Some of you know me, but for those who donít-I was judicial commissioner for General Sessions court . I was appointed first by Judge Gibson in 1994 and by Judge Bill Russell in 1996 and served until Sept. 1, 2010 when Rex Dale fired me on his first day of office. I assure you all this is not written as ďsour grapesĒ, but to express my opinion of how Co. Commission and the citizens of the county have been greatly mislead by Daleís incorrect and less than honest statements.
I can also assure everyone that at NO TIME in working for/with Judge Russell would he-nor could he-have a backlog of 300-400 cases! IMPOSSIBLE! To have made that statement is an outrageous lie. There were several cases (domestic, divorce, etc.) that were pending orders being submitted from the attorneys and such, but nothing that a semi-intelligent law clerk could not read the memorandum and determined status. Absolutely no need to ďre-tryĒ anything. If Dale is referring to criminal cases being re-tried, the Constitutions forbid that. I also take affront to a public figure openly making malicious statements attacking the integrity and work ethic of a deceased person, especially a person of Bill Russellís caliber, knowing that person cannot respond. That alone proves he has absolutely no integrity. Bill Russell was one of the most capable, intelligent caring members of the bar. He worked long hours, too, because sometimes itís necessary. He did the job he sought and was elected to do. He also thought Rex Dale to be a friend-we were both wrong.
During Daleís campaign, he came to Judge Russellís office & I was called in. Both of us had heard rumors that I would not be retained by him. Judge told Dale that we both understood that a judicial commissioner, per statute, serves at the pleasure of the sitting judge, but asked him then did he intend to keep me & the court officer or should we be seeking employment elsewhere? His reply in front of witnesses was ďThis court runs like a well-oiled machine-I would be foolish not to keep both.Ē He fired me the day he took the bench. But where is his integrity there? I think he has none.
Before seeking office, Dale practiced very little in GS court. He would ask me for appointment to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases, but most often his secretary (present judicial commissioner) would call the day (or hour) before court to say he could not make it-going fishing-or had sudden conflict. He did represent in a few civil matters, but very few divorces-uncontested only. Most of the then clerks did not know him by sight when he announced his candidacy. I agree that he had no clue about the court caseload because he was never there, but months before Bill retired we diligently cleared many pending cases. However, there is absolutely no was for a backlog of that amount. He is creating his own backlog by arbitrarily continuing cases. Check the docket-itís ridiculous. Continue to get a lawyer, get a driverís license, pay fines & costs, but not just to be moving them. These people-if they have a job-are in fear of losing them because of continuances; same as witnesses who cannot afford to appear over & over.
I know & think highly of Hank Sledge. When he became magistrate I believed he could handle the job-be fair and accessible to the officers & public-something they need & deserve. I was told this was a step-stone appointment; Rex was going to get him the 2nd judgeship. Unfortunately the present judge & his commissioner donít like after hours calls. I was informed that he has told them to turn their phones off after hours. The salaries should be paid for 24/7 coverage. We need people willing to do the job, know the law, can determine probable cause and can work WITH the clerkís office.
There are ways to control jail overcrowding. Without violation rights by holding inmates without proper mittimus & warrants, by setting a fair bond that is not a punishment & maintaining a workable court docket. You wonít get this by listening to Dale. At Lenoir City court, we have concurrent GS jurisdiction; we can hear anything GS can. We choose not to hear DUI & related and domestic violence charges because of limited courtroom space. With our criminal charges during business hours the defendant is brought to City Hall for warrant & arraignment (bond & court date set) before going to jail. The judicial commissioner are on call 24/7 & meet officers & public after hours at City Hall, same process. Bond & court date is set so def does not have to sit in jail waiting. The jail always has proper mittimus & warrant in hand. Very similar to the way Judge Russell & I worked. We had no overloaded dockets. Officers called me first & if I didnít know-I called him. I arraigned 24/7. Rex Dale has plenty of lies, but no clue nor interest in how to make the judicial system work, other than calling for reinforcements and more tax dollars. 1/16/15