your trust. Can your concern be eased by simply sitting down with the attorney and discussing your concern? That may be worth a try before paying another attorney a second retainer to take over your case or proceeding “pro se.” (Latin for “on your own”). Likewise, an appeal is usually considered a separate case, so once a case is completed, you may seek other counsel for an appeal.

If you find that an attorney change is necessary, there are two ways to do it. First, you can personally tell your attorney “You’re Fired.” That option is self-explanatory. Second, you can hire another attorney, and then the newly retained attorney contacts the previous attorney for a “substitution of counsel.” These two procedures are fairly common and won’t be as stressful or offensive to the original attorney as one might expect. Changing counsel does not automatically waive any outstanding attorney fee owed to the original attorney or obligate new counsel to negotiate a return of fee from the original counsel. Most of the time, the new attorney stays out of that discussion.

In the case of appointed counsel, simply hiring an attorney usually ends an appointed attorney’s duty to represent a client. If an indigent criminal court defendant wants to fire their appointed counsel, but can’t afford to hire counsel, the defendant can instruct appointed counsel to file a motion to withdraw or send the court clerk a pro se motion or letter asking for a different attorney and stating why the change in counsel is necessary. The Court is not required to give new counsel for indigents simply because a defendant does not like the appointed attorney. Indigents do not get to pick who a Court appoints as the defendant’s attorney. That being said, courts frequently grant a first request for a different appointed attorney filed by an indigent defendant. Repeated requests for new appointed counsel are less frequently granted.

If you are in Tennessee and have questions about rules regarding changing attorneys, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit www.gsmithlawfirm.com. Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith in the November, 2019 ABA Journal,(the national magazine of the American Bar Association), at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/tennessee-attorney-greg-smith .

For many criminal matters, you have the right to have a trial. During your trial, you present factual evidence to refute your guilt. You may also question favorable witnesses and cross-examine unfavorable ones. If you do not like the outcome of your case and have important legal topics to address, you can probably file an appeal.

 In Tennessee, there are four different types of courts, including two trial courts and two appellate courts. If you need to appeal a criminal conviction, you likely want to ask an appellate court to consider your case. Eventually, you may be able to appeal your matter to the Tennessee Supreme Court. You should know, though, that appeals are vastly different from trials.

Tennessee criminal trials

 If prosecutors bring criminal charges against you, you are likely to have an opportunity to plead guilty. If you choose to assert your innocence, you may proceed to a criminal trial. In Tennessee, you may have either a jury trial or a judge one, called a bench trial. Before the trial starts, you have an opportunity to uncover facts through the discovery process. Then, you present factual evidence that proves you are innocent. The prosecutor, of course, attempts to prove your guilt.

Tennessee appellate trials

 If a judge or jury convicts you of a crime, you may have an opportunity to file an appeal. The appellate process, though, is not a rehashing of your initial trial. That is, you typically may not present new facts, examine witnesses or otherwise retry the case. Instead, you argue that there was some type of legal error during the trial that negatively affected the outcome of the case. Alternatively, you may argue that the trial court violated your rights in some way.

As you can see, criminal trials and appeals have some important differences. As such, the attorney who handled your trial may not have the skill set to appeal your case successfully. By understanding the fundamental differences between criminal trials and appeals, you can better plan for choosing the right legal counsel for your case.

If you are in Tennessee, federal appeals courts or the military appeals courts and have questions about rules regarding appeals, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit www.gsmithlawfirm.com. Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith and his work in Federal Indian Law appeals in the November, 2019 ABA Journal, (the national magazine of the American Bar Association), at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/tennessee-attorney-greg-smith .

Any time you are stopped by Tennessee law enforcement officials, it is easy to become stressed and say or do things that are not helpful to your situation. One way to avoid this is to know your rights before the police show up at your door. If you are accused of a crime, the American Civil Liberties Union defines the rights you have that are intended to protect you from any wrongdoing by police.

If the police show up at your door, you do not want to invite them into your house. You can ask them to provide identification or speak to them through the door. The only time you must let them into your house is if a judicial officer signed a warrant that lists your home to be searched. If you are the subject of an arrest warrant or your name is on the document, they may also enter your home.

Just because an officer has a warrant, this does not mean that you must immediately open the door. You can ask them to either hold it up to your window or slide it under the door so you can examine it before letting the officers in. While an arrest warrant may have your name on it, a search warrant is different in that the officers can enter your house but can only search for the items and areas listed on the warrant.

Even when officers enter your home with a valid arrest or search warrant, you still have the right to remain silent. You do not have to speak to the officers or answer any of their questions while they conduct the search. Keep track of what they take, where they go and what they do as you silently observe them and wait for your chance to contact an attorney.

This is for educational purposes and is should not be interpreted as legal advice.

If you are in Tennessee and have questions about rules regarding criminal law, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit www.gsmithlawfirm.com. Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith in the November, 2019 ABA Journal, (the national magazine of the American Bar Association), at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/tennessee-attorney-greg-smith.

The divorce process is never easy. Even if ending your marriage is a mutual decision, it can be full of turmoil and confusion. The thought of courtroom battles may fill you with dread. But there is an alternative to the traditional litigation – mediation. We at The Law Office of Gregory D. Smith offer mediation services because we understand that litigation is not the best method for everyone. Our team helps many couples get divorced amicably and quickly.

Contrary to popular beliefs and portrayals of divorce, it does not need to deplete your emotional and financial resources. yours does not need to be full of anger and fear. Psychology Today points out that mediation is a collaborative and cost-effective alternative to adversarial litigation. Mediating your divorce allows you to negotiate an agreement instead of lashing out at one another.

Mediation is best if you and your spouse are transparent and respectful. The process provides both of you with equal bargaining strength. In mediation, a neutral third party guides you through the dispute resolution process until you both come to an agreement about the issues in your divorce. By maintaining civility and common goals, mediation often eases the psychological pain and monetary expenses of divorce.

The mediation process gives you a peaceful structure to communicate, clarity about the law and a chance to voice your concerns. Just because you are ending your marriage does not necessarily mean you and your spouse cannot work together to make the process easier on yourselves. You can find out more about divorce mediation on our web page.

If you are in Tennessee and have questions about rules regarding mediation, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit www.gsmithlawfirm.com. Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith in the November, 2019 ABA Journal, (the national magazine of the American Bar Association), athttp://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/tennessee-attorney-greg-smith.

Divorce is a difficult time for anybody, but if there is a special-needs child in the balance the stakes are much higher and things can become much more complex. In the event that you are going through a divorce with a child who has special needs in Tennessee, you likely have concerns that other parents will not need to consider.

 According to the Special Needs Alliance, coming up with a solid parenting plan and how the child’s transition to adulthood will look is absolutely paramount. In the event that the divorce between you and your soon-to-be ex-partner is not amicable, then adequate legal representation is needed for both sides. It is important to be aware that child support calculators tend to not take the expenses related to a special-needs child into consideration. Additionally, child support may be counted against governmental benefits like Medicare and SSI, so both you and your ex-partner must keep this in mind.

 This is particularly salient in the event that your child will require long-term care. In the majority of divorces, child support ends when the child reaches the age of majority or when he or she graduates university. With many special-needs children, the parents must face the reality of managing a lifelong situation. It is important for both parents to understand if the child will move into a care facility upon the age of majority or if one or both parents are committed to lifelong maintenance.

 It is also important for both parties to draw up living wills and estate plans that provide provisions for the care of the child in the event of the death of one or both parents.

If you are in Tennessee and have questions about rules regarding divorce and custody, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit www.gsmithlawfirm.com. Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith in the November, 2019 ABA Journal,(the national magazine of the American Bar Association), athttp://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/tennessee-attorney-greg-smith.

Tennessee is the first state to legislate anti-bullying at work, and an employer accused of abusive conduct towards its employees may face a civil action. If you are a business owner, it may be in your best interests to become familiar with a recent change made to the Healthy Workplace Act, which now requires private employers to adopt and address policies to prevent bullying. The Act, which was first passed in 2014, initially only required public sector employers, such as local, state and county governments, to comply. The Law Office of Gregory D. Smith is committed to bringing satisfactory results to both private and public sector employer and employee workplace issues.

The provisions of the updated Healthy Workplace Act are designed to prevent abusive conduct within a more inclusive range of employers. Abusive workplace conduct may include sabotage, verbal or physical actions. Governor Bill Lee’s amendment requiring private companies to also adopt and implement anti-bullying workplace guidelines went into effect on April 23, 2019.

If you are an employee of a company in Tennessee, you may wish to request a copy of your employer’s policy document for promoting a healthy work environment. Some courses of action employers may take to recognize and resolve abusive workplace conduct might include:

  • Training employees and supervisors to recognize what constitutes respectful conduct versus that which is bullying or abusive
  • Rewarding employee behaviors that are positive while addressing those that are considered negative
  • Adopting anti-retaliation policies and providing a reliable process for employees to report complaints, improper behavior or abusive conduct

Employer-employee conflicts may often be resolved quickly through an effective communication channel. When an issue arises without a means for discussing the problem, however, it may fester and lead to negative performance or it may possibly result in a civil action. Visit my page on civil law to learn more about employee rights in the workplace.

If you are in Tennessee and have questions about rules regarding employment law, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit www.gsmithlawfirm.com. Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith in the November, 2019 ABA Journal, (the national magazine of the American Bar Association), athttp://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/tennessee-attorney-greg-smith.