judges

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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TN Supremes decide election lawsuit with 3-2 vote

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – In a case involving a 2014 election for circuit court judge in East Tennessee, the Tennessee Supreme Court has rejected the unsuccessful candidate’s claim that the Roane County Election Commission (“Commission”) had no authority under Tennessee law to decide a pre-election challenge to the successful candidate’s residency qualifications to run for the office.

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Judge ends offer of reduced jail time for vasectomies, blames state Dept. of Health

White County General Sessions Court Judge Sam Benningfield has rescinded his controversial offer to reduce the jail sentences of male prisoners who get vasectomies and female prisoners who get contraceptive implants, reports WTVF-TV. He blames the state health officials for the decision.

The contraceptive procedures were offered free by the state Department of Health when the judge in May issued an order authorizing 30-days off jail times for inmates who undergo the procedures. He issued a new order rescinding the offer for new inmates, saying officials have advised him the department “will no longer offer free vasectomies… and will not provide the free Nexplanon implant” to White County inmates who get a sentence reduction.

The judge said in his order that those who had already signed up – at least 32 women and 38 men, according to an earlier report — will still get the 30-day sentence reduction without going through the procedures. The order says these inmates have “demonstrated to the court their desire to improve their situations and take serious and considered steps toward their rehabilitation.”

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Legislators seek AG opinion on judge reducing jail time for vasectomies or birth control implants

News release from Senate Majority Leader Lee Harris

 MEMPHIS – Sen. Lee Harris and Rep. G.A. Hardaway have asked state Attorney General Slatery to give his opinion on whether Tennessee judges have the power to impose, reduce, or vary a defendant’s criminal sentence based on whether the defendant undergoes a medical procedure that would permanently or temporarily limit the defendant’s ability to have children.  They released the following statements in response to Judge Sam Benningfield’s efforts to reduce sentencing for inmates who choose to receive a vasectomy or implant in the White County jail.

Sen. Lee Harris said, “We depend on our judges to administer justice fairly, not to use their position of power to coerce vulnerable populations to give up their God-given rights to have children or not have children. Reproductive health care options should be available to all, in prison and out. However, those options should always be offered on a voluntary basis. These options should not come with strings attached or through coercion.”

 Rep. G.A. Hardaway said, “Offering incentives in exchange for someone’s reproductive freedom is not only unethical, I’m pretty sure it’s unconstitutional. It appears the inmates in White County are being targeted and they are not in a position to reject this coerced offer. Senator Harris and I have asked state Attorney General Slatery to opine on this matter and we look forward to his prompt response.”

Also signing the letter are Rep. Harold Love, Rep. Larry Miller, Rep. Antonio Parkinson, Rep. Johnny Shaw, and Rep. Joe Towns.

Note: Previous post on the subject HERE.  All those signing the request are Democrats. Shaw is from Bolivar, Love from Nashville with the others from Memphis.

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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Trump nominates four as TN judges — including Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris

President Donald Trump today submitted nominees to fill four vacant federal judgeship in Tennessee. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is one of them.

Norris promptly issued a statement saying he feels honored by the nomination and appreciates the president’s “confidence in me…. This is just the first step under the Constitution, and I look forward to the Senate confirmation process. In the meantime, I will continue to serve the citizens of the 32nd District who elected me to the Senate and my Senate colleagues who elected me as their Leader.”

Trump announced a total of 11 judicial nominees in the same press release. Here are the statements therein on the Tennesseans — Norris, William L “Chip” Campbell Jr., Thomas Lee Robinson Parker and Eli J. Richardson:

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Haslam appoints Knoxville lawyer to TN Claims Commission

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has named William A. Young of Knoxville to the Tennessee Claims Commission, replacing William O. Shults of Newport whose terms expires June 30.

The appointment is for the Eastern Division and is subject to confirmation by resolution of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly.  The three commissioners hold eight-year terms.

(Note: Shults was the last appointee of former Gov. Phil Bredesen on the commission and had served since 2006, first filling a vacancy and then to a full term in 2009. The salary is about $160,000 annually.)

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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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Judge ignores ‘natural and ordinary meaning’ of ‘husband;’ rejects legislator intervention in lesbian divorce

Knox County Circuit Court Judge Greg McMillan has granted a woman the legal rights of a husband, reports the News Sentinel, changing an earlier ruling to stand in apparent direct conflict with the “natural and ordinary meaning” law recently approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam.

In a reversal from his decision last year, McMillan last week penned approval of a divorce for same-sex couple Sabrina Witt and Erica Witt that includes designation of Erica Witt as the father of the couple’s daughter, conceived through artificial insemination.

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Nashville judge, facing federal charges, resigns

Nashville General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland, facing federal obstruction of justice charges, has resigned from the bench effective Tuesday, reports The Nashville Post.

Moreland’s lawyer submitted his resignation letter to a federal magistrate judge during a pretrial detention hearing (Friday), during which Magistrate Judge Joe Brown decided Moreland could return home while he awaits trial.

Mayor Megan Barry and several Metro Council members had previously called for Moreland’s resignation over allegations included in an FBI investigation that the judge had attempted to pay more than $6,000 to have a witness sign a false affidavit as well as plant drugs on the same witness in order to discredit her.

Moreland’s resignation is effective April 4.

The magistrate judge ruled that Moreland could be released prior to his trial, with conditions restricting his travel and communication with others. Moreland’s wife, Jacqueline, testified that the judge has experienced symptoms of depression and alcoholism for the past few years, and she agreed to oversee the conditions of his release. The two have not lived together since early February, after news media accounts revealed he had been involved in a relationship with the witness in the investigation, who was previously a defendant in his Nashville courtroom.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

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

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