Wednesday, May 8, 2019

County Commission Backs Censure of Judge Lammey

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2019 at 5:48 PM

In a dramatic morning session, the Shelby County Commission on Wednesday voted 7-2 “in support of the public censure” of Criminal Court Judge James Lammey.

The move, a response to well-publicized Facebook posts by Lammey considered potentially anti-Semitic and racist and to courtroom actions and attitudes of his widely regarded as prejudicial to minorities, came via an add-on resolution from Democratic Commissioner Tami Sawyer.

Several representatives of established civic associations and religious and ethnic groups — Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Hispanic — spoke in support of the resolution, as did most of the Commissioners on hand for the body’s committee sessions.
click to enlarge Dr. Nabil Bayakly, chairman of Muslims in Memphis, speaks for Sawyer resolution. - JB
  • JB
  • Dr. Nabil Bayakly, chairman of Muslims in Memphis, speaks for Sawyer resolution.

Speaking strongly on behalf of the resolution, Republican Commission and Commission vice chair Mark Billingsley made a point of emphasizing that the resolution should be regarded not as “political” or as either Dermocratic or Republican but as a generalized and necessary statement by the Commission as a whole.

Billingsley went on to successfully advocate for several
click to enlarge Commissioner Sawyer - JB
  • JB
  • Commissioner Sawyer
 amendments strengthening the tone of the resolution.

Two Republican Commissioners, Amber Mills and Brandon Morrison, would nevertheless end up abstaining from the vote — Mills on the ground that the Commission had not yet heard directly from Lammey, Morrison warning of entering upon a “slippery slope” and contending that the Commission as a legislative body should defer on judgmental matters to specifically judicial authorities; she recommended the state Board of Judicial Conduct.

Sawyer, who insisted on a Commission vote, would respond that the Commission could afterward ask its staff to contact the Board of Judicial Conduct for further action. She was clearly infuriated by Mills’ remarks regarding Lammey’s “side of the matter” and indicated she was put off as well by a suggestion from Billingsley that Lammey be invited to respond, either in person or in writing, at the Commission’s next regular public meeting on Monday.
click to enlarge Billingsley speaking for resolution - JB
  • JB
  • Billingsley speaking for resolution
In an extended and emotional speech, Sawyer recounted an online communication she personally had received two weeks earlier from a declared white supremacist, who vilified her, threatened her with physical harm, and announced his intention to make sure her body ended up in the Mississippi River. Comparing that communication with Lammey’s various online postings — which included links to Holocaust deniers and overt racists — and what she described as his overly punitive treatment of immigrants in court, Sawyer said if someone had dared to ask her to consider the “other side” of her would-be attacker’s point of view or had told her the Commission, similarly, would be interested in hearing out Lammey’s, “I would be offended.”

Sawyer received applause from attendees, as did Commissioner Eddie Jones subsequently as he choked up while describing being addressed by a white National Guardsman on the night of Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. The man said “Little nigger boy, where are you going?” and said Jones, “I never forgot those words.”

Voting for the resolution were Republicans Billingsley and David Bradford, and Democrats Sawyer, Edmund Ford, Reginald Milton, Eddie Jones, and Michael Whaley.

A letter to Lammey announcing the results of Wednesdays’s action and confirming the Commission’s wish to give him opportunity to respond on Monday, when the action is scheduled to become official, was dispatched by email to the Judge. It can be seen below:

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