Commissioners spar over role of incoming judge - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Commissioners spar over role of incoming judge

A vote to replace a Shelby County judge erupted into a debate over how to handle the high volume of domestic violence court cases during a Shelby County Commission meeting Monday. A vote to replace a Shelby County judge erupted into a debate over how to handle the high volume of domestic violence court cases during a Shelby County Commission meeting Monday.

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A vote to replace a Shelby County judge erupted into a debate over how to handle the high volume of domestic violence court cases during a Shelby County Commission meeting Monday.

County commissioners must appoint a replacement for the late Honorable C. Anthony Johnson.  The General Sessions Criminal Court judge mostly handled domestic violence cases.  Monday, commissioners debated if they should require his replacement to do the same.

Commissioner Mike Carpenter proposed the idea, with the support of the Memphis Area Women's Council in the audience.  Carpenter said domestic violence homicides have doubled since last year, and he wants the next judge to agree, in writing, to take on a "domestic violence only" docket.

Other commissioners said restricting Judge Johnson's replacement to domestic violence cases is out of bounds, arguing that the commission is a legislative body -- not a judicial body -- and they should elect the judge and not decide how the judge carries out his or her duties.

There was also the element of a power struggle, since the appointment would put that judge in office an entire year and a half before the next election, giving him or her an edge over opponents.

"I'm a little bit leery of adding stuff at the last minute without any clear indication it's going to be implemented in a way that's going to be conducive to the community and overall justice system," Commissioner Sidney Chism said.

"We should not tailor the job to the applicants," Commissioner George Flinn added. "We should tailor the job to what we need."

Chism said since domestic violence cases make up 20 percent of all Shelby County Court cases, they should be spread out evenly among all the judges.

In the end, it was a tight vote, 6 to 5, in favor of limiting Johnson's replacement to domestic violence cases.  That person will be appointed in two weeks.

General Sessions Criminal Court, Division 10 applicants:

Mischelle Alexander Best
LaTonya S. Burrow
Deborah M. Clubb
Coleman Garrett
Timothy Flowers
Terrance Tatum
Carolyn Watkins


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