County Commission Reappoints Judicial Commissioners

November 25, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The County Commission Monday night reappointed Judicial Commissioners Jerry Taylor and Tammy Ashburn to a new one year term, after questions surfaced recently about when they were last appointed and their training.

Apparently under state law, Judicial commissioners are to be appointed for terms of one to four years.

Concerned citizen Jamie Bullard, last week during a committee meeting, said he did some checking and found that Taylor and Ashburn were appointed to one year terms in 1991 but he could not find in the minutes where the county commission had taken action since then on a reappointment.

County Mayor Mike Foster, during Monday night's meeting, said after questions were raised, action was taken to address the issue. "It has come to our attention that the full commission may not have set a term for the judicial commissioners and I think we need to look at that tonight. That (term) can be anywhere from one year to four years and I think probably we ought to appoint the judicial commissioners. The county attorney (Hilton Conger) has researched this and tells us that even if we have failed to do this that the judicial commissioners are serving defacto and are clearly acting under the color of the law as judicial commissioners of DeKalb County as upheld by courts."

"I got a letter today (Monday) at my request from the Secretary of the Judicial Commissioners Association of Tennessee. It's concerning my question about training for judicial commissioners. It says, ‘Dear Mr Foster, at the present time there is no requirement by the State of Tennessee for judicial commissioners to have training. JCAT, which is the Judicial Commissioners Association of Tennessee has presented legislation for judicial commissioners training to State Representative Joe Pitts of Montgomery County. Currently the bill is running through (the legal process). We hope to have it presented this session. There will be a training session in April, 2009 in Williamson County.'

"She (secretary) also sent me a list of trainees (who attended) a two day work session in Cumberland County at Crossville. Those attending from DeKalb County were Judicial Commissioners Jerry Taylor and Tammy Ashburn and DeKalb County Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, who each paid $60 in fees to attend that. Some of the things they talked about during this session were DUI roadblocks, duties of the judicial commissioners, controlled substances, classification of crimes and setting of bonds, how bills become law, legal aid, domestic violence, ethics, criminal procedures, criminal versus civil issues, juvenile law and legislative updates. They were also given a copy of the Tennessee Criminal Justice Handbook, which they paid for. Part of their training has been done by the Assistant Attorney General or local D.A.. They do training and updating."

"To answer some questions that have been raised, any warrant that's issued by a judicial commissioner is looked at by the officer serving or requesting a warrant; the Circuit Court Clerk's officer who enters it into the computer, the General Sessions Judge, and or the District Attorney General; and Circuit Judge, which seems to be a whole lot of oversight to me so I think that's met."

In addition to re-appointing the two judicial commissioners and establishing their salaries at the levels already budgeted, approximately $11,000 each, the county commission also appointed an oversight committee including county commissioners Elmer Ellis, Jr., Jerry Scott, and Wayne Cantrell, Sheriff Patrick Ray, General Sessions Judge Bratten Cook II, Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, and Grand Jury Foreman Steve Officer, in addition to County Mayor Mike Foster.

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