How is it that an honorable Hamilton County jurist allows his court to keep alive an abusive prosecution by city police and the district attorney’s office of a poor black woman who refuses to cave?
Admittedly I don’t know the reasons why judge Clarence Shattuck in sessions court passes a rack of criminal charges against a poor African-American caregiver for the elderly to the grand jury. I only speculate. He does it because it is habit. He does not want to break his connections with his familiars in the court system, men and women of the police department overseen by chief David Roddy.
By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio
On Thursday that’s what he does in a hearing which continues the ordeal of Diana Watt, dragged from her car at a Wilcox Boulevard gas station July 7 in a notorious and viral arrest. It is recorded in a video the likes of which should be made by every Tennessee resident enjoying an extracurricular encounter with cops.
The case is notorious because it typifies the abusive practices by judges and police outside the interests of justice or, should I say, against the interests of justice.
Clarence Shattuck, 83, announced an early retirement six days after an unusual meeting I had with him in his office in which I condemned the operation of courts today in which the rights of the people are trod underfoot by lawless police, careless prosecutors and overworked judges serving state efficiency and police custom.
Judge Shattuck has been on the bench in sessions court 36 years.
He gets good press, is highly regarded in news reports, and is a practicing Christian who teaches Sunday school.
But he lets the case against Mr. Watt, who at the last minute obtains representation by the public defender’s office, go to the grand jury for review.
That act, I suggest, based on longstanding common law legal principles and an understanding of our rights as Americans, is null and void.
He lets the case “go upstairs,” as they say, because he is partial and shows favor. Such treatment of a citizen is forbidden in the law of God and in Tennessee judicial ethics rules.
Though Mrs. Watt cites her due process rights in a motion, and though he knows the court’s own time limits for disposing of cases, he refuses to quash the police claims.
How to see case from his perspective?
The role of judge is a social role more than anything in sessions court. There seems to be very little care about the actual law in sessions court because the whole sea of activity moves upon personalities and habit.
Mr. Shattuck, or Judge Shattuck, I should say, sees regularly members of the police department who bring charges against the citizenry.
He has seen Watt accused Brian McClard repeatedly from the very beginning of Mr. McClard’s tenure with the police department. To reject the officer’s claims or to dismiss the case before a word is spoken is to break a professional and personal connection with this man.
He has to have a partiality in his favor because they have regular dealings together. In past dealings, Mr. Shattuck is seen nothing untoward about Mr. McClard and so views him from past connection as a reliable witness and accuser. He represents law and order against the shabby, ill-spoken, poor and often minority-race people in the court — people who represent disorder, chaos and illegitimacy, people who typify the problems across the country.
The Watt case presents nothing sharp against Mr. McClard, so it is hard for Judge Shattuck to suddenly break from his circumstantial beliefs about Mr. McClard’s reliability and veracity.
Judge Shattuck operates on a presumption that officer McClard has lawful authority under Title 55 to initiate an arrest of someone using the public road. He operates on the presumption that the officer tells the truth, and that he always tells the truth. Evidently in three decades of service, he has not had to read the statute, which is under ordinary rules of statutory construction focuses on commercial transportation, and nothing more.
No member of the defense bar has brought up the lack of subject matter jurisdiction by cops, and prosecutor and prosecutrixes pretended high court policy abrogating the rights of communication are just and that policy obligates prosecution, regardless of the law.
The judge lacks the built-in skepticism that a judge develops when he has real law in operation in his courtroom. Real law. With real witnesses. Defense attorneys. Motions in writing. Briefs in writing. The people come and go. The stream of humanity is dotted here and there by familiar faces of people repeatedly in trouble. But, by-and-large, Judge Shattuck and his familiars are his source of personal identity and purpose.
He alludes to this human connection in his retirement statement. “No doubt, I will miss my colleagues, staff, court officers and the clerks of the Criminal and Civil divisions of Sessions Court, all of which have done, and are doing, an outstanding job for the county.”
The judge, and the people in blue, and sheriff’s deputies who guard the court, and his staff — these constitute order, and the docket disorder.
The judge excuses the contemptuous absence of Mr. McClard six times without excuse, shows that he is partial to him and his office. It shows that he is being fair to cop McClard and his office. For him to dismiss the case on his own on the 3rd or 4th or 5th absence would have been unkind. It would have been unchristian to not show grace to this man, this representative of the people willing to make “the ultimate sacrifice” who’s trying hard to do his job.
It would have been unfair to the policeman for the judge to have dismissed the case apparently without having scolded the officer or asked why he had not given Mrs. Watt notice as the rules require. It would have been a waste of taxpayer money — it would be inefficient for the case to have gone a fifth and sixth time and not have the officer present to testify.
The favoritism of the judge for the police officer is entirely understandable. It is unconstitutional. It violates the due process rights of the citizen. It creates disrespect and disregard for the court. It brings the idea of the judiciary into disrepute.
It is unconstitutional and unjust, but it is understandable because it rises from the human connection that the judge has with the officer and his cohorts. For Judge Shattuck to boldly dismiss a case as harassment would send a tremor through the legal establishment and among the office workers and down the halls of the courts complex, an event of which he may be peculiarly averse.
Judge Shattuck is reminded that God is impartial and does not show favor of persons. God is ethical first and personal second. Judge Shattuck has turned it around. He is perhaps personal first and ethical second.
I have suggested it is unjust for this criminal case to hang over the head of Mrs. Watt when the sessions rules say that cases are to be disposed of within 120 days. As of this writing it is 239 days since she fell into the hands of the police.
The traffic stop of Mrs. Watt is irregular on several points, including that of the cause under which officer McClard ran her plate. What was the cause of his running the plate? Did he have a hidden agenda, as did Officer Wright in the Avery Gray daughter seizure June 25? Does this irregularity explain his six absences in sessions court?
Judge Shattuck made a void order because it violates Mrs. Watt’s due process rights and her right to fair and just treatment in the process of being prosecuted. That process stands in front of any of the merits that might exist for the charges against her.
The rule of due process was violated, and all the charges should be dismissed.