Can Tennessee Judges be Brought to Account?


by Sharon Rondeau

Monroe County is part of the Tenth Judicial District of Tennessee, where public corruption, particularly in the courts, has run rampant for decades

(Oct. 16, 2012) —The “Monroe County Criminal Court” continues to prosecute a case against Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III despite various defects with the charging documents, indictment, and grand jury.  On October 3, 2012, Special Judge Walter C. Kurtz refused to grant motions filed by Fitzpatrick’s attorney, Van Irion, to change the venue or dismiss the case.

Toward the end of a probable cause hearing on January 17, 2012, Judge J. Reed Dixon had stated that a special grand jury would be selected by a judge to review the evidence against Fitzpatrick because all of the members of the newly-empaneled grand jury were familiar with the charge against him.  However, the foreman was shown to be the same person who had served during the previous term who had also had contact with Fitzpatrick and could not have been considered unbiased.

Kurtz allowed Fitzpatrick’s attorney to file one more motion in the case by November 20, 2012, with a trial scheduled for December 3, 2012.

Fitzpatrick had been released from the Monroe County jail on December 3, 2011, only to be rearrested on December 7 for allegedly “tampering with government records.”  He was jailed until February 9, 2012, at which time he discovered that most of his personal belongings had been stolen.  The Sweetwater Police took Fitzpatrick’s report but did not proceed to properly investigate the crime.

At the October 3 hearing, Chief Court Clerk Martha M. Cook stated that the documents in question were not “public records.”

The person who signed the charging documents on December 7, 2011 had remained unidentified until the October 3 hearing, at which time Bruce Arp was brought in to testify.  When Irion asked Arp if he had understood what he had signed at the time, Arp responded, “No.”

Acting grand jury foreman Faye Tennyson, who is at least 84 years old and had signed the indictment against Fitzpatrick in March, testified that she is not currently under appointment when asked by Assistant District Attorney General Steve Morgan.  Tennyson had also incorrectly answered that she had never received anything in the mail from Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick had sent Tennyson two mailings through the U.S. mail last year:

Fay Tennyson subpoena wproof of mailing 24 FEB 2011

Fay Tennyson subpoena wproof of mailing 8 June 2011

The June 8 subpoena was sent to Sheriff Bill Bivens, who returned it unopened, stating that he would not deliver it.  Copies had been sent to the court and to Tennyson.  Fitzpatrick had subpoenaed Bivens, Tennyson, and several Tenth Judicial District judges to attend a trial on June 23, 2011 on a charge of resisting arrest brought against him.  “On the day of the hearing, Faye Tennyson didn’t show up,” Fitzpatrick said, nor did any of the judges he had subpoenaed.

On October 3, Tennyson was said by an observer to have appeared in court as “fragile, like porcelain” and that her voice was “very weak.”  Tennyson stated to Morgan that she did not cast a vote with the grand jury as to whether to not to indict Fitzpatrick.

While an appointing order was issued for Tennyson in January 2011, Fitzpatrick had challenged its legitimacy because there was no stated term of service and her first name was misspelled.

Fay Tennyson appointing order 3 JAN 2011

Atty. Irion had argued in court on October 3 that Tennyson is not a legitimate foreman because she had served in 2011.  A 2008 law states that jurors cannot serve consecutive terms and does not differentiate between jury members and the foreman.  Many Tennessee judges consider the foreman to be different from the other jurors, although the foreman can cast a vote in deliberations.

In a previous hearing on the case, Judge Kurtz had said that any problems with the charging documents were “cured” by the indictment.  The indictment has been called into question because Tennyson is not a juror.

If Tennyson was not appointed or selected “by automated means,” as the law specifies, what is she doing in a jury?

The previous acting grand jury foreman, Gary Pettway, had served for 28 consecutive years.  When Fitzpatrick had submitted an open records request for an appointing order for Pettway, Chief Clerk Martha M. Cook could not produce one.  Despite such deficiencies, indictments from grand juries with jurors serving consecutive terms, including the foreman, in violation of the law have been allowed to stand.

It is unknown how many people have been indicted and convicted as a result of tainted grand juries in Tennessee, or even in the Tenth Judicial District.

“Of all the people who could be picked in Monroe County, TN, why did they go with her?  She is able to vote on all of the cases, but she said she doesn’t vote on any of them.  So she’s just a plant.  She was not able to process a simple question.  The judge lowered his voice and spoke to her as a son would to a mother. This woman is an example of everything that’s wrong  with the jury system in Tennessee state,” an observer said.

In May of this year, Fitzpatrick discovered a set of laws passed in 1984 which state that the county courts were to be converted to serving civil purposes only, while district courts, consisting of several counties in most cases, would become the new trial courts.  The reorganization never occurred, and each county continues to empanel its own grand juries and trial juries.  Judicial corruption is rampant throughout Tennessee, and neither the legislature nor the executive branch will take action.

One of the laws mandated that new grand juries be empaneled at least twice a year, which is not the practice in Monroe County or the other three counties comprising the Tenth Judicial District.

On October 15, 2012, The Post & Email sent the following email to State Rep. John Forgety and State Senator Mike Bell:

Good evening, gentlemen.  I operate an electronic newspaper, The Post & Email, which has been closely following and reporting on judicial corruption within your respective jurisdictions as part of the Tenth Judicial District for nearly three years.

As you know, The Chattanooga Times Free Press ran a series of in-depth articles in August stating what The Post & Email has been saying for nearly three years:  there is tremendous corruption within the prosecutors’ office in the Tenth Judicial District which has knowingly caused innocent people to go to jail and prison by the hundreds and perhaps even by the thousands.  Where there are crooked prosecutors, there are crooked judges, and Judges Reedy, Ross and those sent in for special cases are no exception.  People are found guilty to serve a vendetta on the part of a judge or court clerk rather than by the evidence, and the laws passed in 1984 regarding trial courts have been completely ignored.

In the case of Monroe County, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys and the sheriff are working together to lock up as many people as they can in a prisoners-for-profit scheme.  I do not make that statement lightly, as we have the proof.  Police brutality and negligence of duty are commonplace. A cover-up of the Jim Miller murder, described as “a government hit,” has been ongoing for more than two years.

I continue to follow the case of CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, who is being prosecuted by the Tenth District for allegedly taking government records out of the courthouse.  Those records have been returned upon request. The person identified as the grand jury foreman is 84 years old, does not possess a current appointing order, and is unable to understand her duties as foreman as demonstrated at a motions hearing on October 3.  Nevertheless, she signed Fitzpatrick’s indictment and the judge has allowed the indictment to stand, which defies reason.

Justice is being denied the people of your districts, and constitutional rights are completely ignored.  The judiciary and the legislature appear to be at odds with one another, with judges immune from any type of prosecution virtually all the time.

As legislators, is it not your constitutional duty to oversee the judiciary?  A board comprising judges is not going to adequately discipline any of its own.  Fewer than 2% of complaints against judges result in any action at all, as the Tennessee Supreme Court itself reports on its website.

Throughout your state, grand juries and trial juries are convened contrary to state law, with jurors serving consecutive terms and the foreperson sometimes serving for decades in violation of TCA 22-2-314.  The judges, emboldened by the lawbreaking they have been allowed to carry out for so long, dictate law from the bench and deny the meaning of statutes still contained within Tennessee code.  How can this outlaw system be allowed to remain in place?

Would either or you be willing to interview with me on this subject and explain why nothing appears to have been done to rein in judges which violate the law each and every day?

Thank you very much.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email

Fitzpatrick’s attorney has established a Legal Defense Fund to assist in defraying the costs associated with his defense.

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