Criminal Defense Attorneys Seek To Find Solution To Logjam Between Judge Steelman, Public Defender Garth

Monday, August 27, 2012

Leaders of the local chapter of the Tennessee Criminal Defense Attorneys Association are offering to find a "compromise" to break the logjam that is causing public defender cases to back up in the courtroom of Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman.

Public Defender Ardena Garth has sought to have Judge Steelman recuse himself from 150 cases of indigent defendants, saying he has been "venomous" toward her office and is biased against her and her staff.

At the start of a hearing on the motions on Monday afternoon, attorneys Hank Hill and Rich Heinsman asked for a couple of days "to see if some common ground can be found."

Attorney Hill said, "If there is any middle ground, we'd like to find it."

He said the attorneys plan "to make a proposal to the court as a compromise and a solution to all of this. That's our hope."

Attorney Hill said a motion to intervene could be filed Tuesday and the attorneys be ready by Wednesday. Judge Steelman reset the motions for Friday.

He said, "I don't know what is contemplated by this," but he said he was not opposed to the delay.

Ms. Garth also asked that the defense attorneys have time to intervene.

One woman who is indigent told the court she wanted to resolve her case, saying it had been worked out that she had a bed waiting at a rehab place. However, Judge Steelman said he could not act on her case while the motion to recuse is still active. He said the public defender's office was free to try to work out the case with another judge.



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