Hamilton County: Judge removes himself from 'judge shopping' case

Hamilton County: Judge removes himself from 'judge shopping' case

November 16th, 2009 by Monica Mercer in Local Regional News

A Hamilton County Criminal Judge recused himself this morning in a case in which a defense attorney has accused a state agency and at least two general sessions judges of "judge shopping."

Court arguments this morning revealed that Judge Don Poole sat on a 1999 committee that helped implement rules and regulations for the computerized assignment of criminal cases in the county's general sessions court. Judge Poole at the time was a private attorney.

Defense attorney Jerry Summers argued that Judge Poole should not decide the "judge shopping" case "to avoid all appearance of impropriety" and Judge Poole agreed.

The issue in the general sessions case centers on a defendant charged with misdemeanor crimes involving laws that are policed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Mr. Summers has requested a hearing in criminal court amid allegations that the TWRA regularly requests certain sessions court judges to hear their cases.

Mr. Summers also has alleged that certain general sessions judges, including Judge Bob Moon, actively campaign for such cases because of the representation that they have expertise in the types of environmental laws that the TWRA polices.

Mr. Summers is requesting that the charges be dropped against his client because of the alleged practice, which is prohibited according to ethics rules established by the state Supreme Court.

Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman now will preside over the issue. The case will come up again in court on Dec. 14.

See tomorrow's Times Free Press for complete details.