By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Nashville judge on Friday said that after seeing case files of children who were killed as a result of abuse and neglect, it’s clear that some social workers with the state Department of Children’s Services should have done more to protect them and questioned whether the young victims would ever get justice.
“There have been balls dropped by several individuals,” Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy said at a hearing where she released 42 records of cases of children who died or nearly died after being under the supervision of DCS at some point earlier. In all, the documents totaled about 1,600 pages. An attorney for media organizations that sought the information was in the process of making copies for each outlet, so the files were not immediately available. But the judge said they were difficult to read.
“If you have children it just gets to you,” she said of the records. The judge did not describe any of the circumstances in the files that she said disturbed her.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state Department of Children’s Services will appeal a Nashville judge’s ruling ordering the agency to release records at 50-cents per page.
A group of media organizations including The Tennessean and The Associated Press is suing the agency for the records of children DCS was supposed to be helping who later died or nearly died.
DCS originally said it would cost the media more than $55,000 for about 200 records.
Last month, Chancellor Carol McCoy ordered the expedited release of 50 records. She said the agency cannot charge for redacting personal information from the records.
The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/11POgPw) DCS on Friday said it will appeal. The agency wants to charge almost $9,000 for 42 records. DCS says it is unable to provide records for the other eight children.
By Travis Lollar, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge overseeing changes at the state Department of Children’s Services expressed cautious optimism Monday that the agency’s new leadership can resolve some of its problems.
The tone of the hearing marked a decided change from a January hearing where U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell expressed frustration that the agency seemed to be moving backward and concern for the safety of the children in its care.
That hearing took place during a public outcry over the agency’s inability to say how many of the children it had tried to help had died or nearly died over the past two years.
DCS Commissioner Kate O’Day resigned a few days later and was replaced by Interim Commissioner Jim Henry, who was in the courtroom Monday.
Campbell said that Henry “seems to have developed a new tone at the agency, and that’s a good step.”
The agency was in federal court to report on its progress toward meeting the goals of a 2001 settlement with the child advocacy group Children’s Rights.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A judge in northeast Tennessee is dismissing a $750,000 libel lawsuit against state Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield for publishing false information online about a Democratic candidate for the state House in 2008.
Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, blogged before the election that year that he had heard candidate Roger Byrge had multiple drug arrests, and that the mug shots were “gold.” It was later determined the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son.
The elder Byrge lost the House race to Republican Chad Faulkner by fewer than 400 votes and later filed suit in Campbell County.
“It is a dog-eat-dog world out there, and this stuff happens,” Circuit Judge John McAfee said, according to a transcript of Wednesday’s court hearing in Jacksboro.
“Sometimes you just get beat, and that’s just the plain simple truth of the matter,” he said. He added: “Politics are politics, and it’s a big boys and big girls game. That’s just the way it is.”
Former Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown, who recently lost his syndicated television courtroom over a contract dispute with CBS, may seek the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Lamar Alexander, reports The Commercial Appeal.. That’s what the flamboyant Brown, whose 15-year stint as a television judge ends next month, told The Hollywood Reporter recently. According to the publication, the judge “says he also is considering offers to get involved in politics, which could include a run for the U.S. Senate from Tennessee.”
A business partner responding to a text message at his newly created Milwaukee-based company Celebritunity, who identified himself as A-Sun Truth, said that Brown, 65, was not immediately available Tuesday.
Tennessee State Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, said Brown told him Tuesday he was not ready to confirm a bid, but passed along this quote from the judge: “All aspects concerning the ‘Campaign For Justice’ will be revealed in due time.”
As a television judge, media reports indicate Brown was paid somewhere between $5 million and $20 million in recent years for his daytime arbitration-based reality show. That could mean a self-financed run for Brown against Alexander, 72, a former two-term governor and former U.S. Secretary of Education seeking his third six-year term in the senate.
Brown maintains an active Shelby County Election Commission voter registration with an address in Germantown. He should not be confused with the Memphis City Council member with the same first and last name.
Union University political science department chairman Dean F. Evans in Jackson. Tenn., said he had not heard of Brown as a potential Senate candidate, and suggested his campaign might be an uphill fight.
— Note: For more, see Jackson Baker’s piece on Judge Joe.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has issued a public censure and a public reprimand to Circuit Court Judge John K. Wilson of the Third Judicial District.
Judge Wilson’s censure is a result of his conduct at 2011 deposition in addition to failure to abide by a resolution and agreement previously reached with the Court of the Judiciary.
The reprimand was due to an improper ex parte hearing and improper ex parte relief granted with respect to a petition to modify a permanent parenting plan.
Because it is a public censure rather than just a public reprimand, the judge will be required to personally appear before Board of Judicial Conference at its August meeting pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. ‘ 17-5-301(g)(2) & (4).
Judge Wilson has been a judge since 1979. The Third Judicial District serves Greene, Hamblen, Hancock and Hawkins counties.
The complete text of the censure and reprimand can be found HERE.
Former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner was sentenced today to six months in prison, reports the News Sentinel.
The Democrat and longtime jurist also was sentenced in Greeneville by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer to a year’s supervised release after the term is completed.
Baumgartner’s attorney, Donald A. Bosch of Knoxville, told the court he would apply for a stay of the sentence. Baumgartner will be allowed to self report to a federal prison.
Baumgartner stepped down in March 2011 and pleaded guilty in state court to official misconduct amid an investigation that showed he had abused drugs and used court defendants to secure them. He was spared prison and allowed to keep his pension.
In October, however, a federal jury convicted him of five counts of misprision of a felony, meaning he knew about and covered up a mistress’ involvement in a drug conspiracy centered around his drug usage.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge in Nashville has blocked Republican leaders’ efforts to keep Planned Parenthood of Tennessee from participating in venereal disease prevention programs. The efforts are federally funded, but administered by the state and are aimed at reducing the infection rate of HIV and syphilis.
The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/Ywffwu) reported U.S. District Court Judge William J. Haynes Jr. issued his ruling Wednesday, barring the state from defunding Planned Parenthood in contracts totaling more than $171,500 last year.
In his ruling, Haynes noted a political and legislative history of Republican efforts to cut the organization’s funding because Planned Parenthood also performs abortions. He cited statements from then-candidate Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Sen. Stacey Campfield.
The court noted a statement in which Ramsey called Planned Parenthood “the largest abortion provider in the country” and said, “It has always been the ambition of Republicans in the legislature to defund this organization.”
Barry Chase, CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, said the agency is “thrilled that the court has permanently stopped the state from impermissibly barring Planned Parenthood from providing critical disease prevention education and services. Politics should never interfere with Tennesseans’ access to critical medical services.”
Planned Parenthood has received positive reviews over the last decade of administering the program, for which the contracts are let through competitive bidding.
State Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis filed an application Friday to fill the Probate Court vacancy created by the upcoming retirement of Judge Robert Benham, reports Richard Locker. If he wins the interim appointment by the Shelby County Commission, Kyle said he would resign from the state Senate seat he has held since 1983.
“I believe that if I become judge, I can no longer serve in the legislature but I would leave anyway because I can’t be a judge and be in Nashville,” Kyle said. “This is an unexpected opportunity and I feel this is a job I can do and do well and continue my service to the community.”
Kyle, 62, has served in the legislature for 30 years — by far the longest-tenured Senate member of the Shelby County legislative delegation and second only to veteran House member Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, in tenure among the entire delegation. DeBerry was elected in 1972.
The County Commission on April 1 plans to appoint an interim successor to Judge Benham, the day after his retirement is effective. The commission will interview applicants on March 27.
From The Tennessean: Charles Galbreath, an appeals judge, state legislator and defender of the downtrodden who was widely regarded as one of the most flamboyant power brokers of his generation, died Tuesday at his home in Nashville.
He was 88.
Mr. Galbreath, who went by Charlie, had been ill with Alzheimer’s disease and recently developed pneumonia, Joyce Galbreath, his wife of 63 years, said Thursday.
A Nashville native and the son of a man who owned a chain of grocery stores, Mr. Galbreath had aspirations in theater that preceded his storied legal and political career. In the 1940s, he studied drama at Carnegie Hall in New York before attending Cumberland University of Law. Throughout his career, he blended the stage and the gavel — often to the chagrin of colleagues and opponents alike.
A 1968 Tennessean profile, written before he was elected to the state Court of Criminal Appeals, described Mr. Galbreath as a “loud, elusive enigma” and said he “has always made the legal profession a little nervous.”
He performed weddings in oddball places, including on a Ferris wheel and in a bar.
Although his theatrics often garnered more attention than his accomplishments, many said Mr. Galbreath’s contributions to the state’s judicial system were substantial. They began when he served as a state legislator from 1960 until his election to the bench. He switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party before he sought the appeals court seat.
…Perhaps most notably, Mr. Galbreath in 1963 pushed a bill in the legislature that created the state’s public defender post. He then became Tennessee’s first public defender.
…His notoriety reached its peak in the mid-1970s, when Mr. Galbreath, a sitting Court of Criminal Appeals judge, wrote a letter to the editor of Hustler (he was a close friend of Larry Flynt, the pornographic magazine’s publisher) that said a certain sex act was still considered “unnatural and illegal” in some states. The letter, which used gutter slang that shocked and appalled the state’s legal establishment, reverberated for years among Tennessee lawyers.
…Mr. Galbreath also made headlines after being arrested for jaywalking in Columbus, Ohio, and for selling Cuban cigars out of his law office.