NEW TASK FORCE ESTABLISHED TO SCRUTINIZE JUDGES AND LEGISLATORS
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 24, 2011) — In the midst of deep funding cuts in the state of Georgia, a local FBI office has assembled a new group of investigators to expose corruption within the judiciary and legislative branches of the state government, a move which has reportedly been lauded by Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson.
Jackson was an FBI agent before becoming sheriff. Georgia state representative Joe Wilkinson, who is chairman of the House Ethics Committee in the Georgia General Assembly, also approves of the measure.
The Post & Email contacted Sheriff Jackson’s office for comment on the new task force, and Ms. Tracy Flanagan of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office responded:
From Sheriff Ted Jackson: “Since 1980, the FBI has actively investigated public corruption. I helped write the policy and I am familiar with the corruption program. This has been a top priority for the FBI for quite some time. The FBI has been working with us to rid this agency of corruption and investigate other crimes involving civil rights. This effort is beneficial to the public by rooting out corrupt activity which costs taxpayers. Since its inception, the FBI has been involved in law enforcement to protect the public trust and ensure honest government that serves citizens.”
Mr. William Windsor had brought charges against several federal-level judges in Georgia to his local grand jury, also located in Fulton County, last Friday, and was scheduled to appear in front of the grand jury on August 23, 2011 to present additional evidence. However, Windsor has reported that he was denied access, treated rudely by Assistant District Attorney Waverly Settles, and threatened with a lawsuit for “defamation.” He also stated that Fulton County Grand Jury Foreman Steve Broadbent lied when he said that Windsor had not been invited back to present more evidence to the grand jury.
Mr. Brian Lamkin of the Atlanta FBI had been in charge of a team which investigated police corruption but will now head a second team aimed at corrupt judicial and legislative public servants.
Wilkinson stated that “This brings another much-needed level of scrutiny to the system.”
Corruption on the part of court clerks, court reporters, judges, sheriffs, their deputies and local police have been reported to the FBI in Knoxville, TN on numerous occasions, but their response has been that the TBI should be notified. However, both Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III and The Post & Email have contacted the TBI to no avail.
Last week, The Post & Email sent the following to a TBI agent, who has made no response:
Hello, Mr. xxxxx, there is further evidence of judicial corruption in Monroe County that cannot be refuted: http://www.thepostemail.com/2011/08/18/tennessee-administrative-office-of-the-courts-are-you-with-us-or-against-us/
There has been no response from Ms. Click at the TAOC, which is where Gov. Bill Haslam’s office tells everyone to take a complaint about a judge or court reporter. The TAOC apparently will do nothing about a court reporter who is supposedly their employee but is also answering phones for a judge for whom she produces doctored transcripts on a regular basis. We have the proof.
I have kept my promise to you and refrained from publishing your name or contact information. However, I would like to know if or when you are going to act in regard to the corruption which has been reported to The Post & Email. People are not being given due process; their constitutional rights are violated routinely, and the judges themselves are criminals.
The TBI has also refused to respond to Walter Fitzpatrick, who has been contacting your agency regularly about Monroe County corruption. What is the TBI’s purpose if it will not investigate criminality which has repeatedly been reported by Tennessee citizens?
The Post & Email, Inc.
The Post & Email has now received a response from Ms. Laura Click at the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts since the above email was sent to the TBI agent:
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2011 14:10:15 -0500
Subject: Re: CORRUPTION IN THE MONROE COUNTY, TN JUDICIARY
Thank you for your email and for making us aware of your concerns.
If you have concerns about the conditions of a state prison, we encourage you to contact the Department of Correction. Their office has oversight of the state’s prisons. The number for TDOC is 615-741-1000. If you have questions or concerns about a local jail, you can contact the Tennessee Corrections Institute. Their number is 615-741-3816.
It is correct that Ms. Denise Barnes serves as a court reporter and as an assistant to Judge Ross. There is nothing in the statute that prohibits her from doing so. In fact, the statute encourages the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to do this if it is in the public interest to do so. I have provided the language from the statute below:
T.C.A. 40-14-305. Additional duties; compensation and salaries
If any such judge and the administrative director find that it is in the public interest that the duties of reporter be combined with those of any other employee of the court or of the judge thereof, the administrative director may authorize such combination of duties and fix additional compensation for the performance of the added duties of acting as court reporter.
In regards to your complaint about Ms. Barnes, the Board of Court Reporters only handles complaints in situations where the court reporter is required to be licensed. Although Ms. Barnes is a licensed court reporter, she is not required to be licensed to do work in criminal court cases. Because your complaint deals with a criminal court case, it does not fall under the purview of the Board of Court Reporting. That is why the Board did not take action regarding your complaint.
Per statute, salaried court reporters are supervised by the judge who appointed him/her. Here is the language from the statute:
T.C.A. 40-14-310. Supervision
The reporters shall be subject to the supervision of the appointing judge in the performance of their duties, including dealings with the parties requesting transcripts. The administrative director may by rule prescribe reports to be filed by reporters.
The Court of the Judiciary is the body tasked with investigating judicial misconduct. If you believe that a judge is violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, you may file a complaint with the Court of the Judiciary. You may do so here: http://www.tncourts.gov/boards-commissions/court-judiciary/file-complaint
If you believe there is criminal activity taking place, we encourage you to contact the Attorney General’s office or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Our office does not have any ability to investigate criminal matters.
The appointment and retention of a grand jury foreperson is governed by Rule 6 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has acknowledged that this rule does not limit the number of two-year terms to which a grand jury foreperson may be appointed.
Thank you again for your email. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Public Information Officer
Tennessee Supreme Court
Administrative Office of the Courts
511 Union Street, Suite 600
Nashville, TN 37219
Office: (615) 532-6047
Ms. Click’s email was in response to our letter to her dated August 18, 2011. The Post & Email has already contacted Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper, Jr. and Governor Bill Haslam’s office by both phone and in writing and received no response whatsoever.
We did not cite a problem with Tennessee state penitentiaries, but rather, with the conditions in the Monroe County jail. We have contacted the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) on numerous occasions and never received as much as a return phone call.
The Post & Email has also contacted the Knoxville, TN FBI office, including by email this morning:
Good morning. You may have heard that the FBI has formed a task force to investigate judicial corruption in Georgia. Is there a reason why, after so many reports from citizens and my newspaper, that you cannot do the same?
People not proven guilty of anything have been sentenced to life in prison by corrupt judges and juries: http://www.thepostemail.com/2011/06/06/conclusion-monroe-county-tn-judiciary-convicts-defendant-in-kangaroo-court/
There is ample evidence of judicial malfeasance: http://www.thepostemail.com/2011/08/17/monroe-county-tn-judge-explodes-at-his-own-crooked-prosecutor-in-the-courtroom/
Could I speak with someone about the possibility of establishing such a task force for eastern Tennessee?
The Post & Email, Inc.
The Knoxville FBI responded:
A court rule does not trump state law, which in Tennessee, in regard to jury members, states:
22-2-314. Limitation on jury service. — [Effective in Certain Counties. See the Compiler’s Notes.]
A juror who has completed a jury service term shall not be summoned to serve another jury service term in any court of this state for a period of twenty-four (24) months following the last day of such service; however, the county legislative body of any county, may, by majority vote, extend the twenty-four-month period.
[Acts 2008, ch. 1159, § 1.]
There is no exception made for the foreman, and none can be found within the Tennessee Code Annotated.
(g) Appointment, Qualifications, Term, Compensation, Vote, and Duties of Foreperson.
(1) Appointment of Foreperson. The judge of the court authorized by law to charge–and receive the report of–the grand jury shall appoint the grand jury foreperson. When concurrent grand juries are impaneled, the court shall appoint a foreperson for each grand jury.
(2) Qualifications of Foreperson. The foreperson shall possess all the qualifications of a juror.
(3) Duration of Appointment. The foreperson shall hold office and exercise powers for a term of two (2) years from appointment. In the discretion of the presiding judge, the foreperson may be removed, relieved, or excused from office for good cause at any time.
(4) Duties of Foreperson. The grand jury foreperson has the following duties:
(A) to assist and cooperate with the district attorney general in ferreting out crime, to the end that the laws may be faithfully enforced;
(B) out of term, to advise the district attorney general about law violations and to furnish names of witnesses, whom the district attorney general may, if he or she deems proper, order summoned to go before the grand jury at the next term;
(C) in term, (in addition to the district attorney general who also has such authority) to order the issuance of subpoenas for grand jury witnesses; and
(D) to vote with the grand jury, which vote counts toward the twelve necessary for the return of an indictment.
(5) Compensation. The county legislative body determines the foreperson’s compensation, which must not be less than ten dollars ($10.00) per day for each day the foreperson’s grand jury is actually in session. The foreperson’s compensation may not be diminished during the term of appointment. The foreperson shall receive no other compensation for these services. The foreperson’s compensation shall be paid out of the county treasury in the same manner as jurors are paid.
We see nothing in the above rule which states that the same person can serve repeated terms at the behest of the judge and with the result of the foreman’s impartiality being compromised, which was a reason why Hamilton County Grand Jury Forewoman Marsha Crabtree was reportedly not reappointed after 20 consecutive years of service.
A reader of The Post & Email contacted Haslam about Tennessee corruption and received a response which did not address the concerns he raised.
If Cooper and Haslam refuse to address public corruption, are they part of the problem? Should the FBI be looking into what they are doing or not doing?
The mother of a child shooting victim contacted the TBI about corruption which prevented her from testifying to her county grand jury and failed to receive a response. Her letter to Haslam generated another response which did not address the issue she had raised. Is this the best that a governor can do?
A Monroe County missionary was denied defense counsel for a trial scheduled for today, August 24, 2011. The Post & Email was notified at about 5:00 p.m. on August 23, 2011, that the missionary, George Raudenbush, was arrested by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department for allegedly “recording courtroom proceedings.”