|Judge Casey Moreland|
Judge Casey Moreland, one of Nashville’s 11 General Sessions judges handling mostly misdemeanor cases, is on leave for medical reasons, according to General Sessions Court Administrator Warner Hassell.
"I know Judge Moreland may be out for a little bit for medical reasons," he said. "And how long that may be I don't know. But his docket will be covered by a qualified judge."
Hassell said the General Sessions judges, who each earn $170,000 annually, held a special meeting Friday and unanimously selected Judge Gale Robinson to replace Moreland as presiding judge.
Robinson, who called the meeting, did not return a call Friday.
Moreland had served as presiding judge since last fall, and has been a judge since 1998. The presiding judge earns the same as other judges but takes on administrative duties such as setting schedules.
Earlier this week, Moreland's health was a concern. About 9 a.m. Thursday, a court staffer and a police officer went to his home to conduct a welfare check, police spokeswoman Kris Mumford said. She said the officer talked to the judge and left.
The allegations of misconduct against Moreland are documented in a Metro Nashville Police Department investigation of a woman’s suicide, and were the subject of several stories in the Nashville Scene and on WSMV Channel 4 news.
The Tennessean has been working for weeks to verify the allegations in the reports.
Nashville resident Leigh Terry, 34, committed suicide in May. Before she died, Terry told two friends she had sex with Moreland, according to a police report based on interviews with the friends. She told one friend she had sex with the judge to get out of a driving under the influence charge, the report said. The interviews documented in the police report are not done under oath.
Terry had at least one DUI and implied consent violation — meaning she refused to take a breath or blood test — case assigned to Moreland, but the trial in the case was handled by another Nashville judge, court records show.
The case happened in 2013, years before Terry, Moreland, lawyer Bryan Lewis and others went on a tumultuous trip to Alabama together.
In late April 2016, Lewis flew Terry and others in his private plane to the beach. Moreland met them there. On the trip and at dinner, Terry was picking fights with people, Lewis told police, so he booked her a hotel room and gave her money for a flight home. A week later, police reports say, the woman killed herself in her apartment with a gun Lewis had given her.
In interviews with police investigating Terry’s death, Lewis admitted he and Terry had been in a sexual relationship and he paid for the downtown apartment where the woman lived.
Moreland told the Nashville Scene he had met Terry a few times and recused himself from her DUI case. In comments to the Scene, the judge denied having a sexual relationship with Terry and said his stamp on case dispositions was merely an administrative measure.
But a judicial conduct expert consulted by The Tennessean for this story said the recusal raises questions.
“If he’s just saying he ran into the woman once or twice, I’m not sure why he recused himself,” said David Cook, a Memphis lawyer and former member of the state judicial oversight body now known as the Board of Judicial Conduct.
Terry was represented by Lewis in the DUI case. Cook said the judge’s relationship with Lewis, as well as Terry, could violate rules for judges in Tennessee.
Moreland did not respond to text messages, phone calls or an email seeking comment this week. Lewis said he could not comment for this story.
Lewis and the longtime General Sessions judge have a history, one that has led to controversy before.
Later this month, Lewis will go before the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, which disciplines lawyers, for a hearing on a complaint that involves Moreland.
A complaint was filed because of a call Lewis made to Moreland, which led to a prominent developer getting out of jail early after his arrest on domestic violence charges. The developer, David Chase, was charged with assaulting his former girlfriend a second time, after he was released. Those charges were later dropped in a controversial deal made by District Attorney General Glenn Funk.
Lewis’ disciplinary hearing is set to begin Feb. 13, after which members of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility will decide what if any penalties he should face.
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Casey Moreland to take leave from bench