General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon, contacted about the issue of "judge shopping" in General Sessions Court, said cases where there are offenders arrested are assigned at random by computer - unless a magistrate or clerk bypasses the system. But he said when offenders are cited to court without an arrest, the officer selects the date and court.
In either case, he said, judges are not involved in the assignment.
Judge Moon stated, "A case is assigned to a particular judge in the Hamilton County General Sessions Court based upon which charging instrument is used to compel a defendant to court.
Defendants are compelled to Sessions Court one of three ways, either by arrest warrant, summons or citation. All assignments, after a defendant is arrested and booked, are by random computer assignment. If the established procedures are followed in these cases and if defendants are arrested instead of being issued a citation, judge shopping would be difficult unless the computer assignment is overridden by a clerk or magistrate.
"However, when a citation in lieu of arrest is given to a person on the street or at the scene of a minor offense, a court date is set by the law enforcement officer on the officer's pre-scheduled court dates. Defendants are given their court dates at the same time they are issued and sign their citations and defendants are neither arrested nor booked into jail.
"No random computer assignment is used in the issuance of misdemeanor citations. Most officers have pre-scheduled court dates that are usually one specific day of the week every week. These specified weekly court dates are filed with the clerks. When a citation is issued in lieu of arrest, the law enforcement officer has the discretion to set the case before any judge that he or she chooses as long as the date coincides with the pre-scheduled court dates filed with the court.
"The subject of misdemeanor citations was of little focus to judges in the re-organization of the General Sessions Court several years ago. Their focus was more upon the random assignment by computer of those more serious offenses resulting in the arrest of defendants. The judges believed that it was much better for the cases involving the arrest of a defendant to be assigned to a specific judge by random computer and that all subsequent offenses potentially committed by that defendant stay and be assigned to that particular judge. That system was implemented, and it has worked very well and accomplished its intended purpose in almost every case.
"In any event, no judge is responsible for the assignment of cases. All cases are either assigned by a random computer when a defendant is arrested or by the officer on their pre-assigned court dates if the defendant is issued a citation in lieu of arrest.
"I hope this response to the media request clarifies and informs the general public of how cases are assigned to specific judges in the Hamilton County General Sessions Court."
"Asked if he believed that judge shopping occurs in the Sessions Court, Judge Moon said, "It would be much easier for any law enforcement officer to judge shop a citation than an arrest warrant since it is the officer who sets the court dates for citations instead of the computer. I do not assign cases, I try cases."