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by Sharon Rondeau

There is evidence that county courts have been operating illegally since 1984 in Tennessee, but not one news outlet has indicated an interest

(Jun. 15, 2012) — A report in the Knoxville News Sentinel dated June 14, 2012 described a courtroom scene whereby Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood refused to recuse himself in the case of two heinous murders committed in 2007 which are scheduled to be reheard because the original judge, Richard Baumgartner, was found to have been under the influence of drugs when he presided.

Baumgartner has been charged federally with misprision of felony.

On the home page of the News Sentinel today was an announcement that reporter Jamie Satterfield would be answering the public’s questions regarding the heated exchange between Blackwood and Randy Nichols, Knox County District Attorney General.  The question-and-answer session ran from 11:30 a.m. EDT to 12:30 p.m. EDT.  A transcript of the session is here and shows that at 11:41 a.m., The Post & Email left the following comment:

Comment From Sharon Rondeau

Is anyone aware that county criminal courts were outlawed by state statute in 1984? TCA 16-16-107 established that county courts were to handle only civil matters. TCA 16-2-506 mandated that all criminal courts reorganize at the district level and that grand jury members be chosen from the districts, which were to comprise several counties. For the last 28 years, the “county criminal courts” have been outlawed, but no one will acknowledge it!

We received no response to our comment and submitted a follow-up:

Comment From Sharon Rondeau

The information about the 1984 laws is here: http://www.thepostemail.com/

Subsequently we tried to submit two more comments about the court system in Tennessee which never appeared.  In personal notes to record the events, The Post & Email wrote:

My comment about a constitutional, legal district grand jury and Blackwood participating with other state judges in outlawed county criminal courts was not published.

12:05 p.m.

12:15 p.m. My comment about courts operating illegally since 1984:  http://www.thepostemail.com/2012/05/29/fitzpatrick-the-judges-in-tennessee-need-to-stand-up-legal-grand-juries/

The comment did not show up.  I was obviously placed on block.

On May 14, 2012, Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III told The Post & Email that he had located laws still part of the Tennessee Code Annotated which directed the courts throughout the state to reorganize. The matter heard yesterday in Knox County was of a criminal nature but was heard in a county court in violation of the 1984 law which mandated that only district courts hear criminal cases.  What, then, did Satterfield have to discuss with her audience?

Several comments from members of the public showered Satterfield with comments about her reporting, but the information we attempted to convey regarding illegally-convened grand juries, trial juries and criminal courts was censored.  Why?

In some of her responses, Satterfield offered opinion rather than fact:

Jamie Satterfield:

He is, in all the cases I’ve covered involving him, a fair-minded judge. I think what we are seeing in this case is his frustration at being demonized for what he perceives as the unpleasant task of doing his job.

Jamie Satterfield:

While Nichols has said he won’t run for DA again, others in his office may well do so and I am sure he is mindful of that.

Satterfield’s bio does not indicate that she is an attorney.

Screenshot from live chat showing compliments from participants directed at Satterfield, who censored the information we attempted to convey about the laws which have never been observed regarding criminal courts

Fitzpatrick found that in 16-16-107 of the Tennessee Code Annotated, the duties of the county courts were clearly delineated by the legislature.  TCA 16-16-101 established county courts “for the dispatch of probate and other business entrusted to it, to be called the county court.”

TCA 16-2-506 laid out the new judicial districts and, along with the other laws cited here, is indicated as current in 2012.  It begins, “The state is divided into thirty-one (31) judicial districts composed as follows:” and then outlines the counties which will comprise each new district.

TCA 16-2-510 is entitled “Holding of court — Terms abolished — Grand juries.”  It reads:

(a) Court shall be held within each judicial district at such times and on such dates as the judges of each judicial district fix by rule.  Court shall be held in each county within the district as often as is necessary to dispose of the business of the court.  Not less than thirty (30) days prior to the rule taking effect, the rule shall be published and circulated to the practicing bar, and filed with the administrative director of the courts.

(b) Terms of court are abolished and the minutes of all courts shall remain open continuously.  Any reference in Tennessee Code Annotated to the beginning of a term of court shall be deemed to be a reference to the appropriate date fixed by rule as provided by this section.

(c) New grand juries shall be impaneled at least twice a year at times selected by the presiding judge of the district.  The presiding judge within each district shall be responsible for designating the foreperson and for impaneling, charging and receiving the report of the grand jury, but may designate another judge to perform these responsibilities.  In those districts in which there is a criminal court judge or judges, the criminal court judge or judges shall perform the duties pertaining to the grand jury assigned to the presiding judge by this subsection (c).

At the bottom of the statute it reads:  “HISTORY:  Acts 1984, ch. 931…”

Tennessee counties have continued to operate criminal courts despite the laws passed in 1984, convening their own grand juries, issuing search and arrest warrants, and holding criminal trials.

The Post & Email’s growing catalogue of articles on the little-known laws which Fitzpatrick discovered while preparing for his own defense in a case to be heard on June 28, 2012 is here.  Fitzpatrick has approached the Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Daily Post-Athenian, a local radio station, and the Advocate & Democrat about the laws and has received no response.  The Post & Email has contacted the Knoxville News Sentinel in the past about criminality in the courts in addition to today’s live chat, and not one reporter or editor in any instance has requested more information from either Fitzpatrick or us.

The complete Tennessee Code Annotated can be read here.

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  1. Great reporting Sharon! The New York Times will probably be making you all sorts of offers to join them! If the Washington Post doesn’t out bid them for you.
    Most of all, I am so glad to see that someone is still working with Cmmdr. Fitzpatrick. Oath Keepers and other self called patriots deserted him like rats from a ship. Very few stayed at the side of this very courageous man.
    Thank you Sharon. And don’t forget to look for those offers when the sun refuses to shine.
    Mrs. Rondeau replies: Thank you for your kind words, sir. We’ll see how quickly those offers come in!

  2. You need to go to print to get this story out. You simply can not reach people who are not faced with a printed paper waving before them. Having researched the local papers in Tenn. it is clear they operate a clique centered on police, courts, fire, EMS and school employees. The same governmental frame that is usurping power from the rest of the nation one dollar at a time.

  3. Sharon, perhaps a note to Fred Thompson may at least get some information. He is from Tennessee and may have some interest if not too busy doing commercials! After all this information really makes his State appear stupid!!

    Thompson was admitted to the State Bar of Tennessee in 1967. At that time, he shortened his first name from Freddie to Fred.[14] He worked as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1969 to 1972,[15] successfully prosecuting bank robberies and other cases.[12] Thompson was the campaign manager for Republican U.S. Senator Howard Baker’s reelection campaign in 1972 and was minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee in its investigation of the Watergate scandal (1973–1974).

    In the 1980s Thompson worked as an attorney, with law offices in Nashville and Washington, DC,[16] handling personal injury claims and defending people accused of white collar crimes.[17] He also accepted appointments as Special Counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1980–1981), Special Counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee (1982), and Member of the Appellate Court Nominating Commission for the State of Tennessee (1985–1987).[12][13]

    His clients included a German mining group and Japan’s Toyota Motors Corporation.[18] Thompson has served on various corporate boards. He also did legal work and served on the board of directors

  4. I have NO knowledge of what actions, IF any can be Sanctioned against these people, but what ever might exist; I hope that P&E might pursue whatever the Journalistic Retaliation is that can be possible!!
    Have they never heard of the 1st Amendment???
    I cannot fathom the real degrees of Corruption that exist in that state, it reminds me of “Hazard County”, home of “Boss-Hog” ‘n the “Good ‘Ole Boys!!”