judges

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Bennifield’s order authorizing sentence reductions for long-term birth control measures was issued in May and rescinded in July after protests.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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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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