MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Wednesday, Shelby County Commissioners took a first vote on a resolution encouraging the censure of Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Jim Lammey by the state of Tennessee’s Board of Judicial Conduct. The controversy unfolded last week in light of anti-immigrant social media posts Lammey said he intended to be private.
The full commission will consider the resolution at their Monday meeting. Ten of the members of the 13-member commission were listed as sponsors by the end of Wednesday’s committee meeting.
Latino Memphis says it’s already filed a complaint with the Board of Judicial Conduct, who has the final say on any formal discipline. It’s possible the commission could file its own complaint as well.
Mauricio Calvo of Latino Memphis was one of a handful of community members who spoke before Shelby County Commissioners Wednesday, urging the legislative body to publicly condemn Lammey. Calvo said he would feel uneasy if he was a defendant in Lammey’s courtroom. Lammey has also come under fire for requiring undocumented immigrants on probation to report to ICE.
“I would feel terrified, absolutely,” he said, “I speak on behalf of thousands of Latinos.”
Laura Linder is with Jewish Community Partners and represented a wide swath of organizations including the NAACP Memphis branch, MIFA, and the National Civil Rights Museum. Linder and her coalition sent two letters expressing concern to Nashville – one to the Administrative Office of the Courts and the other to the Board of Judicial Conduct.
“We had to act,” Linder said, “Collectively we have said we won’t allow this to happen in Shelby County.”
Lammey talked to WMC Action News 5 last week when the posts first reported by The Commercial Appeal came to light. In one he shared a post to a writing by a Holocaust denier critical of Muslim immigrants. Another stated Democrats won in the 2018 midterms by getting illegal aliens to vote. And another claimed illegal immigrants are responsible for a large number of crimes.
“Someone asked me are you a racist, I’m like no, I’m not a racist,” Lammey said, “It’s an embarrassing question to have to answer.”
Lammey told WMC Action News 5 that he wasn’t anti-immigrant.
“I don’t have anything against anyone,” he stated.
Over the weekend his son James Lammey wrote on Facebook he’s never heard his dad utter a racist thing.
“The media’s desperation for a story often times tarnishes or even ruins the reputation of good people,” his son wrote.
Commissioners Brandon Morrison and Amber Mills abstained from Wednesday’s committee vote. Lammey will likely be asked to appear in person Monday afternoon at the full commission meeting or send a written statement.
Commissioner Tami Sawyer, who chairs the commission’s criminal justice committee, called for Lammey to retire.
“I think you need to do the right thing for Shelby County and enjoy your retirement,” Sawyer said, “I don’t care if he thought it was public or private, the point is that’s what you believe, and you take that belief into the courtroom every day.”
WMC Action News 5 reached out to Lammey Wednesday afternoon after the committee vote. Through a courtroom deputy he declined comment on the story, citing a trial that was ongoing.