January 23rd , 2013 10:00 am Leave a comment

Attorney: Judge violated rights more often than first suspected

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A Johnson City attorney said Tuesday that a Carter County judge’s alleged misuse of power to violate defendants’ constitutional rights might be more widespread than first believed.

“Since last week, we have received a number of calls from people who have gone through the same situation,” attorney Casey Sears II said after local media reported that his client, Acie Lee Justus, filed a lawsuit Friday against General Sessions Court Judge John Walton. “We knew it was an issue, but I don’t think we were quite aware how big it was.”

Photo by Brandon HicksGeneral Sessions Court Judge John Walton speaks in his chambers in May 2012 after the mistaken arrest of a Biltmore man.

Photo by Brandon Hicks
General Sessions Court Judge John Walton speaks in his chambers in May 2012 after the mistaken arrest of a Biltmore man.

In the lawsuit, Justus and his attorneys, Sears and Donald E. Spurrell, claim that Walton issued two bench warrants for his arrest and then ordered him to be held without bond and without proper notification of the charges filed against him in violation of his guaranteed right to due process of law.

The lawsuit claims that Justus appeared on his appointed Oct. 30 date in Walton’s court, but an hour into the proceedings, he became ill and left the courtroom for approximately 10 minutes.

When he returned, he said a court officer informed him that his name had been called and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest because he was not present to answer the call.

The filed document state that he was immediately arrested and incarcerated in the Carter County Jail, but was released the following day by Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown after filing a writ of habeus corpus requesting that he be brought before a judge.

The lawsuit claims that the following week, Walton learned of Justus’ release and issued another bench warrant.

According to Justus, no petition of contempt, claiming he willfully disrespected the court’s authority, was issued until his court date two weeks later.

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