Thursday, May 29, 2008

Formal reprimand for Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge who overemphasized immigration

Second censure for discriminatory conduct

"Perceived predetermination as to Hispanic individuals"

Violations of Canons of Judicial Ethics, U.S. Constitution, TN Constitution

Short of removal, censure is "highest degree of judicial discipline authorized by law"

In balance of laws and rights, equal protection trumps immigration

The Tennessee Court of the Judiciary issued a public censure and this letter formally reprimanding Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge A. Andrew Jackson for his habit of issuing rulings against juveniles based solely on the real or perceived immigration status of the children and parents appearing before him. This includes a "perceived predetermination as to Hispanic individuals."

Jerry Gonzalez, who filed the complaint against Judge Jackson and was profiled by the Nashville Scene in 2004 (story here), explained the problem to the American Bar Association Journal as one of Sippenhaft, or kin liability:
"The judge would rule the juvenile was unruly if he found the parents to be disrespectful of the law," the lawyer, Jerry Gonzalez is quoted saying. "Under the statute, being unruly has nothing to do with the parents. They could be drug dealers and it doesn't mean you are."
According to the July 2007 Tennessee Bar Journal, this is the second time in two years that Judge Jackson has received this level of censure for discriminatory conduct:
On May 24, the Court of the Judiciary issued a public censure to Judge A. Andrew Jackson of Dickson County for inappropriate behavior at an August 2006 Juvenile Justice Conference in Memphis. On the evening of Aug. 7, Jackson overindulged in the consumption of alcohol to the extent that he was unable to remember some of the evening’s events. An African-American conference attendee, however, remembers asking Jackson about job opportunities in his area and that Jackson responded with disparaging references about the man’s race and ethnicity. Shortly thereafter, Jackson profanely referred to a conference attendee from Pennsylvania and physically pushed the person. Later that night, Jackson endeavored to coax a female conference attendee to join him on the dance floor. When she resisted, Jackson made a crude sexual remark.
The text of the formal letter of reprimand for the immigration-related conduct is here:
May 16, 2008

PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL

A. Andrew Jackson
Dickson County General Sessions Judge
4000 Highway 48
North Suite 1
Charlotte, TN 37036

FORMAL LETTER OF REPRIMAND

In re: Complaint of Jerry Gonzales against Judge A. Andrew Jackson
File No. 07-3154

Dear Judge Jackson:

This shall serve as a public censure pursuant to your agreement with the Investigative Panel of this court and in compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 17-5-301 (f) (5). This reprimand relates to your actions as the Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge in hearing cases in which children appeared before you who were illegal aliens, children of illegal aliens, or perceived by you as being illegal aliens. In juvenile cases in which the defendant juvenile had illegal or questionable legal status in the United States, you consistently determined that the child was dependent and neglected when the petition before you did not seek to have the child declared dependent and neglected and that you also when informed that this was inappropriate conduct, determined each child to be unruly, jailing these juveniles as a result of their status, their parents’ status or your perceived view of the status. This course of conduct was demonstrated in hearings held before you March 14, 2007, April 18, 2007 and May 2, 2007 in the case of a juvenile identified for the purpose of this letter as R. I. so as to protect that juvenile’s identify. In those proceedings you repeatedly asked counsel and the child “if he was illegal.” You announced to counsel your predetermination of the case when you stated “Mr. Taylor, you know what I’m going to do on that don’t you, might as well go on and get your appeal set up.” These statements led to laughter in the courtroom and because of your perceived predetermination as to Hispanic individuals appearing before you. You also in this hearing told the representatives of the child to “Get on over there and get Birch to sign it. It always just irritates me to no end,” referring to the requirement of counsel to seek an immediate appeal from your predetermined judgments and incarceration for juveniles in matters dealing in this particular case with a charge of speeding, expired permit and a seat belt violation.

Your actions in this and other juvenile cases violated Supreme Court Rule 10, Canon 1 requiring a judge to uphold the integrity and independent of the judiciary, Canon 2 requiring a judge to respect and comply with the law, Canon 3 B (2) requiring a judge to be faithful to the law and to maintain professional competence in it, Canon 3 B (5) requiring a judge to perform his judicial duties without biased and prejudice and your conduct in dealing with these juveniles deprived those individuals of equal protection of the law as required by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the equal protection provisions of the Tennessee Constitution. In addition to the violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and state and federal constitutional rights, your conduct detrimentally affects the integrity of the Tennessee judiciary and undermines public confidence in the administration of justice.

This public censure represents the highest degree of judicial discipline authorized by law short of the Court seeking a judgment recommending your removal as a judge from office. In the future, you are to accord all persons who appear before you equal protection of the law and to decide their case on an independent and fair basis.

Sincerely,

Don R. Ash
Presiding Judge
Court of the Judiciary

DRA/cg
cc. Investigative Panel
Disciplinary Counsel
Photo by Michael Galkovsky. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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