judges

Haslam picks new Hamilton County judge

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Kyle E. Hedrick of Chattanooga as Circuit Court Judge for the 11th Judicial District.  He replaces Judge W. Neil Thomas III, who has retired. The 11th Judicial District serves Hamilton County.  Continue reading

NAACP affiliate opposes Norris confirmation as federal judge

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) announced its opposition to the confirmation of state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) as a federal judge, reports Nashville Post. At least two other ‘progressive groups’ are opposing confirmation.

Norris, an attorney with Adams and Reese, was nominated to serve as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee by President Donald Trump earlier this year. He was questione by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in October, but it has not yet voted on his nomination. If the committee votes in favor of his appointment, the vote would move to the full Senate.

In a letter to the Judiciary Committee, Sherrilyn A. Ifill, the president of the LDF (a separate institution from the NCAAP itself) cites concerns with Norris’s record as a legislator.

“Norris has developed an appalling record opposing equal rights that stands out even among President Trump’s long line of anti-civil rights nominees,” Ifill writes. “Norris’s record of hostility toward vulnerable and marginalized communities in Tennessee – that is, the very people who depend most on the courts to protect their rights – shows that he cannot fairly and impartially provide equal justice under the law.”

 

Haslam appoints Tidwell Circuit Court judge in Rutherford County

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Barry Ross Tidwell of Murfreesboro as Circuit Court Judge in the 16th Judicial District, which includes Rutherford and Cannon counties.

Tidwell’s appointment follows the death of Judge M. Keith Siskin in July.

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Judge gets reprimand for granting jail sentence reductions for vasectomies

White County General Sessions Jud Sam Benningfied has been reprimanded by the state Board of Judicial Conduct for offering jail inmates 30 days off their time behind bars for getting vasectomies or birth control implants, reports The Tennessean.

Bennifield’s order authorizing sentence reductions for long-term birth control measures was issued in May and rescinded in July after protests. It has led to at least two lawsuits against the judge and the White County sheriff, who oversees the jail in Sparta.

A letter posted on the Board’s public website (HERE) says the judge’s actions threatened confidence in the judicial system.

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Haslam appoints new Davidson County Criminal Court judge

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Angelita Blackshear Dalton of Nashville as Criminal Court Judge for the 20th Judicial District, replacing retiring Judge J. Randall Wyatt.

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Norris questioned on gay marriage at hearing on confirmation as U.S. judge; no vote taken

Tennessee state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, nominated for a federal judgeship in West Tennessee, told U.S. senators Wednesday he considers the legality of same-sex marriage to be a settled issue and that he would follow it as a precedent if confirmed to the bench, reports Michael Collins.

The Senate Judiciary Committee took no vote Wednesday on whether to confirm President Donald Trump’s nomination of Norris, R-Colliervile, leaving that to another meeting.  Norris has supported state legislation that critics argue would undermine the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling that legalized gay marriage in 2015.

He also was one of the leading sponsors of a state resolution calling for a federal Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman. (Note: The apparent reference is to SJR27 back in 2003, which had then-Sen.  David Fowler, now head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee and a staunch opponent of gay marriage, as prime sponsor and Norris as a co-sponsor.)

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Governor names new Shelby County judge

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed David M. Rudolph Circuit Court Judge for the 30th Judicial District, which serves Shelby County. The vacancy was created by the retirement of Judge Robert L. Childers on June 30.

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Lawsuit filed over White County jail inmate birth control program

From an Associated Press report:

A Tennessee sheriff and judge violated the constitutional rights of jail inmates by promising to reduce their sentences if they underwent birth control procedures, an ex-inmate says in a federal lawsuit.

Christel Ward was among the misdemeanor-level White County Jail inmates who took the deal, according to the lawsuit. She said Thursday that she still has the unwanted birth control device in her arm that authorities injected in her.

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TN judge reducing sentences of jail inmates who get vasectomies or anti-pregnancy implants

General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield of Sparta has authorized 30-day sentence reductions for male inmates at the White County Jail who agree to free vasectomies in White County and women who agree to receive free Nexplanon implants, which prevent pregnancies for up to four years.

WTVF TV in Nashville, which first reported on the judge’s order, signed in May, says 32 women and 38 men have since signed up for the procedures and the accompanying sentence reduction.

“I understand it won’t be entirely successful but if you reach two or three people, maybe that’s two or three kids not being born under the influence of drugs. I see it as a win, win,” (Benningfield) added.

Inmates in the White County jail were also given two days credit toward their jail sentence if they complete a State of Tennessee, Department of Health Neonatal Syndrome Education Program. The class aimed to educate those who are incarcerated about the dangers of having children while under the influence of drugs.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee, says the “coerced contraception” program is unconstitutional.

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TN Senate majority leader vetted for appointment as federal judge

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is being vetted for potential appointment as a federal judge, reports the Times Free Press, citing two “Republican sources” at the state capitol who were contacted by the FBI as part of the customary background check that proceeds such by appointments. Besides that, two “law enforcement chiefs” who know Norris  have apparently been contacted by agents as well.

There’s previously been talk that Norris might be nominated by President Donald Trump for one of two current vacancies on the U.S. District Court bench in West Tennessee – those vacated by Judge Hardy Mays in 2015 and by Judge Daniel  Green earlier this year. They retired – or “took senior status,” as the judicial saying goes.

Norris has for months been saying he’s interested joining the field of candidates running for the 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination. But he’s made no announcement – and the TFP says he did not return phone calls asking about his vetting for a federal judgeship.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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