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NC5 Investigates: General Sessions Court

Two Judges Reprimanded, Third Awaits Fate

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Two Nashville judges have been reprimanded, and a third judge waits to hear her fate.

The reprimands were issued by the court that regulates Tennessee judges.

It follows an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation into the work habits of Nashville's General Sessions judges and their staffs.

But the letters -- from the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary -- weren't really meant for you to see.

Our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams obtained the letters of reprimand from the judges themselves.

They voluntarily released the letters, saying they want the public to know they've learned from their mistakes.

"Their recommendation -- for my acceptance -- was a private letter of reprimand," said Judge Gale Robinson.

Robinson was more defiant a few months back after NewsChannel 5 Investigates caught him leaving his bench empty -- and people waiting -- while he conducted funerals for his family-owned funeral home.

"My first priority has always and will continue to be always my judicial duties," Robinson told Williams back in November.

"Is it fair to keep people waiting while you work a second job?" Williams asked.

"I've got to go now."

But in a private letter of reprimand, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary told Robinson that "this conduct as it relates to your activities at the funeral home violated" at least three judicial canons -- or ethics rules.

Included: the canon requiring that a judge "act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity ... of the Judiciary."

Read Judge Robinson's private letter of reprimand

"I don't think in the beginning I looked at it from both sides," Robinson recently told Williams.

The judge now says, seeing how others saw his second job, was -- for him -- a real eye opener.

"The Court's rationale -- and rightfully so and I agree with it -- is that when the court that I'm presiding over is in session, when it opens that morning, I need to be there and I don't need to be off doing other things."

Then, there's Judge Casey Moreland -- whose probation officers we caught goofing off and, on two occasions, helping out the judge around his house.

In his case, Moreland also accepted a private reprimand. It states, "The reprimand relates to your conduct in allowing court officers under your supervision to be paid public funds while engaging in private activities."

Read Judge Moreland's private letter of reprimand

The judge insisted he didn't know they were on the clock.

"Are you ticked at your employees?" Williams asked.

"Absolutely," Moreland responded.

"Are you ticked with yourself?"

"Absolutely -- both."

Like Moreland, Robinson says he thinks the whole experience will now make him a better judge.

"The legal profession is very, very important to me -- something I hold dear to my heart," Robinson said. 

"Like I said, I'm not perfect. If I make mistakes, I'll man up and admit it. That's why I'm telling you I made a mistake in this situation."

Meanwhile, Judge Gloria Dumas says she hasn't heard whether or not she'll face any discipline. Our investigation caught her frequently being late to court.

Still, she tells Phil Williams that she's fully cooperated with the court's investigators.

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