Mar 29 2008
01:20 pm

Ronae County Judge Dennis Humphrey has been reprimanded for issuing a contempt of court judgement with a $5000.00 fine and put Darrell Pearson in jail until he paid the fine...Which, of course, he couldn't do since he was in jail.

The Judge forgot about Pearson who served 68 days in jail before the good Judge remembered him and let him out.

The Tennssee Court of the Judiciary ripped Humphrey for basic ignorance and failing to follow any of the law he was supposed to enforce.

...Pearson was deprived of his freedom because the judge failed to follow basic due process under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution and also failed to follow the law of contempt.

Interesting link error...

... takes us to a dog attack?

IMHO His Honor got what he deserved. He danced, and he paid the fiddler. Beats the hell out of long-term corruption.


Link fixed

Don't know how I managed to mess that up but it's fixed now.

So let me ask if anybody has an opinion about what this means for Dennis's future as a judge?

Tommy Austin is serving time for breaking the law as a Judge...Can Roane County afford to have another Judge that ignores the law? This certainly doesn't rise to the level of Austin's corruption but it certainly calls into question the fitness to serve.

Who will be responsible for damages to Mr. Pearson? Dennis? Roane County?

This conduct brings the

This conduct brings the judiciary into public disrepute in Tennessee

The Letter

Harsh punishment from the panel...OK, not! It is essentially a "Bad boy" and nothing else for putting a guy in jail illegally?

There is a certain principle of law, ancient in origin...

... and it is: "Let the punishment fit the crime."

This is a very well established principle and one not ignored in deliberations in the highest courts in the land. There is a reason why statues and other representations of Justice show the lady blindfolded. It is to demonstrate equality under the law. And there is a reason why Lady Justice holds a sword, It is no accident that it is a sword that cuts both ways.

I read the letter of reprimand, and it contains no details of the case in question. We don't know the circumstances of Pearson's contempt. The letter of reprimand did not say there was no contemptuous action on Pearson's part. It said he had not received adequate service of process for the contempt action to be acted upon. So we don't know what it was Judge Humphrey was reacting to.

Don't mistake what I am writing to be a claim that Judge Humphrey didn't mess up, or that he should not be punished. I just don't happen to take an "Off with his head!" approach to this. Not every mistake a lawyer or judge makes is meritorious of disbarment or other severe punishment. They make mistakes that are not "hanging" offenses just like other folks.

The comparison with Tommy Austin I'll assume is merely one of convenience (as Austin was another judge in Roane County) rather than a comparison that intends to actually imply that the degree of offense is in any way alike. Judge Humphrey's civil offense is hardly of the caliber and extent of Austin's ongoing criminal enterprise for a valid comparison.

In 771 F.2d 1362, USA vs Barker et al, in the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in 1985: A lot of the decision of the court focused on the failure to individualize the sentence in making the crime fit the punishment. Judges these days are generally very sensitive to those requirements. This is particularly interesting in that most every barrister in the country recognizes the Ninth Circuit as probably the most liberal (progressive?) court in the land. Here is what the Court of Appeals had to say in regard to sentencing and making the punishment fit the crime:

"The exceptions to this rule [exercise of discretion in sentencing], while limited, are well supported. Courts have remanded for resentencing "where the sentencing court in effect refuses to exercise its discretion," United States v. Wardlaw, 576 F.2d 932, 938 (1st Cir.1978), and where the district court "exceeded the bounds of its sentencing discretion" by failing to individualize sentences. Id. In Lopez-Gonzales, we held that because trial courts are obligated actually to exercise their discretion, we may conduct a limited review of the sentencing process to insure that discretion has, in fact, been exercised by the district court. 688 F.2d at 1276 (citing Dorszynski, 418 U.S. at 443, 94 S.Ct. at 3052). In Garrett, we noted that sentences imposed on a mechanical basis have been vacated as an abuse of the sentencing judge's discretion. 680 F.2d at 652 n. 3 (citing Woosley, 478 F.2d at 141-43); see also United States v. Hartford, 489 F.2d 652, 655 (5th Cir.1974) (rigid policy of imposing maximum sentence for narcotics violations both "an abuse of judicial discretion" and "under no reasonable conception an exercise of judicial discretion")...
"Few legal principles are either as ancient or deeply etched in the public mind as the notion that punishment should fit the crime. This familiar maxim, however, is only half-true. "In the present century the pendulum has been swinging away from ... the philosophy that the punishment should fit the crime and toward one that the punishment should [also] fit the criminal." W. LaFave & A. Scott, Handbook on Criminal Law Sec. 5 at 25 (1972). While we do not suggest that this trend has been without reverses, past or present, the concept of individualized sentencing is firmly entrenched in our present jurisprudence. As the Supreme Court has observed,punishment should fit the offender and not merely the crime. The belief no longer prevails that every offense in a like legal category calls for an identical punishment without regard to the past life and habits of a particular offender.
Williams v. New York, 337 U.S. 241, 247, 69 S.Ct. 1079, 1083, 93 L.Ed. 1337 (1949) (citation omitted); United States v. Foss, 501 F.2d 522, 527 (1st Cir.1974); Wardlaw, 576 F.2d at 938. In each case, a criminal sentence must reflect an individualized assessment of a particular defendant's culpability rather than a mechanistic application of a given sentence to a given category of crime. As we said in Lopez-Gonzales, 688 F.2d at 1276-77,the exercise of sound discretion requires consideration of all the circumstances of the crime.... The sentencing judge is required to consider all mitigating and aggravating circumstances involved. There is a strong public interest in the imposition of a sentence based upon an accurate evaluation of the particular offender and designed to aid in his personal rehabilitation. Thus, appellate courts have vacated sentences reflecting a preconceived policy always to impose the maximum penalty for a certain crime."

There is more, but methinks by now one who had read this far can get the point.

The sentence of Judge Humphrey is from the profession he has aggrieved. They know the law well, and are respected and to be assumed honest arbiters under the law. They know the circumstances of Judge Humphrey's misbehavior far more than we do from the news coverage or even from reading the letter of reprimand. They could have handed him a much worse punishment but did not do so - and that was after deliberation that we must presume included consideration of issues of punishment as outlined above. Bottom line - if we start a campaign of second-guessing the Judicial Court, we're making a glib and probably self-righteous judgment based on very few facts and shooting from the hip. They know far more germane facts in the case and are better qualified by their very knowledge of the facts to make judgment on how serious the infraction is. Shooting from the hip is not how justice gets done, and two wrongs do not make a right.

So I prefer to trust the judgment of the Judicial Court - one not made up of men and women who take a judge's obligation to the law lightly - as one made reasonably, with all due consideration given to both the nature and circumstances of the crime AND applicable considerations concerning the perpetrator thereof. The Judicial Court exercised its discretion AS REQUIRED by case law and statute. I see no cause for an under-informed outcry to arise calling for the head of Judge Humphrey on a righteous platter.


Yeah sure, RB

The public will now have cause to distrust Dennis's ability to perform his job. He was ignorant of the law and forgot about a citizen he had put in jail.

Talk about punishment fitting the crime.

There is a certain arrogance here that worries me. This will cause other rulings by Dennis to come into question. Particularly the high bail he tends to set in minor offenses. It's not just this case. I've heard other grumblings.

I just wish...

... I had the gift of knowledge to be as sure peoples' unfitness that some folks seem to have.

What arrogance is that "certain arrogance here."? I don't know. I'm not a habitue' of Judge Humphrey's court. I don't monitor his bail practices. And grumblings mean little to me. It's easy for somebody to have folks grumbling about him/her. All they have to do is do SOMETHING, and some people will grumble. And a judge - any judge - doing the job right OR wrong will set off grumblings. Grumblings go with any judge I've every seen or known.

He will undoubtedly have the obstacle you mention of the shadow the reprimand will cast on his court. That, when you think about it, is a fairly serious punishment. Can he overcome that? Only time will tell. But it can be overcome if he applies himself well. And it certainly doesn't mean automatically that his future rulings are gonna be wrong. That's assigning a causal relationship that doesn't exist.

My point - which is unaddressed or ignored or totally unimportant - is that the people who made the call on his punishment are in far better position (knowing more facts on both sides of the issue) than I am - or even than you are - to be able to pass an appropriate judgment on Judge Humprhey insofar as legal punishment is concerned.


It will be interesting to see what comes out

I think there's a lot yet to learn about this. The reprimand letter was released late on Friday, providential timing for a bad news announcement that needs to be buried.

This doesn't seem to be a mistake on a technicality, but rather a gross inadequacy as to knowledge of the Law...Either that or a willful ignoring of the US Constitution.

Neither case is endearing to the career prospects of a someone whose primary quality is supposed to be "judgement."

A little more...

From what I can find out, in violation of the US Constitution, the Tennessee Constitution, and Tennessee law, Judge Humphrey sentenced Pearson to a $5000 fine jail for contempt because of unpaid alimony which is a screw up on just about everything legal. Humphrey faced the possibility of suspension and avoided that by accepting the reprimand from the Tennessee judiciary panel.

One has to wonder if the Judge ever thinks about the jail overcrowding situation, or has he forgotten about that too?

Looks like...

... that whatever it winds up being, he is about to pay the price. Maybe not immediately today, but certainly ultimately. Your last question is a very pertinent one in this county and its situation - one that a judge committing people to this jail should not overlook.

I bet this isn't going away.


68 Days!

This judge deprived this man's freedom for 68 days. THEN HE FORGOT ABOUT HIM SITTING IN JAIL!

What part of WRONG don't you people understand?

RoaneBooster - you have alot of fancy writings to support/defend this judge's actions. I say patooie, the bottom line is that this judge, for whatever reason, abused his power.

So how is this judge going to pay this man back for taking away his freedom for 68 days?

Think about your own life. What would happen to you if all of the sudden you were missing from you work, family etc for 68 days? What would you lose? Your job? Your credit rating because you could not pay your bills? Your home because you could not pay your rent? Think about it!

Can you imagine sitting in jail and the judge forgot about you? You ask the guards, etc. "What is gong on?" "When am I going to get out of here?" All they say is "I don't know". How horrible must that be?

Think about it. Sounds like every third world country I have ever read about.

How would YOU feel?

The only repercussion this judge faces is a letter? I am sure that "letter" is real comforting for that man who's freedom was denied for nearly 70 days.

EVERY person reading this should be horrified that this was allowed to happen, because (believe me) it could happen TO YOU!

Yeah, even you ROANE BOOSTER!

Glad you finally woke up, Questions...

But you don't need to yell at me, pal. You slept on this one for more than 68 days :-)

Has the "victim" sued the judge? If he has grounds, let him.

Do you know more about the law and what normal punishments for this situation than the legal panel that examined the situation? I don't. Neither you nor I have the legal expertise nor the knowledge of the facts to pass a more qualified judgment than the panel that issued their judgment. They know the law better than either one of us.

You don't like what they do? Take it up with them. You think they did wrong? You get qualified and get yourself on such a panel so YOU can mete out "real" justice.


Roane Boster

he defends the judge the da and every elected offical on here.I wonder if this letter came from a group he has dinner or constant meetings with.ill say it again you take a person hosage fro 68 days you go to prison.He was kidnaped by the power of abuse of power.I think he should call Gregg isiaccs.

You missed the point, Bones

I don't defend just ANYBODY... I insist on facts. It's the easiest thing in the world to get on a forum like this and throw around any kind of accusation that one can dream up. It doesn't make it true. Like this stuff that's been going on about people getting fired or quitting the school system.

I object to people who do hold offices being found guilty of anything anybody says about them simply because they happen to be in office. That puts a target on their back, and anybody that wants to throw garbage at them is free to do so.

You've not seen me defending, for instance, Tommy Austin. And it's altogether STUPID (yes, I said stupid) to equate the mistake Judge Humphrey made with the things Tommy Austin did.

All of a sudden here's all this righteous indignation on here about this issue that's long since dead. How do you know this aggrieved person DOESN'T have Greg Isaacs working on his case? Or could it be that the victim of the judge's mistake has decided that the judge got what he had coming? We don't know - you don't know and I don't know. He may sue the pants off Dennis Humphrey. He may drop a suit on him the day before the statute of limitation runs out. Or, as I said, he may have decided to let it go. If he has decided to let it go, it's not our business to say that he can't or shouldn't make that decision.

The judiciary review group applied the legal remedy it had at its disposal, based on their knowledge of the facts surrounding the incident. Do YOU have all the facts that they had presented to them? Do YOU have MORE facts than they had presented to them? If the answer to either of those questions is no, then YOU DO NOT HAVE sufficient information to judge whether what they decided to do with the judge was OK or not.

Let me ask you something, Bones. Has every mistake you've ever made - even mistakes that had bad effects on other people - been made with malicious intent? Have you DELIBERATELY made every mistake you've ever made that had a negative effect on other people?

You wonder who I have dinner with or meetings with? How about you? Who do you eat with and meet with? Must be with people who give classes in beating dead horses.



He should file an ethics complaint.And it would be handled correctley.Ive seen and read here he should be removed from the bench.If acitizen hold holds some one hostage for 68 days they would be in prision.he should sue him personally the county everybody involved.


lol lol lol lol ha ha ha ha ha mater what you do or how much eveidence you provide they will do it

Something obviously went wrong and ...

The Judiciary Court saw fit to issue a reprimand. I agree with RB that they must of made that decision after a full review of the facts. It's rather amazing that this has stayed below the surface for the last 9 months. If this person was deprived of due process and detained for over 2 months it's curious that he has not filed whopper law suit. Looks like a case for Moncier or (god forbid)Cawood.

I'd say this situation has

I'd say this situation has been dealt with and it's time to move on.

I sat in Judge Humphrey's court this past Monday and he handled things well and efficiently... Far better than the courtroom I observed in Johnson City last year. As things go, Roane County is doing better all the time. Everybody learns.

Good observation, WC

Thanks - and I totally agree!


Judge Humphrey

To equate Judge Humphrey with Judge Austin is ridiculous and downright mean. Judge Humphrey is as FAR from being anything like "Judge" Austin as is humanly possible. Judge Humphrey, if any of you actually knew anything about him at all, is one of the most compassionate people I know. And let me tell you something else I know, Judge Humphrey is NOT ignorant of the law. This was not a matter of ignorance. Judges are not above being human and making errors, and I am truly sorry the man spent all that time in jail and it was a bad thing, but it was not done out of ignorance, spite, evil machinations, abuse of power, or any illegal activities on the part of Judge Humphrey. It was a matter of human error. And whoever is grumbling about high bails, Judge Humphrey has let more people out on OR bonds than I could possibly number, because of his compassion and sensitivity where people are concerned.
He puts up with people coming into his court and screaming obscentities at him - yes I have seen that happen. They come in there with absolutely NO respect for the law, the court or him, and yet he is patient, kind and willing to try to help the people out. Every single time court is in session in his court room he reads the people their rights out loud and when they come before him at the bench he asks them if they heard their rights and if they say no, he reads them again - to however many persons he has to read them to. And if that is irritating to the clerks and the attorneys and everyone else sitting there, he does it anyway because he is interested in ensuring they have their rights read to them and that they understand them. I never saw Judge Austin do that. Judge Austin was engaged in illegal activity and sitting up there on the bench judging and passing sentences on people who weren't doing anything as bad as what he was doing and I never heard or saw one person complain about him UNTIL he was arrested. Now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and denigrating Judge Humphrey by comparing him to Judge Austin. It was a human error. And whatever error Judge Humphrey may be guilty of (as we all are), he is NOT guilty of extortion and doing drugs and terrorizing people from behind his robes into complying with his wishes. He is an honest, decent person and judge and those of you so quick to judge him should be thanking God that you don't have to walk in his shoes and see people come in there for burning their children's arms with cigarettes and men who have never paid a dime of support for their children, and parents who are cooking meth with children in the home and all the other various people he sees and he has to make decisions about. His is not an easy job, and the courts are flooded, sometimes mistakes happen. Does anyone know the man who was locked up for 68 days? The man in question, while he has a right to be angry, should also be thankful he is in a country where someone remembered he WAS in jail and released him.

The only one's complaining about

The only ones I know who sometimes complain about Judge Humphrey's court are LEOs because at times the Judge seems too fair with the people they bring before him (I said "too fair" not "too lenient").

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