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VOL. 129 | NO. 119 | Thursday, June 19, 2014

Brooks: Assault Charge Being Used by ‘Detractors’

By Bill Dries

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The same day that she announced she was quitting her job at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks’ mug shot on an assault charge wound up on the top row of the front page of “Just Busted.”

BROOKS

Meanwhile, Brooks also issued a written statement Tuesday, June 17, saying that her “detractors and those opposed to real change have used this as an opportunity to take the focus off the critical issues affecting our children at Juvenile Court and therefore minimizing all that is at stake in this election.”

Brooks is the Democratic nominee for Juvenile Court clerk in the Aug. 7 county general election.

She resigned from the job she has held at Methodist since 2006 days after she was involved in a dispute over a parking space at Methodist University Hospital. Brooks turned herself in on a warrant for simple assault for allegedly snatching a cell phone from the other driver and pouring water on her during the argument.

Brooks has repeatedly framed her challenge of Republican incumbent Joy Touliatos as part of a larger effort for control of the criminal justice system and reforms at Juvenile Court itself.

Brooks again touched on the need for change in the court in what she titled her “letter to the base.”

“This is our last, best window to break the Juvenile Court’s school-to-prison pipeline,” she said of the upcoming election.

Touliatos has said the clerk’s office doesn’t control those reforms or make decisions about any matters before the court.

But Brooks has said, if elected, she would be part of the reform effort. And she has touted her complaint in 2009 to the U.S. Justice Department that resulted in its investigation of due process procedures in the court. The investigation concluded there were numerous due process problems as well as disproportionately harsher punishments and transfers for trials as adults for African-American children.

The court, Shelby County government and the Justice Department entered into a settlement that sets milestones for reforms as well as monitors to watch the court’s progress over several years.

Brooks, like Democratic nominee for district attorney general Joe Brown, has made the problems at Juvenile Court a major part of her campaign.

That is even as City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon is running for Juvenile Court judge against Chief Juvenile Court Magistrate Dan Michael. In the nonpartisan race on the August ballot, Sugarmon has campaigned to end what he terms “a 50-year continuum of Juvenile Court” from the late Judge Kenneth Turner to outgoing Judge Curtis Person, both of whom Michael has worked under.

Michael has campaigned on continuing changes at the court from the inside saying Person was already making changes before the Justice Department investigation.

“I want you to know that justice is being targeted, because we are standing up and fighting for families, children and women and for justice throughout the system,” Brooks said in Tuesday’s statement. “I am speaking truth to power and the public policy decisions that economically affect our community and entrap our children in poverty.”

Also Tuesday, Commissioner Terry Roland said in a letter to Shelby County Attorney Marcy Ingram that he intends to file a formal challenge of all the votes Brooks cast at the June 16 commission meeting including those on the county budget.

Roland is making the claim based on the county attorney’s investigation of whether Brooks lives in the district she has represented for the last eight years.

Roland cites the Shelby County charter provision that says, “Any county officials who shall voluntarily remove his or her residence outside the election district from which elected or appointed shall forfeit that office immediately.”

Ingram told commissioners Monday that her office is investigating Brooks’ residency.

The commission could get some kind of report by the time it meets in special session next week on budget matters and has included possible action on such a report on the agenda for that meeting.

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