ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Clerk of Courts Sarah Davis was arrested Monday evening on a bench warrant issued last week by Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross for contempt of court.
The charge was preceded by a verbal altercation that allegedly occurred between Davis, 51, of Rogersville, and Ross on Jan. 30 over a courtroom staffing dispute.
Ross stated in his arrest warrant affidavit that the deputy clerk in charge of cost collections was absent from the courtroom that day, which was slowing down court progress.
There were approximately 65 cases on the Sessions Court docket that day.
“Upon addressing several cases and working out payment plans for the court costs and fines, the court inquired the whereabouts of the collections clerk, and requested the deputy clerk who was present to ask the collections clerk to report to the courtroom,” Ross states in the affidavit. “Shortly thereafter the court was informed that the collections clerk would not be reporting to the court, and was able to provide a valid reason for absence. At that time the court suspended proceedings for the purpose of personally inquiring into the reason the collections clerk was not present in the courtroom.”
In the clerk’s office Ross reportedly observed the office to be “fully staffed” with the collections clerk at her desk and Davis working at the front counter.
“The court approached the defendant (Davis) and inquired as to why the cost collection clerk was not in the courtroom,” Ross states. “The defendant responded, in essence, ‘all those people aren’t going to plea.’ The court explained to the defendant that pleas were being taken, and due to the absence of the collections clerk, the court was spending a great deal of time handling issues normally handled by the clerk, and as such, was being delayed in effectively handling the docket.”
Ross added, “The court directly instructed the defendant to have the collections clerk report to the courtroom, to which the defendant replied ‘no.’ The defendant was ordered on at least two additional times to have the cost clerk report to the courtroom, to which the defendant replied ‘no.’”
Ross then told Davis she would be charged with contempt if she didn’t comply.
Davis allegedly replied, “You can’t hold me in contempt.”
Upon the judge’s return to court, however, Davis did send the cost clerk into the courtroom.
Davis told the Times-News Monday, “I did not feel I was in contempt of court. I always base my decisions on what I think is best for my office. Further statements may be coming at a later time.”
She was booked into jail Monday at 5:40 p.m. and released on her own recognizance at 6:20 p.m.
A March 27 court appearance is scheduled for Davis.
Ross further stated in his affidavit, “To allow an elected official whose sworn duty is to serve this court to repeatedly disobey a direct order of this court — and do so before an entire staff of deputy clerks in such a rude and disrespectful manner without cause or justification — would further demean the dignity of this court.”
The state “Administrative Office of Courts” will be notified of the March 27 court date so that an “unbiased judge” can be appointed to hear the case against Davis.