Judge Bales battling life-threatening illness, set to take medical leave

Judge David Bales sits in his chambers. File Photo
photo Judge David Bales confers with an attorney in this 2014 file photo.

UPDATE: Judge Clarence Shattuck has released a statement confirming his colleague, David E. Bales, "will immediately be taking a medical leave of absence."

"As many know, I have been recently treated for cancer and I appreciate the tremendous community-wide support that you have given me," Bales said. "However, in an effort to fulfill my public responsibility, I returned to the bench prematurely. I now know I need more time to recover. Therefore, I have decided to take additional time off to rest and recuperate so I can plan to return to the bench with full vigor and strength to serve the citizens of Hamilton County."


ORIGINAL STORY: A Hamilton County General Sessions Court judge is taking medical leave starting today because he is battling a life-threatening illness, sources say.

Judge David E. Bales missed at least 45 days on the bench since he was diagnosed with cancer around October 2016, public records show.

But he had not taken medical leave or declared disability in that time, forcing his colleagues and other volunteers to cover his share of the 50,000 cases that flow through Sessions Court every year.

He continued to earn $170,520 because Tennessee law says you cannot alter a judge's salary midterm.

County Commissioners voted Feb. 1, 2017, to set aside $70,000 for attorneys who agree to cover Bales' and another judge's overwhelmed dockets. Without Bales, local judges are strained to cover their dockets every day, scheduling records show.

Bales' four colleagues met with him this morning to discuss whether he should officially step down.

Bales could have asked the Administrative Office of the Courts to appoint a temporary replacement, but AOC spokeswoman Jill Frost said earlier this morning that they had not received a request from Bales.

That office oversees all courts in Tennessee and would designate a replacement if Bales requested it.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more details.