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VOL. 124 | NO. 252 | Thursday, December 24, 2009

Attorney Says 'Judge Shopping' in Wildlife Cases

The Associated Press

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - A Chattanooga lawyer has subpoenaed two judges, one of them an avid hunter, for a hearing on his claim that Tennessee wildlife officers routinely "judge shop" their cases against accused violators of boating, hunting, fishing and sometimes environmental laws.

Subpoenas filed Tuesday by attorney Jerry Summers request that Hamilton County General Sessions Court judges Bob Moon and David Bales attend a Jan. 7 hearing.

Both judges have previously denied the allegations. Neither could be reached by telephone for comment Wednesday.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency director Ed Carter declined comment Wednesday and said "we are just going to let it go through the (court) system."

Summers told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the practice denies defendants due process.

Tennessee Supreme Court ethics rules prohibit "judge shopping."

Moon is an avid hunter and has previously said "it is not unusual" to have judges hear cases based on their expertise of certain subjects. Moon also said that "all law enforcement officers, including (those working for the) TWRA, have discretion to assign cases to certain judges when defendants are only given citations."

Subpoenas were also issued for reporters and their notes.

A judge from a different county will preside over the case after Hamilton County Criminal Court judges recused themselves.

Summers is trying to get misdemeanor charges dismissed against a client, Gary Wayne McCullough.

Summers in August contended the agency routinely sends its cases to Moon and Bales, despite an electronic case assignment system that is supposed to assign cases randomly among five judges.

A newspaper report on court records shows that Moon and Bales have heard a disproportionate number of TWRA cases over the years.

Summers also subpoenaed a court administrator to provide docket schedules from 2004 to 2009 as proof that other types of citations, such as those involving traffic violations, do not routinely get sent to particular judges.

___

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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