Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Message From Janice Johnson Posted to Tennessee Judicial Reform Website


Why We Need Reform...

History of Tennessee Judicial Reform and WHY We Need to Make Changes in Tennessee

By Janice Johnson

Brentwood TN: The Tennessee General Assembly has had 5 contiguous years of hearings with over 50 citizens testifying of abuses in the courtroom in five different committee venues. We have footage of over 30 hours of horrific testimony. Fifteen of the individuals testifying were lawyers testifying that they experienced judicial retaliation when they attempted to request that the judge recuse themselves due to a conflict of interest in their client's case. One of those lawyers simply requested that the judge recuse herself because she was the Aunt of the plaintiff. The judge not only would not recuse herself, she filed a complaint against the lawyer to the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility (whose members are appointed by the Supreme Court). The Attorney General is also appointed by the Supreme Court. 10 of the judges on the Court of the Judiciary (COJ), the disciplinary body for judges, are also appointed by the Supreme Court. We have even had hearings regarding the judicial retaliation the individuals who testified had experience after testifying before the legislature. In several cases children's safety and wellbeing were severely compromised and one of those children testified about the extreme physical abuse he had received and permanent brain damage as a result of that abuse. It was heart wrenching, yet, nothing significant has been done by the Tennessee General Assembly to stop these judges from abusing citizens in their courtrooms.

Over the past four years, we have introduced but failed to pass legislation requiring that all courtrooms be videotaped, that a liaison from the legislature be appointed to review all complaints, and that a "litigant's bill of rights" be posted in the courtrooms. We did pass a bill to add the Court of the Judiciary to the sunset provisions. For the first time since their inception thirty four years ago, the Court of Judiciary had to defend their existence to the joint subcommittee of Government Operations. The joint subcommittee made no recommendation for reauthorization. In the words of Ronald Reagan, "The closest thing to eternal life here on earth is a government bureaucracy." This is why, periodically, the various departments have to present their budget and a reason for their existence before the Government Operations Committee, but up until last Fall, the COJ had never had to do that.

Unfortunately, for the citizens of Tennessee, the judges lobbied hard (on taxpayer dollars) and even hired additional lobbyist and two trail lawyers (on tax payer dollars) introduced a "reformed" version of the Court of the Judiciary, which is worse than the current body. Attached is the reformed COJ which has passed the Senate and House Judiciary committees and now waits in Calendar and Rules Committee. Those same judges and attorneys introduced and lobbied to have the COJ Sunrise and be reauthorized.

Attached is the judge's version of the "reformed" Court of the Judiciary
the alleged disciplinary body for judges). This bill is worse than the current conditions. All complaints are reviewed and meetings are held in secret. There are 10 judges (appointed by judges), 3 Practicing Attorneys (appointed by Speaker of the House, Lt. Gov, and Gov.), and 3 members of the public (appointed by Speaker of the House, Lt. Gov. and Gov.). The worst part is that (on page 3) Section 2.(a) codified the currently illegal practice of allowing the hired attorney, the Disciplinary Council (ONE PERSON), to EVALUATE ALL COMPLAINTS, IN SECRET, WITH NO OPEN RECORDS LAW OR SUNSHINE LAWS. Currently, this one individual evaluates and summarily dismisses 75% of the complaints (according to the COJ report which we have no way of verifying) and then shreds the complaint. This new COJ (euphemistically renamed the "Board of Judicial Conduct") simply produces an unverifiable number of complaints processed.

There is a reason Tennessee is consider by three national watch dog groups to be considered the most corrupt state in the nation. There is no oversight of the judges in Tennessee and the Judicial Disciplinary process is an insult to our intelligence.

Janice Johnson
(615) 474-2761

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. James Madison 4th president of US (1751 - 1836)

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