Tag Archives: Craft

Court of Judiciary hearings draw complaints and a defense

An “ad hoc” committee of state legislators spent the day Tuesday hearing complaints from citizens and lawyers about discipline of Tennessee judges and a general defense of the process from Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft, the presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary.
The Tennessean did a report on the proceedings, which continue today:
Of the 334 cases that the Court of the Judiciary disposed of last year, 314, or 94 percent, were dismissed. State Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, questioned why 181 complaints were thrown out last year by the commission’s contract disciplinary counsel without a preliminary investigation.
Craft said many complaints are ridiculous. He said he doubts taxpayers would approve of the court expending resources to investigate a 60-page complaint filed by “an inmate off their psychotropic medication” or a mother complaining about the judges in her daughter’s beauty pageant.
Since 1992, 5,193 complaints have been filed with the Court of the Judiciary. Those cases have resulted in eight suspensions, 31 public censures or reprimands, 46 private actions and 36 deferred discipline agreements, which allow judges to avoid punishment if they correct their behavior. Five judges have been recommended for removal since 1978, the last in 1998.
“Just because no one has been impeached does not mean the system is not working,” Bradley County Chancellor Jerri Bryant said.
Beavers was not convinced.
“How do we know if we don’t know what kind of complaints are being filed, whether it rises to that level?” Beavers asked, referring to the work done in private.
Craft said this secrecy is important to protect judges from being smeared by baseless complaints. Craft said private disciplinary actions are used to correct minor or temporary issues, and that such resolutions might not be possible if complaints were public from the outset because judges would have nothing to lose in fighting the complaint.
Critics said judges, as public officials, don’t deserve that kind of shielding from public scrutiny.
“The Court of the Judiciary is in the whitewash business,” said John Jay Hooker, a former two-time Democratic governor nominee and critic of the Court of the Judiciary and state Supreme Court. “They ought to get a pair of overalls and a brush.”

Court of Judiciary Elects New Presiding Judge, Issues New Report

The Court of the Judiciary, which would be abolished and replaced with appointees of the House and Senate speakers under pending legislation, has a new presiding officer and declares it is offering “new detail” about its operations in an annual report.
The report for the fiscal year ended June 30 says 350 complaints about Tennessee judges were received and action was taken on 334 were closed during the period. Fifteen judges received a reprimand during the year – nine of those reprimands made public and the other six kept private.
Link to the full report HERE.
Previous post on the legislative “task force” set up to study the Court of the Judiciary is HERE.
News release on the new presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary and the report is below.

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