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As Hawkins court clerk's contempt trial nears, motion to dismiss filed

March 23rd, 2014 1:43 pm by Jeff Bobo

As Hawkins court clerk's contempt trial nears, motion to dismiss filed

Sarah Davis

Hawkins County clerk of courts arrested on contempt charge

ROGERSVILLE — A motion filed Friday to dismiss a contempt of court charge against Hawkins County Clerk of Courts Sarah Davis claims an arrest warrant issued by Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross on Feb. 3 was illegal and that Davis's constitutional rights were violated.

Davis is scheduled to stand trial Thursday on the contempt warrant issued by Ross after he and Davis had a verbal altercation in her office at the Justice Center 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.

Ross recessed his court proceedings and went to the clerk of court's office to find out why the collections clerk was absent.

Ross stated in the arrest warrant affidavit, "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 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."

Davis was arrested at her office the evening of Feb. 3 and released on her own recognizance after being booked into jail.

Davis's attorney, retired Circuit Judge Kindall Lawson, filed a motion Friday to dismiss the contempt of court charge against Davis, citing several reasons including his assertion that Ross lacked "Personem Jurisdiction" to issue a capias/bench warrant against Davis.

Lawson states in his motion that a capias is only authorized after the grand jury returns an indictment, at which time the clerk shall issue capias or criminal summons for each defendant named in the indictment.

Lawson states that a judge is authorized by statute to issue a bench warrant if a person previously cited to court fails to appear.

As for the arrest warrant Lawson states, "One wishing to secure an arrest warrant must appear before a neutral and detached magistrate who is required to examine, on oath, the affiant or affiants (complainants), reduce the examination to writing, and cause the examination to be signed by the person making it. ... If none of the affiants is a law enforcement officer as defined by TCA 39-11-106, then a criminal summons shall be issue instead of a warrant of arrest."

Lawson summarizes his grounds for dismissal by stating:

  • The document issued by Judge Ross is not an authorized capias.
  • The document issued by Judge Ross is improper as applied and does not meet statutory or constitutional mandates for a bench warrant.
  • The document issued by Judge Ross for the arrest of the defendant is not a valid arrest warrant and is void.
  • A void warrant invalidates all subsequent proceedings.
  • If lawful probable cause could have been found, and there had been a proper affidavit of complaint, a criminal citation should have been issued.
  • None of the above procedures are authorized in a proceeding for criminal contempt.
  • Lawson adds, "In the face of such flagrant disregard of the statutory and constitutional rights of the defendant, the capias/bench warrant for the arrest of the defendant should be dismissed with prejudice and this honorable court should not take personal jurisdiction of the defendant."

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