DICKSON, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s not every day a judge is publicly reprimanded or issued a cease and desist order, but that’s exactly what the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct did recently to Dickson County judge Reese Holley.
The BJC investigated Holley and found he forced defendants to do public service work and give to his charities, all before he allowed them to be represented by a public defender. Click here to see the public document from the BJC.
And in the case of a 22-year-old woman accused of shoplifting in December 2014, the judge sentenced her to 10 days in jail even though her case was dropped.
The sentence was due to her not completing his public service work.
“I find you in contempt. You haven’t done any public service work. You haven’t done an hour. I am going to give you ten days of incarceration. So you are in custody,” Judge Holley is heard saying on an audio tape to the woman.
Back in April, while still under investigation, News 2’s Andy Cordan caught up with Holley outside of his court.
When asked if the situation has been hard for him, the judge replied, “It’s been hard because sometimes you are hamstrung.”
“In this position, not being able to say some of the things you’d like to say,” Holley added. “I don’t think I can talk about any of the allegations.”
When asked if he thought he was a good judge, Holly said, “I do think I’m a good judge. I think I am a fair judge.”
Public defender Jake Lockert calls the public reprimanding of Judge Holley a victory.
“It’s a victory to indigent defense in this district,” he said. “I’m gratified their investigation showed what we said in the complaint was accurate and gratified the board of judicial conduct has put a stop to this type of conduct.”
Lockert added, “A cease and desist order means he will have to stop these practices.”
In response to the decision, Judge Holley issued the following statement:
Although I had fashioned these practices from the procedures followed by other courts and thought them to be moral and lawful, they were deemed to provide or could have provided an appearance of impropriety. I respect the decision of Disciplinary Counsel and I agreed to not continue these practices.
So while he has been ordered to stop those practices, Judge Holley is still a judge and he still hears cases.
But it might not be the end of it. News 2 has learned many of the same defendants have been interviewed by the American Civil Liberties Union and there’s a strong chance a lawsuit could be filed against both the judge and the city of Dickson.