One of Hamilton County’s four judicial commissioners may have violated his contract by claiming to represent the parents of a 22-month-old girl whose death has been ruled the sheriff’s department’s first homicide of the year.
Judicial Commissioner Bob Meeks defended himself Wednesday before a panel of county commissioners interviewing applicants for the judicial commissioner positions. County Commissioner Larry Henry chided Mr. Meeks for saying he represented the girls’ parents, given that judicial commissioners, often called magistrates, are prohibited from practicing criminal law.
* Christine Mabe Scott
* Clayton Whitaker *
* Warren J. Yemm
* Gordon Petty
* Larry Ables **
* Marty Lasley **
* Bob Meeks **
* Yolanda Mitchell **
* Withdrew name from consideration
** Current magistrate
“You, better than any judicial commissioner, would know that,” Mr. Henry told Mr. Meeks, a former chief magistrate.
Mr. Meeks said he did not know the case would become a criminal case. He said the stepfather was an old family friend, and he told the family they would have to hire an attorney if the case became a criminal case.
“I don’t think I practiced criminal law,” he told the panel.
Mr. Meeks told the panel he used bad judgment in saying he represented the couple and in telling them not to make a statement to investigators. He offered to withdraw his application for the position if that was the wish of the County Commission.
Mr. Henry said commissioners would give the matter close consideration.
Results of an autopsy released Wednesday by the Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s Office listed the girl’s cause of death as blunt force trauma. Officials declined to specify on which part of the body the trauma occurred, sheriff’s department spokesman Deputy Dusty Stokes said.
The girl’s name has not been released.
On Sept. 24, the sheriff’s department and Protective Children’s Services were called to T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital after the girl was brought in by emergency personnel. The child reportedly had suffered a seizure but was pronounced dead Friday, at which point she was taken to the Hamilton County Forensic Center for an autopsy, Deputy Stokes said.
Citing the ongoing investigation, he would not comment further.
Mr. Meeks said he came to the hospital and was surprised to see investigators there, but he did not assume there was a criminal investigation going on. He said he believed the girl was in the hospital as a result of complications from when she had fallen a few days before.
Magistrates are allowed to operate private civil practices.
The commissioners interviewed eight applicants for the magistrate positions, including the four current full-time magistrates. Their contracts expire Oct. 31.