» Subscribe Today!
The Power of Information
Home
The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition
X
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Article
VOL. 35 | NO. 37 | Friday, September 16, 2011




Lawmakers propose changes to judiciary court

Print | Front Page | Email this story

NASHVILLE (AP) — State lawmakers said Wednesday they plan to move forward with proposed changes to the commission that disciplines Tennessee judges.

Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet led two hearings this week concerning the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.

A panel of senators conducted a similar review last year with members agreeing that they would like to consider legislation to make more of the court's work public, to alter how its members are appointed and to increase the number and severity of its disciplinary options.

Beavers, also chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had proposed legislation that would have reduced the court's membership to 12 people. Under the proposal, only five of the body's members would be judges and all members would be appointed by the speakers of the House and Senate. However, no reforms of the court passed last legislative session.

Beavers reintroduced that legislation on Wednesday and told reporters after the hearing that there's more work to be done on it, but she hopes to convince other lawmakers that changes need to be made to the judiciary court.

"Hopefully we can make our members understand from these hearings ... that it's serious and not just take the word of their hometown judges that we don't have a problem, when there's definitely a problem," she said.

One issue being considered is whether or not to make reprimands of judges public. Beavers said her bill allowed privacy, but she's "beginning to lean" the other way after all the complaints she has received.

She said one testimony that she found particularly disturbing Wednesday was from a woman who said after filing a complaint with the judiciary court, she went to the grand jury with her case against a particular judge, but was not allowed to go before the grand jury.

"Instead, they produced a letter where the court of the judiciary had dismissed her complaint," Beavers said. "And she had not even received notice. If these are so confidential, how did somebody else get their hands on them?"

The woman, Karen Caldwell, told The Associated Press after her testimony that she was treated unfairly and wants to see something done.

"Judges have a god-like persona," Caldwell said. "They know if you file a complaint against them, it's going to go in front of their judge friends."

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft, the judiciary court's presiding judge, said the testimonies aren't being ignored and that changes are being made, particularly in the case of transparency.

He acknowledged the court could have been more transparent in the past, and is now studying ways to be open about the types of cases it handles and the kinds of cases that have to be dismissed.

"People have no idea what we do, and so we need to do a better job of letting people know," Craft said.

He said one recent change was to put more detail in the court's annual report, which was released last month.

According to the report, a total of 359 complaints were filed with the court last year. Of the 334 cases that were disposed of last year, 314, or 94 percent, were dismissed.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & RSS:
Sign-Up For Our FREE email edition
Get the news first with our free weekly email
Name
Email  
TNLedger.com Knoxville Editon
RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 0 0
MORTGAGES 0 0 0
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 0 0 0
BANKRUPTCIES 0 0 0
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 0 0
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0