Brown Files for D.A.; Brooks for Juvenile Court Clerk

Both Democrats are potentially competitive in their races against GOP incumbents; each has a primary to worry about first.

Posted by Jackson Baker on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Joe Brown at Rotary on Tuesday
  • JB
  • Joe Brown at Rotary on Tuesday

Two important filings took place Tuesday at the downtown offices of the Shelby County Election Commission.

In ballyhooed scenes reminiscent of a pre-cybernetic time, when candidate filings in deadline week routinely drew big and boisterous crowds, former Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown — “Judge Joe Brown” of TV fame — and Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks turned in completed petitions and made their 2014 election bids official — Brown for District Attorney General and Brooks for Juvenile Court Clerk.

Brooks. accompanied by Ruby Wharton, wife of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, and members of a support group called “Women for Brooks,” came first, shortly to be followed by Brown with a celebrity-style ad hoc entourage. Both candidates thereby opened up a new chapter in their contrroversial public lives — and new opportunities for a Democratic Party still smarting from an electoral wipe-out by the GOP in 2010.

Hours before his filing, Brown had addressed a luncheon meeting of the Memphis Rotary Club. It was the latest of several public appearances for the former judge, and, as always, he tailored his remarks for his audience — a good omen for those Democrats who need his turnout pull at the polls but fear an implosion resulting from intemperate or impolitic statements.

As the keynoter at last year’s party “roast” of former mayor Willie Herenton, Brown allowed himself some critical remarks about gays and loose women that antagonized some of the attending Democrats (though such rhetoric played well with others). And at a recent meeting of the Shelby County Denmocratic execuive committee, he made accusations against some sitting politicians that raised howls of delight by some and fears by others in his audience that he’d gone too far.

So it was that Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, who introduced Brown to the Rotarians, jested that he should overcome his “shyness” and speak his mind for once.

Brown did, but within safe and audience-appropriate limits. He lamented that “our criminal justice system is no longer concerned with securing justice or controlling crime.” It had become, instead, “a device to control surplus labor.” That was his way of addressing the issue of the nation’s — and Shelby County’s — high incarceration rates, and it bespoke his propensity for dramatic statement.

That line of thought, as the judge elaborated, soared in the direction of revolutionary (“labor as a commodity,” “economic control of labor”), but he had fallback lines, too, for the more conservative (“We need to switch over from welfare to workfare”), and he even had some praise for Memphis lowlifes as being morally superior, all things considered, to the riff-raff he had to deal with during his 15-year run on TV (technically as an arbitrator, though his set was decked out as a courtroom).

Brown, who clearly has a propensity for the Big Idea, floated a proposal to convert Memphis into the “point of entry for Eastern seabord maritime traffic. But he could get down to earth, too, as in his denunciation of Memphis’ well-publicized rape-kit back log as something resulting in “12,000 women out there insulted by gross neglect, with not even the opportunity to get justice.”

All in all, it was a tour de force and, as Rotarian Dick Ranta of the University of Memphis noted during the Q and A “a good stump speech.” And, in answer to Ranta’s question as to whether he intended to offer himself for office, Brown allowed as how, having done his non-partisan duty as a Rotary Club speaker, he would be officially filing at 3:15 later on.

Which he did, a few minutes after Brooks had made her entrance, clearly buoyed by the experience and by the exuberance of her entourage, as well as by the fact that she seems to be having a career peak. She not only had Ruby Wharton in tow, but she was recently the recipient of the Ruby R. Wharton Award, given for her determined efforts to seek reform of Juvenile Court procedures, resulting in a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and a subsequent mandate for specific reforms by the Court.

Brooks has also organized a group of community monitors to ensure compliance with those reforms, and she earned the public support of her colleagues on the County Commission when Court authorities initially balked in allowing her group to exercise a supervisory function.

That unanuimity of support from hefr colleagues was a signal event in itself, inasmuch as Brooks had previously spent much of her time on the Commission as a dissenter — even (in the Socratic sense, of course) as a gadfly, less intent on achieving comity than in raising aloud issues she considered important to her mainly African-American constituency.

After filing, Brooks observed that she had honestly thought she would become “a taxi-cab driver” after her two terms as County Commissioner ended (meaning she would be attending to the transportation needs of her grandchildren), but she now felt a sense of mission to follow through on the issues of Juvenile Court.

And, indeed, she might well be an asset to a Democratic Party seeking redemption at the polls. So could Brown, as a galvanizer of the voted. But both will need to restrain a certain tendency for — how to say it? — high-risk rhetoric, and both are up against an odds board that always favors incumbents.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich, the incumbent Republican, demonstrated in the election of 2012, when she won the right to finish the term of former boss Bill Gibbons, now state Commissioner of Public Safety and Homeland Security, that she could pull a significant crossover vote, and she has won points in most quarters for her professionalism.

Similarly, Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos, who will be running on the GOP ticket, is regarded as a solid , effective, and non-controversial public official.

And both Brown and Brooks have primary opponents — attorney Linda Nettles Harris for District Attorney General and Cynthia Gentry and Kenneth Moody for Juvenile Court Clerk. Competitive races could well develop at that level.

Whatever the case, Brown and Brooks are going to make things interesting.

Brooks beams after filing as backer Ruby Wharton looks on.
  • JB
  • Brooks beams after filing as backer Ruby Wharton looks on.

Comments (22)

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Peculiar to see the mayor's wife so enthusiastic in her support of someone who seems to be largely racist

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Posted by Clyde on 02/19/2014 at 3:59 PM


Would you please back up those statements with some facts please?

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 02/19/2014 at 5:19 PM

Fact: Hank Brooks

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Posted by JuliusJones on 02/19/2014 at 5:40 PM

OTP, That one like you always see on your comments when there are 12, or so, dislikes, I must admit, comes from me. However, even I cannot support you when you contend someone needs to support the contention that Henri Brooks appears to be racist with "facts." The fact that one can see, read and/or hear is enough to support that statement.

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Posted by Arlington PapSmear on 02/19/2014 at 10:40 PM


I guess anyone who speaks their mind and tells it as it is fits your category of being racist.

Well, regardless of what you have heard, Memphis and Shelby County is still a very racist area. Every major decision that comes around always boils down to race, whether from the whites or the blacks. It is what it is.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 02/20/2014 at 12:04 AM

Let's talk qualifications for the position...Touliatos reputation as a Clerk is not so good according to her staff. Commissioner Henri E. Brooks on the other hand, eleven years employment with Juvenile Court, School Teacher, State Representative, County Commissioner and Mother/Grandmother.

As for as her being a racist, that tag is justly uncalled for. She has always fought for injustices for all people it just happen to be blacks are being discriminated against.

Not to mention the complaint she filed with the Department of Justice which later upon the investigation of the Federal Government found Juvenile Court Administrators was guilty of discrimination against black children.

If you don't like the Messenger that's ok, you must like her message. Somewhere I heard a quote. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

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Posted by JustRight on 02/20/2014 at 7:12 AM

Google "Henri Brooks" and "Henri Brooks Racist" pops up as it's own category. There are many examples.

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Posted by Clyde on 02/20/2014 at 8:32 AM


Are you seriously saying that google is an expert on racism?

Henri Brooks has done everything she could for Memphis and Shelby County and that includes for everyone. It is not her fault that there was rampant discrimination in the way poor black children were being treated by juvenile court, the sweetheart deals made with the suburban munis which kept there children free from juvenile records.
She didn't do it, she just alerted the public about it.

The funny part about it was that everyone, especially the suburban people scoffed and derided her for her accusations. But, after an intensive investigation by the Department of Justice, not only was what she said confirmed, but, it turned out that discrimination was worse than even she expected.

It is evident that Henri Brooks' qualifications far exceed the current clerk. All that is needed now is for her voters to actually turnout and vote on election day.

Now, Clyde, give us some specific actions that shows Ms. Brooks to be a racist.?

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 02/20/2014 at 9:19 AM

Google complete is fun.

Henri Brooks's top 3 completes are:

1. memphis tn
2. racist
3. juvenile court

That just shows you what people are looking for when they google for Henri Brooks. Google is only compiling the most common searches. Whether she is or not, clearly Clyde isn't alone in his perception of Brooks.

Do I think she has resentment towards white people? Yea, probably. That's not uncommon, and given some of her past public statements, it sounds like she does. Would I say she's racist? I don't know enough about her to say.

The definition of racism from is:
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Just for reference purposes.

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Posted by GroveReb84 on 02/20/2014 at 10:07 AM

I am sure she'll "go for broke".…

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Posted by tomguleff on 02/20/2014 at 10:14 AM

Posted by oldtimeplayer:

"It is evident that Henri Brooks' qualifications far exceed the current clerk. All that is needed now is for her voters to actually turnout and vote on election day.

Now, Clyde, give us some specific actions that shows Ms. Brooks to be a racist.?"

First off, ... I can't find anything in Brooks background which qualifies her as as Chief Administrator, aka Court Clerk.

You don't have to look too far to find racist comments made by Brooks, but I'm quite sure you know that.

- "Some people say ‘You don't want to say black and white.' Come on people. Get out of denial," Brooks said Monday. "It is black and white."

- "If you looked at the definition, you would know that I do not have the power to be racist," Brooks said during the meeting. "I may be prejudice. I said, 'may be.' That's the key word here."

- "During the meeting she also said that for all she knows, the advisory councils for these programs could be run by the KKK.

- "The comment about the KKK, I did make that comment, Kontji," Brooks said. "I'm not going to back up from that. It could be. I don't know."

Brooks has made a living from shooting her mouth off with racist and incendiary race baiting comments. It's because of people like her that there will never be decent race relations in the Memphis area. Your city is self destructing because of the likes of Brooks.

Please notice, all the movement is away from, and not to, Memphis as a place to live and work. The declining population speaks to that.

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Posted by JuliusJones on 02/20/2014 at 11:35 AM

A decision based on race doesn't nessasarily means domes a racist does it? Ie, affirmative actions passed by white mean does mean white men hate themselves.

Posted by Skip Ledbetter on 02/20/2014 at 2:35 PM

Commissioner Henri E. Brooks' complaint concerning Juvenile Court to the Department of Justice was found to be racial. I fact, according to DOJ's investigation JC was discriminating against black children. So, are you saying the Department Of Justice is racist too?

It is mighty strange when a black person speak up and speak out they classified as a racist. Sometime white folks need to be reminded that Stepin Fetchit days are over....NO more head scratching, ass digging blacks.

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Posted by JustRight on 02/20/2014 at 4:02 PM

Julius Jones

Is that all you got? Those are general statements that just may be true. Hell, you might be a member of the KKK. They usually don't go around advertising their membership especially if they work in government.

What I have asked for is definitive statements and/or actions that shows she is racist. You are entitled to your won personal opinion, but that opinion does not give you liberty to flat out accuse a person of racism.

Yes, Henri Books is right. Most issues that affect this community boils down to blacks and whites. That is not racist, that is just telling it the way it really is.

Remember when you point the one finger at someone else, there are three pointing back at you!

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 02/20/2014 at 4:49 PM


So, let's not forget,'when Henri Brooks, or OTP for that matter, point a finger at you, or anyone else, and says that you may be a member of the KKK, they each have three fingers pointing back at them.

I resolve to never forget it.

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Posted by QueerAnn on 02/20/2014 at 11:24 PM

The funny thing is Brooks is running as Juv Court Clerk to "clean up" Juvenile Court (a completely different elected body).

As Juv Ct Clerk, her responsibility to 1) provide clerks in courtrooms, 2) provide security 3 to perfect rehearings and appeals and 4) to make sure files are kept in order. She has NO ability to effect change within the Juvenile Court System as Clerk. But, that will be her platform.

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Posted by Tony Cooper on 02/22/2014 at 10:49 AM

The funny thing is Brooks is running as Juv Court Clerk to "clean up" Juvenile Court (a completely different elected body).

Posted by Tony Cooper:

"As Juv Ct Clerk, her responsibility to 1) provide clerks in courtrooms, 2) provide security 3 to perfect rehearings and appeals and 4) to make sure files are kept in order. She has NO ability to effect change within the Juvenile Court System as Clerk. But, that will be her platform."

That's right. Does that matter to the majority minority in Shelby County? I think not, they think not deeply about ANYTHING. They see black and white, and vote accordingly.

The only promising thing from all this nonsense is one of the BIG mouth Demoncrats will likely run as an independent and will split the majority minority vote, so the qualified incumbent will retain the job.

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Posted by JuliusJones on 02/22/2014 at 11:53 AM

Julius Jones

Being an elected official within the juvenile court, regardless of position, gives one a large, credible platform to effect change. As an elected official, one would be able to better see and understand what is really going on.

The minority vote will not be split to the point of her losing. African Americans are used to that ploy by now. On paper, Heni Brooks has more qualifications and passion for the job than the current one. Look at their bios and list them side by side; it will speak for itself. The same can be said of Joe Brown's qualifications over Amy Weirich.

Yes, put those qualifications up alongside each other.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 02/22/2014 at 1:35 PM

How does Brooks have better qualifications than the current clerk? Brooks has ZERO experience MANAGING anything. She is a professional politician (does she even have a real job now?) and was a teacher. Being a teacher is a fine profession but it in no way gives one experience to run the clerks office.

Yes, she did work at Juvenile Court many, many years ago as a probation officer at the Court. But the CLERK'S office is different than the Juvenile Court.

So, in fact, she has NO real crossover experience whatsoever.

Oh, another responsibility of the Clerk is to charge and collect filing fees and court costs. So, she will be responsible for putting collection agencies on people who don't pay their costs.

Again, just because the clerks office is IN Juvenile Court doesn't mean she could change the Court. The clerk has NO power to change the Juvenile Court. It's like thinking the Regions Bank inside a Kroger can help change the attitudes of the checkers.

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Posted by Tony Cooper on 02/22/2014 at 10:02 PM

Tony Cooper

Where do managers come from? Are you born with it, wake up one morning and suddenly have it or what? What experience did the person have as a manager to get their first manager's job. Remember managers don't actually do the day to day grunt work, they hire competent people to do it. Managers manage people in the performance of their job. Being a probation officer and a professional teacher shows management ability. One has to manage their caseload when a probation officer and a classroom when a teacher.

Henri Brooks was not a part, in any sense of juvenile court, but, still managed to get great change accomplished there. How would you explain that? Being inside of the court as an elected official, not under the thumb of anyone in the juvenile court would allow a person to seek and get even greater change. You see, the juvenile court clerk cannot be fired by anyone at the court, so, they would have no qualms about retribution from anyone there if they ask questions, seek change and/or complain. Would you not agree?

You and others are now grasping for straws to down her reputation, but, it will not work. People in the Memphis city area know of her passion for children and her quest for justice and fairness for everyone. That will win the day. When one speaks of Heni Brooks within the African American communities, one automatically speak and associate her with juvenile court. I don't just want a good record keeper and recorder at juvenile court, I want someone there, regardless of position, to truly care about all of juvenile courts issues when it comes to justice and equal treatment of our young people under the law.

No, Cooper, your tactic will not work. The only thing that will keep Henri Brooks from winning that position is lack of turnout and that also applies to the other county-wide offices.

The office of juvenile court clerk is the peoples elected representative to ensure that record keeping and collections are carried out correct. They answer only to the people and it is the people who will discern the qualifications for the job by their votes.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 02/23/2014 at 8:28 AM

You just have a clear misunderstanding, that's all. Yes, as a commissioner she had a say in how the court conducted its business. As clerk, she will have no power except to push papers and collect court costs.

What experience does she have running a clerks office? Can she even find the door. If she thinks that the job will allow her to "help children" then she is already fundamentally confused about the nature of the job. If her platform was to make the filing of pleadings more efficient or to lessen the cost of filing pleadings, then I would say she knows the job.

But "helping children" is not a function of a clerk. She is just in need of a paycheck (see post about bankruptcy above).

Also, outside of pushing the DOJ investigation in 2006, name ONE piece of legislation she put forward to "help children" while on the commission. She voted to defund Youth Court and voted to prevent a grant from paying for a Youth Court administrator. Yeah, really helping kids.

Also, what else did she ever propose? Nothing. She likes to complain but never offer solutions.

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Posted by Tony Cooper on 02/23/2014 at 12:09 PM

Tony Cooper

Helping kids is the responsibility of every adult, especially one who works on the inside of the facility charged with helping kids by administering justice equally to all children.

Being an elected official of the juvenile court, whether it be clerk or not gives one power. They have power derived from the people that elected them. Who can fire an elected official? Certainly no one at juvenile court can. This in itself carries power.

Don't be asinine by saying she wouldn't even know how to open the door. This woman is a college graduate with many years of teaching. I thought that you would be above that type of condescending language. As for going to the filing cabinets, she will have a secretary and plenty of clerks to do her bidding.

If one had to have special expertise by way of training and/or experience like a judge, DA, Medical Examiner, etc., I am sure that the state and/or local government would have made those requirements for running and holding that position.

Your entire argument is specious and without foundation. You should know better.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 02/23/2014 at 2:47 PM
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