Jun 12 2008

The Blount GOP appears to have the Knoxville News Sentinel's Blount County stringer on their fax speed dial, given the number of dispatches about Judge Meares lately. And apparently, Judge Meares either a) doesn't have a sympathetic ear in the media, or b) is less concerned about the political spin cycle and more concerned about doing his job.

I don't speak for Judge Meares, and I don't pretend to know what he's thinking. But reading between the slanted lines of recent reporting, anyone paying attention might conclude that:

• His opponent's handlers, who include prominent local Republicans, a sitting Republican judge, and lawyers simultaneously representing the county's top GOP official and the local newspaper, have made various unfounded accusations against Judge Meares in print and in letters to the editor, not to mention floating an unsubstantiated "whisper campaign" in the Knoxville paper, and…

• Judge Meares has probably tried (just surmising here) to talk to these people directly to resolve any concerns about the operation of Blount Co. courts and has most likely run into a brick wall because they won't return his calls, and…

• Judge Meares, believing it incumbent upon himself as an officer of the court who is sworn to uphold his duties and protect the integrity of the court he serves (just surmising here, again), took what some might consider drastic action to get answers about whether the procedures and rules are being followed and whether in fact rules about making the rules are being followed.

As reward for trying to actually do his job when no one else will, Judge Meares has now been accused of playing politics from the bench.

This is "swiftboating," pure and simple. It's an attempt to twist a candidate's virtues into political liabilities for purposes of winning an election at any cost. The irony is that it's being done by people who value desperate partisan politics over virtue and the public trust.

Personally, I don't think selection of Tennessee's local judiciary should be determined by partisan elections. Or maybe even elections at all. But that's neither here nor there, because it is what it is and here we are.

I also think that Judge Meares' opponent is probably a good guy, and maybe even marginally qualified for Circuit Court Judge. But I wonder if he really wants to get dragged down into all this partisan mudslinging at the hands of his handlers.

My guess is that both candidates would rather run on their records and let voters decide who is more qualified and more experienced. Informed voters who look past partisan politics and media spin should be able to come to their own conclusions.

The only thing I would add is that Judge Meares has repeatedly said there's no place for politics in the courtroom. His opponent, however, is running ads in the local paper saying that he's the "Republican candidate" and that people in the community "share his values."

Maybe I missed something in high school civics class, but the only values anyone should care about regarding judges charged with dispensing "equal justice for all" are a) upholding the Constitutions of the State of Tennessee and the United States of America as they are sworn to do, b) having an extensive knowledge of the law and its application, and c) ensuring that everyone appearing in their court gets a fair trial. Are there some other "values" I'm missing? Surely the Blount GOP is not suggesting that local judges should be "legislating from the bench" in deference to the political whims of the electorate?

And as far as any controversy surrounding accurate reporting of case dispositions, I would only add that the "explanations" offered by the County Court Clerk, an elected Republican who has been involved in a number of controversies, are laughable.

Blount Co. voters ought to be asking about all these mistakes and inefficiencies and scandals and politics that plague our Blount Co. courts, where judges are just trying to come to work and do their jobs every day free from political influence and interference. Voters should also be asking who has what agenda and who is more credible, instead of who is the Democrat and who is the Republican. And more important, they should be asking themselves whose values they really share.

Once again, I do not speak for Judge Meares, and have had little contact with him or his campaign other than meeting him at a few campaign events and knowing one of his campaign people who I trust and respect. In fact, his campaign didn't reply to my email regarding questions about all this. I take that as a sign that Judge Meares is busy being a judge, as opposed to getting dragged down into local partisan politics and the mud being slung by the Blount GOP.

According to a Maryville

According to a Maryville Daily Times article published June 10th, 2008, there is sort of a timeline as to the events.

January, 2008

Blount County Circuit Court Clerk's office mailed case statuses to the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).
The paperwork was not received by the AOC.

April 27, 2008
Letter to the Maryville Daily Times editor by Blount County Circuit Court Judge W. Dale Young touts that there was a backlog of cases waiting to be tried by Judge Meares.

Hatcher said that, afterwards, Meares approached him about the figures that Young had cited and that he told the judge that he would look into any questions he had about the disposition of cases.

May 30, 2008

A month later, Judge Meares found it necessary to call Hatcher to his courtroom to get answers.

June 9, 2008
The AOC responds to Judge Meares in a memo trying to explain the case status discrepancies.

“We’ve tried to cooperate with him even before he made an issues out of this,” Hatcher said during a telephone interview Monday. “

To some, it could be deemed uncooperative to not respond to Judge Meares' request within a month's time.


Hatcher would have probably deemed it more prudent to respond to Meares' questions AFTER the election. You know, wouldn't want to be political or anything by revealing Meares had actually beat down the backlog instead of creating it.

If Duggan wins this election, I hope he feels very proud about having won as a direct result of an official county government misinformation campaign.

"Men are equal; it is not birth but virtue that makes the difference." --Voltaire

Down to a sound bite?

Would it be correct to cut this down to-

Judge Meares found a problem with the Local Rules.

Judge Young is the one who signed those Local Rules.

Judge Duggan is just sitting back watching as the local machine has spun this Judicial race to make it appear that Judge Meares is running against Judge Young's rules instead of the race being Meares and Duggan?


Hatcher and the AOC are a whole different issue.

Sigh, I sure wish we had Betty, Sandra and Larry covering Blount County.

From Blount Today:

From Blount Today: interrupting the self serving statements of Rob Goddard (who earlier this year stated in writing that the filing of Kathy Wright's defamation suit against Jerry Cunningham was politically motivated-huh?):

"Knoxville attorney Tom Mabry was quick to voice his thoughts on the issue in the hallway after the hearing. 'No, it’s not political. If it were so political, Judge Meares would have called Judge Young into court. Mike Meares absolutely has the authority to bring this up. The way I look at it, there was a violation of Rule 18 in that there was no input from the public,' he said. 'The public needs to have input into Local Rules.'"

I wish there was some way that Judge Meares could ethically call Judge Young into court and have Judge Young-a supporter of David Duggan-to explain his incorrect remarks. But, then, doesn't Judge Young have the ethical responsibility to publicly correct his incorrect remarks about Judge Meares' caseload? I'm not going to hold my breath waiting. I have things to do like file and try lawsuits.


Thomas F. Mabry
P. O. Box 52385
Knoxville, TN 37950

Fax 1-888-215-3119
Phone 1-865-671-0598

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