DICKSON, Tenn. (WKRN) – There’s more trouble for a Dickson City judge who is already being investigated for questionable judicial practices by the State Board of Judiciary and the ACLU.
Judge Reese Holley is accused of requiring indigent defendants to do community service work before their cases are even heard.
The investigation surrounding Holley could affect 1,000 pending cases.
On Thursday, Jake Lockert, the public defender for the 23rd Judicial District, filed a motion against Holley. In short, it asked the judge to disqualify or recuse himself from hundreds of pending cases represented by the public defender’s office. There are cases that are due to come before Judge Holley.
“I’m asking him to recognize there’s an appearance of bias on his part. Because of the way he’s treating indigent defendants and we think because we filed these complaints and cooperated with investigations with the ACLU and other agencies it clearly shows at least the appearance of bias or prejudice on his part,” explained Lockert.
The motion came after he demanded an investigation into Judge Holley.
In a court recording obtained by News 2, a 22-year-old woman accused of misdemeanor shoplifting came before Holley in her first court appearance. The judge told the new mother she qualified for a public defender, but then advised her that defense counsel will be appointed only after she completed his mandated community service work.
“I’m going to order you to do 80 hours of public service work by the reset date. Now what that means is you gotta do 80 hours of public service work by Jan. 16,” Holley stated in the recording.
A month later, the woman was back before the judge. She did not do any community service because the district attorney dropped the charges against her. Still Holley threw the woman, guilty of no crime, in jail.
“I find you in contempt,” Holley said during the hearing. “You haven’t done any public service work. You haven’t done an hour. I am going to give you 10 days of incarceration so you are in custody.”
Cases like this prompted Lockert to file Thursday’s motion, which alleges Judge Holley might be biased or prejudiced against the public defender’s office.
“He has indicated in writing that he considers my reporting him to the Board of Judiciary to be a punitive action on my part. That indicates to me the appearance of bias or prejudice on his part. My clients are asking me, ‘Is that judge going to be fair to me when you have these complaints filed against him?’” Lockert said.
Lockert also said investigators from the State Board of Judiciary were in Dickson Friday, interviewing witnesses. They are reportedly wrapping up their investigation.
The ALCU collected all the documents on the case and they’ve met with the Department of Justice about Judge Holley.
News 2 reached out to Holley and he indicated that it would be inappropriate to comment on a case that is pending in his court.