Cleveland Judge Stepping Down From Bench After Tape Investigation

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Cleveland Circuit Court judge is resigning at the end of the month.

Judge John B. Hagler Jr., 65, recently presided over the case in which Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble sued the county seeking additional funding.

The resignation was related to an investigation of a tape in which Judge Hagler discussed his "fantasies", but no criminal charges were filed.

Chattanooga Police reportedly came upon the tape during a criminal investigation.

District Attorney Steve Bebb said, "This office reviewed the audiotape on Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, and after meeting with my staff for their advice, the TBI and myself approached Judge Hagler with this evidence.

"There was no evidence that Judge Hagler had committed any crime. Our concern was that if this tape got in the wrong hands, the judge would have been a candidate for blackmail.

"Judge Hagler assured us that he had never been compromised. This office would investigate further if there were any credible evidence that a crime had been committed.

"This office is saddened for Judge Hagler and his family in this trying time."

District Attorney Bebb has called a press briefing on the matter for Thursday at 1 p.m. in the conference room of the Cleveland Office of the District Attorney General.

Judge Hagler had been the presiding judge for the 10th Judicial District. Officials said Wednesday that Judge Carroll L. Ross has been elected presiding judge for the district, succeeding Judge Hagler.

Judge Hagler said in a written statement, "On Friday, Dec. 7, I was confronted by law enforcement officials with information of an audio tape recording. I was told it has been in the hands of law enforcement officials for two years. I have not heard the recording or seen the tape. But I believe it to be a private communication made by me for my private use. It was intended for no one else's ears. I was told that, after extensive investigation, unknown to me, it was concluded that no crime was committed. This was the first time I learned that such a recording still existed or was no longer private.

"I have committed no crime. I have done nothing wrong except to cause great embarrassment to my family, friends and the state judiciary.

"I have tendered my resignation because of this embarrassment and to leave no room for anyone to reasonably question my integrity as a judge. I will continue holding court until the end of the month unless requested or directed by other higher authority.

"I appreciate the support and trust of the people of the 10th Judicial District. I have never, as judge, dishonored their trust."

Judge Hagler, a Democrat, was elected Circuit Court judge in a contested election in 1990 and re-elected without opposition in 1998 and 2006. He is currently presiding judge of the district.

He served seven years on the executive committee of the Tennessee Judicial Conference and three terms as president of the Tennessee Trial Judges Association.

He and his wife have two adult children.

The 10th Judicial District includes Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties.

The Judicial Selection Commission
accepts and reviews applications to fill unexpired judicial terms,
interviews applicants, conducts a public hearing and recommends three
names to the governor.

An application deadline is expected to be posted on the Tennessee State Courts website Thursday. The commission will set a date for the public hearing and applicant interviews as soon as possible.

When a vacancy is for a trial court position, the governor must select one of the three applicants recommended by the commission. When the vacancy is an
appellate court position, the governor may ask for a second list of names from which to appoint a new judge. The commission met six times in calendar year 2007.


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