The Administrative Office of the Tennessee Supreme Court has appointed Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon to hear the criminal cases of a Cocke County judge under investigation for ethical violations related to a private probation company.
Judge Moon is scheduled to begin hearing cases Monday morning in the county seat of Newport.
Judge Moon said, "Judge Kerry Blackwood of Townsend has been presiding over many of Judge John A. Bell's cases since May. My appointment by the Supreme Court should only be for a couple of days. I am glad to assist the court in this unfortunate set of circumstances.
"Private probation companies for profit have been very problematical for local governments throughout the state."
The Tennessee Court of the Judiciary is investigating Judge Bell's relationship with East Tennessee Probation, Inc., a private probation company incorporated by his brother-in-law, Tommy Large.
The probe is to determine whether Judge Bell used his position and influence to force defendants to pay probation fees to his brother-in-law's company. If defendants did not pay or comply with the other terms of their probation, it is alleged that they could be sent to jail. Bell awarded the contract to Large's company in 1999. The Tennessee Supreme Court has specific rules prohibiting favoritism or nepotism by judges. If found guilty of the charges, Judge Bell could face punishment ranging from private reprimand to impeachment.