MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A lawsuit has been filed against Juvenile Court, Shelby County, Judge Curtis Person, and magistrates Larry Scroggs, Herbert Lane, and Dan Michael.
The suit alleges the elected judge (Person) declined to hear the petitioners’ cases, as is their “constitutional and statutory right,” instead passing them on to appointed magistrates acting “as ‘special’ or ‘substitute’ judges in place of the elected judge on a daily basis.”
It adds the magistrates “aren’t qualified or authorized to do so by the statutes and rules of law in Tennessee pertinent to special or substitute judges.”
In one case, the lawsuit says a magistrate awarded a father custody of his child after the child’s mother was murdered. A DCS attorney contacted Michael, who issued a stay of the original order “without a hearing or communications with the other parties,” thereby unlawfully denying the father custody of his child.
The suit asks, among other things, that the court be stopped “from continuing the appointment of special judges on a daily basis.”
It was filed by Tanyawa Sallie, LaChundia and David Richmond, Kristopher Cole, and Jane/John Does.
Scroggs, the chief administrative officer, issued the following response:
Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County handles approximately 50,000 cases each year. These cases involve contested issues relative to delinquency, dependency and neglect, custody, visitation and child support. According to the law of the State of Tennessee, the Juvenile Court judge, the Juvenile Court magistrates, and the child support magistrates hear these cases.
The Juvenile Court judge is authorized by state law to appoint Juvenile Court magistrates. According to the law of the State of Tennessee, these magistrates have the powers of a trial judge. The Juvenile Court judge also is authorized by state statute to appoint a magistrate as a special judge. This authority has been affirmed by the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals.