Judicial redistricting is back at the front of possible legislative action, but District Attorney General Tony Clark isn’t sure it’s the right time.
“It’s hard to support something, hard to be for or against an issue, if you don’t know” what the plan entails, Clark said.
“Unless someone lays out a plan of how this is going to be better for the judges, the public defender, the DA’s office, I don’t see how it’s going to be that beneficial.”
One of the problems with redistricting, Clark said, would be residual effects — like what would happen to the 1st Judicial Drug Task Force, which is comprised of officers from all over the district, or how would the caseload be distributed among judges.
“Some of the areas that have grown need to have their own DA, and some of the smaller districts, (legislators) are saying, don’t need their own DA,” Clark said.
If redistricting occurs, it’s likely Washington County would become a one-county district like Sullivan County. That would leave Carter, Unicoi and Johnson counties together as one district.
But there is nothing on paper to show how many judges, assistant district attorney generals or public defenders Washington County would have.
“No one has told us what would happen. The governor is going to appoint someone to Judge (Lynn) Brown’s position” soon, Clark said. Brown is set to retire March 31.
“In 2014, there may not be a position,” Clark said.
Three names were submitted Friday for the governor to consider in that appointment. Only two of them reside in Washington County.
“The District Attorney General’s Conference was told about a month ago (that redistricting) was somewhat on the back burner,” he said.
On Monday, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, held a news conference in Nashville and said he hopes to have a proposal in place by early March.
“We don’t know if Judge (Jean) Stanley or Judge (Tom) Seeley would be require to be a criminal judge like Judge (Jerry) Beck in Sullivan County. He has both criminal and civil” dockets, Clark said. “We’ve not been told what it means for our judges here.”
So far, talks of judicial redistricting have indicated there would be a reduction of elected district attorney generals, from 31 to 29.
“My district has a huge caseload, and Washington County, by far, has the most cases. You’re dealing with12 different law enforcement agencies. It’s worked so far, and this is the way it’s been for 20 some years.
“Making such a drastic change like splitting this district up, there are so many questions,” Clark said. “I would like some type of plan, to see what the proposed plan is and see how it would benefit the people.”