Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Judicial Discipline: "A Biased and Ineffective System"

You could call it "the black wall."

Like the well-known code called "the blue wall" that prevents police officers from ratting on one another, Tennessee's system to discipline judges is set up to protect those who clad themselves in dark robes and pound gavels. It is not set up to protect those who go before them seeking justice.

There were 344 complaints filed against Tennessee justices in 2009. Only one resulted in public reprimand. That's akin to the system shrugging it off with a "my bad."

It looks like Tennessee lawmakers are about to attempt deep reform, and that's excellent.

Judges in Tennessee are allegedly disciplined if they violate the Judicial Canon of Ethics by the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary. It is made up of 16 people, 10 of whom are appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court judges. Judges pick the people who will judge them. Three members are selected by the Tennessee Bar Association. Lawyers asked to discipline the judge in whose courts they practice. The remaining three are political appointments.

It's a biased and ineffective system. The Court of the Judiciary dismisses more than 90 percent of the complaints filed against judges. Until a letter goes out reprimanding a judge — and that's about all that ever happens — the entire process is kept completely secret. Even if a judge gets a letter, it can prove meaningless. That's the case with Davidson County General Sessions Judge Gloria Dumas, nailed for her persistent tardiness.

Even though another judge certified she'd cleaned up her act for 90 days, Tennessean reporter Brandon Gee went to court to check. Turns out she was repeatedly late, allowing a courtroom full of people — many forced to take time off work — to sit and wait on her. The judge monitoring her never physically went to see if she was on the bench.

That's on the mild side. Imagine a truly rogue judge who has a genuine conflict of interest and shouldn't hear your case but won't step down. If you are brave enough to file a complaint, it will probably be dismissed. You're unlikely to ever know what happened.

Even in the rare case when the court of judiciary suspends a judge, the judge still gets full pay. Oh, please don't throw me in the briar patch.

Full Article and Source:
Gail Kerr: Special Court Aims to Protect, Not Discipline, Judges

1 comment:

eye said...

I have find the similar situation in Nebraska although a legislator did require that our reprimands aka "slaps on the wrist" be public.

I also found that the commission has an "investigator" who is unknown to us but they do the initial investigation and give their "findings" to the commission. Obviously if said investigator isn't thorough the complaint will go nowhere. Not too long ago we had a judge asking for free tickets and receiving them to local games, concerts. The guy got in trouble for giving him the tickets but our commission said the judge didn't do anything wrong.


If you are interested see "Judicial Complaints" . Our Chief Justice stated that stuff never happens...we posted all the complaints we could find. Notice how long it took for anybody IN the system to file a complaint!