From the Tennessee Center for Policy Research:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Watchdog, a project of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, has released a special report on the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary and the state’s system of judicial accountability.
The secret world of the Court of the Judiciary and Tennessee’s system of judicial accountability:
A group of Tennessee’s most powerful elected officials have had almost 3,000 formal complaints filed against them in court during the last decade.
Though the status of many of these complaints is known – with about half being simply dismissed – the details of how state government handled them and why little action was taken against these power brokers is almost totally secret.
Between 1999 and 2009 some 2,977 complaints were lodged against Tennessee judges, according to data obtained by Tennessee Watchdog through open records requests. Those complaints were filed with a little-known public body called the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary (COJ) charged under state law with meting out discipline to the state’s judges when they break codes of judicial conduct.
Due to a combination of state law and the COJs own rules, most of its meetings and the decisions the court and its staff make as the gatekeeper of complaints against Tennessee’s judges largely take place in secret. That secrecy runs throughout the court’s workings – from deciding which complaints to pursue to the investigatory phase and in many cases actual pleadings from litigant judges and deliberations by the court itself.
Tennessee Watchdog’s eight-month investigation shows that over the last decade less than one percent of all complaints against the state’s judges resulted in any public disciplinary action.
In addition, Tennessee Watchdog has posted court documents detailing the known 23 public actions against judges by the Court of the Judiciary since 1999 gathered in open records requests.