Lawyer’s crusade against judges might continue with third grand jury visit

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Well-known Tennessee attorney John Jay Hooker persuaded Nashville grand jurors last week to recommend charges against Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell — but he’s not finished.

Successful or not, Hooker’s last grand jury visit was just one element in a grander plan.

“I plan to go back before the grand jury again, or at least ask to be permitted to come back,” Hooker said Wednesday of his attempts to discredit the state’s 22 appellate court judges, including its five Supreme Court justices.

Tennessee political legend John Jay Hooker

Grand jurors recommend that Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk bring charges against the two Republicans, on grounds they disregarded state rules when appointing members to the state’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission.

Funk has not charged either of the two, and Funk spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said Wednesday she had nothing new to add.

As reported, Hooker, 84, takes issue with JPEC, which no longer exists, but, according to Tennessee Courts.gov, used surveys and interviews to review the performance of appellate judges and recommended them for retention or replacement.

Hooker said too few women and minorities served on JPEC, as state law requires. Seven men and two women served on JPEC.

“I am not asking the grand jury to indict these judges, I am asking them to say that all these 22 judges have been unlawfully elected and they all well know it,” Hooker, a Democrat, said.

Beth Harwell

Forrest Shoaf, a Republican who is helping Hooker’s cause, said last month that such a report from grand jurors would lead to the next step — approaching the Tennessee House of Representatives to seek impeachment charges against the judges.

Harwell spokeswoman Kara Owen said Wednesday that JPEC consisted of two women and two men — two Caucasians, one Hispanic and an African-American.

Meanwhile, Ramsey, in a statement, said he and Harwell broke no laws.

“This report was the result of a washed up Democrat politician’s attempt to get publicity for his personal political crusade,” Ramsey said.

“That’s all it was. As far as I am concerned, it is over.”

But why did grand jurors single out Harwell and Ramsey when so many other state officials were involved in the judicial selection process?

After all, Shoaf told TN Report this week he wished grand jurors indicted the judges instead.

Hooker told Tennessee Watchdog state Supreme Court justices, who had a professional stake in the matter, are responsible for failing to inform JPEC of this oversight.

JPEC members disregarded Hooker’s complaints during their hearings, he said.

Grand jury foreman Arnett Bodenhamer of Nashville said Wednesday his explanation is simple.

“Those were the two that made the law. I don’t know who else participated in it, but they’re the ones that lead it,” Bodenhamer said.

Photo courtesy The State of Tennessee's Official Website

Ron Ramsey

“My opinion is based on information we received from the assistant district attorney that we couldn’t do anything, that we couldn’t indict Harwell and Ramsey. If we could have indicted them we would have done that instead of recommending charges.”

Tennessee Watchdog asked Wednesday morning how long it took jurors to make their decision and what went on while they deliberated?

Bodenhamer didn’t answer the question and then ended the call.

“I’m getting ready to go play golf, so that takes precedence over your phone call,” Bodenhamer said, adding he would accept a call later in the day.

Tennessee Watchdog tried calling Bodenhamer again Wednesday afternoon, but he did not immediately respond to a voicemail.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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