A crisis is brewing in the federal judiciary that experts say could jeopardize fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “I’ve worked in all three branches of government and the private sector,” said U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice. “I have never been involved in any organization either public or private in which the workload has so far exceeded the resources that are allotted to do that job.”
Across-the-board budget cuts of 8 percent brought on by the sequester have meant hiring freezes, unfilled positions, training and travel expenses cut for what many call an already overworked portion of federal government.
The sequester is just the latest of decades-long trends of broadening federal courts’ responsibilities yet underfunding to carry out their congressional mandate, Mattice said.
But at stake are far more than layoffs, furloughs and heavier workloads, as important as those are to the people involved. The very heart of the American judicial system could be on the line, Mattice and others said.
…”Do I have to dismiss cases if we cannot pay for defender services?” Mattice said.
Though judges, court clerks and prosecutors all feel the pinch, public defenders have it worse.
Beth Ford is the federal community defender for the eastern district. Her office represents indigent criminal defendants in federal court. The task is a constitutionally-guranteed right of citizens accused of crimes.
The looming budget, due in September, looks like a “perfect storm” for defender services, she said.
“We will have a 23 percent decrease in proposed budget funding,” Ford said.
That means this year’s already reduced annual budget of $5.8 million would decline to $4.5 million. Ford avoided furloughs and layoffs this fiscal year by foregoing 401(k) contributions to her staff. That’s not likely next year, she said.
Other defender’s offices across the nation have already begun layoffs and furloughs, she said.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said he’d met recently with district judges and U.S. Attorney Bill Killian about the problems they’re facing.
“They are making do with less and I commend them,” Fleischmann.
…Killian is down three assistant U.S. attorneys in his criminal division. The 33 remaining attorneys resolved more than 900 cases in the district spanning from the Virgina-Tennessee border to Chattanooga.
The office handles more than 1,800 ongoing cases a year among its three branches in Greeneville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.
… The district comes in at the top of per capita caseloads and prosecutions when compared to others across the United States, he added.
His criminal division attorneys average 387 hours a year of unpaid overtime each. And the eight civil division attorneys average 295 such hours.
The Tennessee Judicial Nominating Commission on Thursday selected nominees to submit to Gov. Bill Haslam for a position on the Eastern Section of the Court of Criminal Appeals, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Solemnly arrayed in the Sheraton Read House Terrace Room, 15 applicants made statements before a panel of 15 nominating commission members, who then interviewed each candidate in turn.
Traditionally, the commission submits only one panel of three names for the governor to review. If he rejects those three applicants, members vote on a second panel of names. However, the commission will cease to exist at midnight Sunday when the legislative provisions creating it expire.
“It’s different from what we’ve done historically because the commission sunsets at the end of the month,” said J. Bartlett Quinn, a Chattanooga attorney and commission secretary.
To ensure the commission fulfills its function one last time, the commissioners submitted a second panel of names in the event that Haslam rejects the first three.
The two lists: Panel A
• Boyd Patterson, assistant district attorney in Chattanooga
• Robert Montgomery, a criminal court judge in the 2nd Judicial District, from Blountville, Tenn.
• Thomas Wright, a circuit court judge in the 3rd Judicial District in Greeneville, Tenn. Panel B
• William Jackson Brown, a Cleveland attorney
• Charles Edward Atchely Jr., a Knoxville attorney
• Samuel Lee, an attorney in Clinton, Tenn.
The Judicial Nominating Commission has chosen Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant, of Athens, along with Chancellor Thomas Frierson, of Morristown, and State Sen. Mike Faulk, of Church Hill, from among the 11 candidates for an East Tennessee seat on the state Court of Appeals.
From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:
The three names, vying for the seat of retired Judge Herschel P. Franks, will be sent to Gov. Bill Haslam for final appointment.
…Local attorney Chris Clem serves as the nominating commission’s vice chairman and helped lead the interview process, which lasted most of the day. “We had 11 extremely qualified candidates from Bristol and Johnson City down to Chattanooga,” Clem said. “It was a very hard task.”
Clem said each of the applicants received votes. Based on recent judicial nominations, Clem estimated the governor to take two to three months to select the replacement for Franks, who will officially retire on Dec. 31.
…Bryant, 50, has served as chancellor for the 10th Judicial District since 1998. The district includes Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties.
Frierson, 54, has served as chancellor for the 3rd Judicial District since 1996. The district includes Greene, Hamblen, Hancock and Hawkins counties.
Mike Faulk, 59, was elected to the Tennessee senate in 2008. He did not seek re-election this year and his term has expired. He is a private practice lawyer.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – Eleven attorneys have applied to fill the vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Appeals Eastern Section, which serves 13 judicial districts in east Tennessee. The vacancy was created by the retirement of Court of Appeals Judge Herschel P. Franks on December 31, 2012.
The Judicial Nominating Commission will hold a public meeting to interview the following candidates:
Brian K. Addington
Worker’s Compensation Specialist
State of Tennessee
Esther L. Bell
Chief Executive Office
Global Intellectual Property Asset Management, PLLC
Jerri S. Bryant
10th Judicial District
Jesse Dewayne Bunch (former state senator)
Circuit Court Magistrate
10th Judicial District
Michael A. Faulk
Solo Practice/State Senator
The Faulk Law Office
Church Hill, Tennessee
Thomas Radcliffe Frierson
3rd Judicial District
David Edward Long
Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan, PLLC
Jimmie Alice Carpenter Miller
Hunter, Smith & Davis, LLP
Hugh J. Moore, Jr.
Chambliss Bahner & Stophel, PC
Sarah Yarber Sheppeard
Sheppeard and Mynatt, PLC
Daniel P. Street
The application for each candidate is available at www.tncourts.gov.
The public hearing will be held on Friday, Nov. 16 at 9 a.m., EST. at the Sheraton Read House Hotel, 827 Broad Street, Chattanooga. During the public hearing, attorneys and members of the public may express their approval or objections to the candidates.
Following the public hearing, the commission will interview each applicant before recommending three candidates to the governor. Members of the public are invited to attend both the public hearing and the interviews.
EAST RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) — A vote by the East Ridge City Council got the Viar family’s goat.
On a 3-1 vote with no discussion, the council on Thursday killed a proposal that would have made exceptions for pigmy goats and pot-bellied pigs in the city ordinance that bans farm animals.
Jeffrey Viar told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/Qp6C4R) his family would pack up their pigmy goat named Oreo and move.
East Ridge Animal Control Supervising Officer Jonathan Cooper urged the council to pass the exception. He argued the 40-pound black and white goat isn’t much different from medium-sized dogs.
Viar said he has been looking for the past few weeks and hopes to move just across the Georgia border so he can stay close to his mother and brother in East Ridge.
Six years ago this month, Bob Corker was huddling in a limousine in Memphis with President George W. Bush and Bush adviser Karl Rover, glumly eyeing polling showing Corker losing the U.S. Senate race to Democrat Harold Ford.
Fuirther from Action Andy’s report on the U.S. Senate campaign:
“We got in this long, black limo, and we all knew I was going to lose the race, and you talk about a depressing ride,” Corker recalled last week to Nashville Chamber of Commerce members.
But instead, the Republican former Chattanooga mayor eked out a 51-48 percent victory over Ford in Tennessee’s most expensive Senate race on record — the two candidates raised more than $33 million all told, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Fast-forward to October 2012 and Corker is merrily chugging along, his re-election campaign almost on autopilot.
His Democratic opponent is Mark Clayton, 36, whose candidacy has been disavowed by state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester for what Forrester called his “extreme” views on gay issues such as same-sex marriage.
So how confident is Corker about this election?
Well, right now he’s stumping not through Tennessee but the Middle East, on a Senate fact-finding trip.
…Clayton couldn’t be happier with Corker’s decision to go out of the country.
“We’re not going to Washington, D.C., to be a special person, fly around to different countries and forget Tennessee,” Clayton said. “We couldn’t ask him to campaign against himself any better by doing what he’s doing. … He doesn’t realize he’s posting negative ads for himself.”
Declaring he is running the “quintessential grass-roots campaign,” Clayton said he is making “practically no-budget commercials” for the Web and contacting voters directly on the Internet.
In a sharp contrast to the grueling, down-to-the-wire campaign during his last run for statewide office, Sen. Bob Corker is off on a weeklong trip to the Middle East — just a month before voters decide whether to re-elect him.
“I’ve said all along that my campaign is going to be my service in the Senate,” the Republican told reporters when asked whether the trip was an indication he takes for granted a win over disavowed Democratic nominee Mark Clayton and other candidates.
In a speech before talking with reporters, Corker told the Nashville Chamber of Commerce that “I’m likely to be the lead Republican on foreign relations issues” when the Senate meets next year. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the trip to the Middle East will be aimed at gathering insight into the slaying of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya, Corker indicated.
“Maybe when I’ve returned from the Middle East I’ll have a better sense of what’s happened,” he said. “And it may just be that Libya has turned into a failed state and maybe it’s just that that the administration doesn’t want to discuss.”
Corker said security rules prevent him from giving specifics of the trip in advance, including whether Libya would be among countries visited.
The senator said he has visited 47 countries since being elected in 2006 and expects to finish reading former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s memoir while on the plane trip to the Mideast.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., made the rounds at the Republican National Convention last week, appearing at breakfasts and luncheons for the Tennessee GOP delegation before discreetly plotting his exit, according to Greg Johnson. “I’ve got some important business in the Middle East,” Corker quietly told a small group of convention-goers before taking his leave.
Corker surfaced days later in Istanbul, after visiting Turkey’s border with war-torn Syria.
“I just visited the border between Turkey and Syria and met with various groups representing the Syrian opposition and refugees,” said Corker in a statement. “Hearing the stories of what is happening every day to ordinary citizens in Syria challenges the most basic American sensibilities.”
Some 80,000 refugees have crossed over Syria’s northwest border into Turkey. More than 23,000 Syrians, including 2,200 children, have been killed in the conflict between those fighting for democracy and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, a man Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once called “a reformer.”
The newest mover and shaker in East Ridge politics likes to eat shrubbery, weighs 40 pounds and goes by the name Oreo, according to the Chattanooga TFP. The 1-year-old, black-and-white-haired pygmy goat scampered into the spotlight last week, when his owner Jeff Viar came before the East Ridge City Council and pleaded with the city not to take away the pet goat.
City code outlaws goats and other livestock in residential areas, but Oreo’s family say they did not know that until they found a citation on their front door this month.
…The city’s Facebook has been flooded with comments like “Save Oreo!!!” and “Awww let Oreo stay.” Some residents have discussed starting a petition to keep Oreo in East Ridge.
The goat has found some sympathy among city leaders, who say Oreo’s case is unusual because he’s domesticated and clean.
“Oreo is cute, no question about it. I’m actually kind of a fan of goats,” said East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble, who has posted photos and “notes from Oreo” to the city’s Facebook page. “But we have to enforce the ordinance or come up with an alternative.”
Gobble said the city’s animal control officer cited the family after receiving several anonymous complaints about the goat.
The Viars have had Oreo for a year — since he was just a spindly-legged kid. They got him from a family friend in Chickamauga, Ga., after their two children begged for a goat.
“They just didn’t want a dog. They wanted a different kind of animal,” Samantha Viar said.
…East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert said he can relate.
“I have young children; I can imagine how devastated they would be over losing a pet,” said Lambert. “If we can create a narrow exception in the law for Oreo and similar animals, certainly I’d be willing to look at that,”
…Gobble said he will ask the council for a 120-day moratorium on enforcing the anti-Oreo ordinance until the Hamilton County Regional Agency can look at the issue and provide some suggested course of action.
The council plans to continue the discussion at next month’s council meeting, set for Sept. 13.
About 25 East Ridge city employees attended a reception for 3rd District Congressional candidate Scottie Mayfield during working hours and the city spent about $80 on providing snacks at the gathering, reports the Chattanooga TFP. It may have been just an hour of cookies and punch, but a recent reception sponsored by East Ridge city officials for a congressional candidate is drawing questions about how local taxpayer money may be used.
City Manager Tim Gobble insisted that the reception was not meant to be an endorsement and was an attempt to be “hospitable,” but other city leaders have said it was an inappropriate use of city funds.
“It just looks bad,” said Councilman Jim Bethune, who attended the event but said flatly he is not a Mayfield supporter. “I don’t think he meant it as an endorsement, but you start to think about whether this is really our place, as a city, to do that.”
The event stemmed from conversations Gobble said he had with Mayfield several weeks ago, when the city manager invited the candidate to stop by City Hall to meet employees. Other local candidates have stopped by City Hall to glad-hand with residents, but none have been afforded a formal reception.