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Judicial panel to increase supervisor role
Jun 15, 2006 12:00 am
June 8, 2006 – Looking to create more oversight and alleviate an overworked staff, the county's Judicial Committee is aiming to allocate more authority for the department's supervisor and hire a new full-time judicial commissioner.
Wilson County Judicial Committee Chair Dr. Ross Averitt said Chief Judicial Commissioner Randy Hankins needs more authority to deal with any problems with fellow commissioners. Hankins' hands were virtually tied in the case of former judicial commissioner Wendell Granstaff, Averitt noted.
The local district attorney's officer and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were inquiring about Granstaff's relationships with women in the criminal justice system. He retired from the position in January amid the probe.
"Mr. Hankins could not discipline Mr. Granstaff," Averitt said Wednesday. "We're not convicting [Granstaff] … but I do know Randy couldn't do anything, so Mr. Granstaff was such a gentlemen that he kind of took himself out of the picture."
Adding more responsibility to Hankins' duties to handle such situations along with raising his pay arose during the judicial committee's meeting earlier this week. The addition duties and pay increase is part of the needs assessment to be considered by the Wilson County Commission.
Hankins, whose current duties include scheduling and ensuring a commissioner is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will have the authority to write up or even suspend a problematic commissioner.
"Now if that happens again, Randy will be able to say, 'OK, you are suspended with pay until further notice,'" Averitt said Wednesday.
However, Averitt said the power to hire and fire judicial commissioners will remain with the County Commission.
"He cannot hire or fire a judicial commissioner," Averitt said. "… That's not my law, that's a state law."
Giving Hankins a more supervisory role constitutes the need to create a fifth full-time judicial commissioner position, judicial committee members contend.
Adding more duties will not take Hankins out of the rotation, committee member and District 21 Commissioner Eugene Murray said.
"He will still be a working judicial commissioner," Murray said, "… (but) that fifth judicial commissioner will take some of the load off Randy as far as the day-to-day stuff is concerned."
It will also relieve the overload of work, Averitt said.
"One time we had a dogfight, and they arrested about 50 people," Averitt said. " … (There was) only one judicial commisioner trying to write warrants for them."
Judicial commisioners play a key role in Wilson County's criminal justice system. When a law enforcement officer makes an arrest, the alleged perpetrator is taken before the judicial commissioner, who decides whether to grant the warrant and how much his or her bond will be.
Murray described their powers as a "layperson" General Sessions judge.
They also hear complaints from residents and decide whether or not to issue arrest warrants based on a that request, and everyone arrested in Wilson County appears first before a judicial commissioner.
"Our judicial commisioners fill out a piece of paper for every arrest made," Murray said.
Four full-time judicial commissioners, including Hankins, and two part-time commissioners handle the current workload.
Hankins could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.