Brown Contempt Case Remanded Back to Juvenile Court

Special Judge Summers will maintain jurisdiction until an appealcan be redirected to the state Court of Appeals in Jackson, the corrected venue; Case might still be pending on August 7 election date.

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Judge Joe Brown after Fridays hearing
  • JB
  • Judge Joe Brown after Friday's hearing
So the long-deferred “criminal contempt” hearing for Joe Brown, stemming from a March altercation between the former jurist/TV eminence and a Juvenile Court magistrate, has come and gone. Sort of.

In reality, it has just moved to another location — the state Court of Appeals, Western Division, in Jackson, at a time yet to be defined, by ruling of special Judge Paul Summers.

Summers, a former state Attorney General, had been appointed to preside over the case because all Shelby County Criminal Court judges had recused themselves from judgment over Brown, a former Criminal Court judge himself.

And Summers, after a good bit of preliminary nit-picking Friday over procedural and jurisdictional matters, ruled that Brown’s appeal of his contempt citation had been “improvidentially” lodged with Criminal Court here when it should have been lodged in Shelby County Juvenile Court itself.

That was the venue where Brown, performing an ad hoc defense of a woman in a child support case, got his contempt citation from Magistrate Harold Horne in the wake of an animated exchange of words with Horne. In the course of that acrimonious exchange, Brown challenged both the authority of Horne and the procedures of Juvenile Court itself, which he termed a “sorry operation” and a “circus”

Horne had responded with holding Brown in contempt — a process which he repeated five times for a total sentence of five days’ incarceration as the clash between the two continued. Brown was in fact jailed briefly but released in short order on a writ of habeas corpus, pending the hearing which, after several delays, finally occurred Thursday under the jurisdiction of Summers.

Summers began Friday’s proceedings with a courtly acknowledgement of Brown; Brown’s three attorneys (Alex and Andre Wharton, both sons of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, and Taylor Estridge; and District Attorney General Hansel McCadams of the 24th Judicial District, representing the state.

He then proceeded deliberately through a review of the circumstances of the March 24th incident in Juvenile Court and the subsequent history which had led up to his becoming a special sitting judge and to Friday’s hearing.

Summers would strip the two pending contempt issues — one against Horne as an individual and another against Juvenile Court as a system — down to the latter issue alone. Among other things, that obviated the need for a “de novo” hearing before yet another court on a contempt charge relating to Horne.

When all was said and done, Summers remanded the case and all the materials relating to it back to Juvenile Court and directed Juvenile Court to prepare a record for a redirected appeal of the case to the Jackson Appeals Court in Jackson, which he regarded as the proper venue.

Meanwhile, he said, he would maintain jurisdiction of the case only until the appeal was filed with the Jackson court, at which time he would dismiss proceedings in Memphis and abandon any further jurisdiction. Somewhat sternly, he directed meanwhile that no legal attempt should be made to detain Brown, an intent which McCadams disclaimed.

All parties, including Brown, seemed satisfied with the ruling and agreed that, as matters stand, given the complications attendant to the remanded case, it is difficult to pinpoint a date at which Brown’s redirected appeal could be heard in Jackson.

In answer to a reporter’s question, Andre Wharton said it was possible that the case might still be pending on August 7, date of the Shelby County general election in which Brown, now the de facto Democratic nominee for District Attorney General, is running against incumbent Republican D.A. Amy Weirich.

Should such a delay occur, all kinds of ironic overtones — including the possibility of Brown’s having become Shelby County’s District Attorney General in the meantime — could complicate the case.

Alex Wharton, however, was more sanguine that some sort of resolution, perhaps a settlement, could be achieved before election day.

In any case, Judge Joe Brown has had his day in court, and it remains to be seen how many more will follow, and with what result. “It’ll go as it goes,” Brown commented to reporters after the hearing.

Asked how his campaign for D.A. might be affected by the case’s being extended, Brown joked, “As long as you get my name right, it’ll go okay. You can’t buy this kind of P.R.”

About the Juvenile Court case which was the basis for the contretemps with Horne (and was subsequently dismissed), Brown said, “I’m a man, and I do what a man’s got to do. I’ve sworn to uphold this Constitution of the United States and of the State of Tennessee. And, when as a man and as someone who has sworn to uphold something is confronted with a situation, you gotta do what you gotta do, irrespective of what the consequences are.”

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