published Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Court overturns previous decision in judge-shopping case

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has reinstated an indictment against a man whose case sparked allegations of judge shopping in Hamilton County General Sessions Court.

Gary Wayne McCullough now faces charges of boating under the influence that had been remanded for a new preliminary hearing by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood. In the course of the trial, allegations of judge-shopping surfaced from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers who’d cited McCullough.

McCullough’s attorney, Jerry Summers, had argued on appeal that Blackwood should have dismissed the charges, claiming his client’s due process rights were violated with the alleged judge-shopping.

The appeals court disagreed, saying in its Tuesday opinion that the trial court records do not support that McCullough “suffered a violation of due process by the TWRA’s practice of judge-shopping in citation cases.”

Over the course of the trial, former judges and clerks testified that cases were randomly assigned by computer system to Sessions Court judges but that nearly 95 percent of the TWRA cases went to Judge Bob Moon or Judge David Bales.

TWRA agents were shown to have requested dates for hearings, knowing that the cases would be heard by either Moon or Bales.

The appeals court found no evidence that either Moon or Bales “committed any violations of the code of judicial conduct or were otherwise biased in their disposition of TWRA cases.”

For complete details, see tomorrow’s Chattanooga Times Free Press.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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