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NC5 Investigates: General Sessions Court

Is Another Nashville Judge Under Ethics Investigation?

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By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

Is the presiding judge of Davidson County's General Sessions Court facing an ethics investigation?

Judge Dan Eisenstein's lawyer insists that he's not.

But a recent court filing tells a different story, with an attorney for the court that regulates Tennessee judges hinting that there may indeed be an investigation.

Attorneys for Judge Gloria Dumas filed the document just before her agreement last week to accept a public reprimand for hiring her own daughter in violation of nepotism rules. The judge -- who has admitted having a problem being late -- also agreed to let another judge supervise her attendance for 90 days.

But the filing raises questions about Eisenstein and his reaction to the Dumas investigation.

In a deposition taken last month, judicial investigator James Larue expressed concerns that his investigation might lead to efforts to "ostracize my daughter's practice of law." (See page 200 of Larue deposition.)

So where did he get that idea?

"My statement is based on my conversations with Judge Eisenstein," the investigator testified.

"We're going to object to that," interjected a lawyer for the Court of the Judiciary. He cited "Rule 8 confidentiality, matters under investigation. Judge Eisenstein has got an attorney." (Page 205)

Eisenstein's lawyer, David Raybin, denied there are any "matters under investigation."

"There has never been an investigation of Judge Eisenstein," Raybin told NewsChannel 5 Investigates by phone. "He didn't make any threats to anybody's daughter. This whole thing is absurd."

Another subject of concern: Eisenstein's reaction when the investigator went to ask about personnel records for Dumas' daughter.

Larue testified the personnel officer "proceeded to inform me that she would not even tell me what day it was, nor the time of the day, nor would she answer any question that I had."

"Why did she do that?" an attorney asked.

"By order of Judge Eisenstein." (Pages 115-116)

In the deposition, Larue also testified that received a phone call from Eisenstein:
 
"who was most upset that I had been in the courthouse waving my badge around, leaving my card, what I was up to.  He had been greatly inconvenienced because I had interrupted his dentist appointment because someone in the courthouse had called him and told him that I was in the vicinity." (Page 113)

But Eisenstein's lawyer insists the judge was just trying to ensure that confidential records were not released without a subpoena.  Raybin noted that, because Eisenstein was not a party in the case, he did not have a chance to challenge Larue on his statements.

So is Judge Eisenstein under investigation?

NewsChannel 5 Investigates called the lead attorney for the court that regulates judges.  Tim Discenza declined to comment.

So what gives the judge's lawyer such confidence that there is no investigation?

Raybin said that, under the court's procedures, the judge is usually given a chance to respond to any allegations that may be under investigation. That hasn't happened, he insisted.

So -- by his way of thinking -- there should not be an investigation.

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