Lawsuit filed against juvenile court judge, magistrates - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Lawsuit filed against juvenile court judge, magistrates

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The lawsuit names Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person and magistrates Larry Scroggs, Herbert Lane, and Dan Michael. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5 file) The lawsuit names Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person and magistrates Larry Scroggs, Herbert Lane, and Dan Michael. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5 file)
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - A complaint filed in Shelby County Chancery Court on Tuesday alleges longstanding violations of due process in the juvenile court system of Shelby County.

The lawsuit names Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person, Chief Administrative Officer Larry Scroggs, Chief Magistrate Dan Michael, and Magistrate Herbert Lane as defendants.

Judge Person is the only elected official of the bunch. According to the complaint, people with business before the court have the right to have their cases heard before the elected judge. The complaint alleges that the elected judge declines to hear cases and has passed that responsibility on to appointed magistrates who are not elected.

"This practice in itself is a civil rights violation of the highest order that has a far reaching and negative effect on out entire community," said the attorney who filed the suit, Ray Glasgow, in a written statement.

Juvenile court fired back, saying it handles approximately 50,000 cases each year and that state laws do authorize Person to appoint magistrates who have the power of trial judges.

"The Juvenile Court judge also is authorized by state statute to appoint a magistrate as a special judge. This authority has been affirmed by the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals," Juvenile Court of Memphis & Shelby County Chief Administrative Officer Larry Scroggs responded in a written statement.

Chancellor Walter Evans set the first court date for July 16 at 10 a.m. in his courtroom.

Juvenile Court of Memphis & Shelby County Chief Administrative Officer Larry Scroggs' statement

"Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County handles approximately 50,000 cases each year. The cases involve contested issues relative to delinquency, dependency and neglect, custody, visitation and child support.

According to the law of the State of Tennessee, the Juvenile Court judge, the Juvenile Court magistrates, and the child support magistrates hear these cases.

The Juvenile Court judge is authorized by state law to appoint Juvenile Court magistrates. According to the law of the State of Tennessee, these magistrates have the powers of a trial judge. The Juvenile Court judge also is authorized by state statute to appoint a magistrate as a special judge. This authority has been affirmed by the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals."

Filing attorney W. Ray Glasgow's statement

"Thank you for your interest in a lawsuit filed yesterday in Shelby County Chancery Court. The purpose of the lawsuit is twofold. One is to stop the long standing practice of having non-elected magistrates sit as special judges on a daily basis in our local Juvenile Court. This practice in itself is a civil rights violation of the highest order that has a far reaching and negative impact on our entire community.

The other is to bring transparency to the manner in which the Department of Justice findings are being addressed. I do not mean to imply that the personnel involved in addressing these issues have not been forthcoming, but rather, that the DOJ has touched only the tip of the iceberg. Their focus thus far has been on the systemic defective practices that have resulted in civil rights violations in the delinquency side of the court. Nothing has been mentioned about the deficiencies in other areas of the court's responsibility that include hearing matters on dependent and neglected or abused children, custody and visitation issues, child support, termination of parental rights, and a myriad of matters brought by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services and heard by the court on a daily basis. Each of these areas of law is equally as important as the delinquency issues and should be included and addressed in the court's reforms.

For these and other reasons it is both appropriate and necessary that all of these deficiencies and the reforms intended to address them be made crystal clear to the public, and that they be thoroughly scrutinized in a court of law. This lawsuit is intended to accomplish that."

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