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Prosecutor: Defying judge could have resulted in immediate jail for Davis

March 25th, 2014 4:29 pm by Jeff Bobo

Prosecutor: Defying judge could have resulted in immediate jail for Davis

Sarah Davis and Judge J. Todd Ross

ROGERSVILLE — In a motion to dismiss filed Tuesday in Hawkins County, special prosecutor Barry Staubus states that Judge J. Todd Ross could have had Clerk of Courts Sarah Davis jailed immediately for civil contempt when she refused his order to place a collections clerk in his courtroom on Jan. 30.

Davis' refusal to comply with Ross' order was the impetus behind Ross issuing an arrest warrant charging Davis with contempt of court on Feb. 3.

But shortly after their verbal altercation on Jan. 30, Davis sent the collections clerk into the courtroom.

On Monday, Staubus, who is Second Judicial District attorney general in Sullivan County, issued a notice to dismiss the contempt of court charge against Davis. That notice was filed in the Hawkins County court clerk's office Tuesday.

In the notice, Staubus states that when Davis complied with Ross' order following their verbal altercation in her office, that removed the grounds for the contempt charge.

In the Feb. 3 arrest warrant affidavit, Ross states that the deputy clerk in charge of cost collections was absent from the courtroom on Jan. 30, which was slowing down court progress.

There were approximately 65 cases on the Sessions Court docket that day.

The warrant states, "The court directly instructed the defendant (Davis) 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, Davis did send the cost clerk into the courtroom.

Staubus states in the motion that the initial refusal by Davis to have the cost collection clerk report to the courtroom was a willful disobedience or resistance by Davis as an officer of the court to a lawful order or command of the court and constitutes civil contempt.

Staubus further states, "If a person omits performing 'an act which it is yet in the power of the person to perform, the person may be imprisoned until such person performs it'. In this case, the circuit clerk purged the contempt by complying with the court's order prior to the issuance of the capias/bench warrant and subsequent arrest of Ms. Davis."

Staubus concludes that there is no legal basis for the prosecution of the conduct of Davis and the charge is dismissed "with prejudice."

Ross said Tuesday he was disappointed with Staubus' decision, but he understands his position and respects his analysis of the case.

"General Staubus has apparently viewed the case from the standpoint of Mrs. Davis's willful refusal to obey a lawful court order, as opposed to her willful behavior, disrespect toward the court, and delay of court proceedings originally charged as direct criminal contempt," Ross said in a written statement. "General Staubus was clear in his findings that Mrs. Davis was in contempt of court, in that she did willfully disobey a lawful order of the court."

Ross adds, "Initially I had hoped that it would not be necessary to hold Mrs. Davis in contempt and waited four days to allow Mrs. Davis an opportunity to either explain or apologize for her actions. When she did neither, I felt that, under the circumstances, I had no choice but to proceed with the contempt charge in accordance with Rule 42 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure."

Ross said that he was looking forward to a trial in which the true facts of the case would be revealed in open court, although he noted that he is also glad that the matter has been resolved.

"I sincerely hope that from this point forward Mrs. Davis will cooperate with the court as we attempt to provide an effective and efficient judicial system for Hawkins County," Ross said.

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