A Hamilton County Sessions Court judge has been reprimanded for his social media posts, including "legal tips of the day" in which he advised his followers to be stealthy if they are going to commit a crime, as well as advice on where not to hide their "stashes."
What Judge Gerald Webb described as posts "designed to get a laugh and to make people think about life choices," the state of Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct saw as a failure to exercise discretion while using social media platforms.
The board on Nov. 5 issued a letter of public reprimand, citing Webb's posts, as well as two recent instances in which his law license was suspended briefly for failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements.
In a June 18 post, Webb advised people to blend in and be stealthy while trying to shoplift steaks.
"You and your 5'10 sister walk in with green hair and green toenails and green flip flops that smack the back of your feet with every step you make and you are caught with three steaks shoved into your pants. You forgot to be stealthy. Remember, it's not every day that Shrek and Fiona walk into a Walmart," he wrote.
In post on Aug. 5, 2020, Webb said, "Find someplace else to hide your stash. Officers pulling drugs, a PlayStation 4, second set of car keys, and a Michael Jackson's greatest hits CD from your rump is not a good look."
Webb's dockets include criminal cases.
The public reprimand said that Webb's social media "posts do not meet the required criteria to exercise caution and reflection towards the court," further stating that "judges choosing to participate in inherently public platforms must exercise caution and carefully evaluate whether their social media communications foster public confidence in the integrity, independence and impartiality of the judiciary."
The reprimand also noted as "troubling" the suspensions of Webb's law license, the first of which happened in August 2020 and the second this August.
The reprimand said that his inability to follow "unambiguous" requirements regarding continuing law education ran contrary to the expectations that judges "follow the law and uphold the integrity and dignity of the judiciary."
His resulting absences from court also forced other judges to cover his dockets, the board noted.
According to the letter of reprimand, Webb accepted the public reprimand, taking responsibility for his actions on social media and his failure to meet the necessary requirements to keep his licensure.
Webb is the first African American to have been chosen to serve on the General Sessions Court. He was elected in 2019.
Attempts on Wednesday to contact Webb for comment were unsuccessful.
Contact La Shawn Pagan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476.