Sumner Co. Comes Up Short In Juvenile Court System - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Sumner Co. Comes Up Short In Juvenile Court System

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SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn.- In Sumner County an overburdened juvenile court system may be putting children's lives in danger and judge says he is six months behind and needs help.

Studies have shown that Sumner County has the lowest number of general sessions and juvenile judges for any county of its size in the state. Last year Sumner County General Sessions Judge Barry Brown heard more than two thousand cases in juvenile court. He says the case load is too heavy for one judge to carry, and the lives of children hang in the balance.

"When a parent or grandparent files an allegation in this court it's usually pretty serious. It's the duty of the court to hear these cases as soon as you can to make the determination if the child is safe or not," said Judge Brown.

Judge Brown said he is currently five to six months behind on cases. He says while there's justice many times it's too slow.

"I'm leaving a child in an environment and five months later I find out that's not a good environment for that child to be in," said Brown.

Judge Brown said that there have also been cases where allegations have forced him to keep a child away from a parent for several months, and then allegations turn out to be false. Brown says a solution is making a part-time magistrate full-time. The magistrate position would cost the county almost 80-thousand dollars a year in salary and benefits.

Judge Brown is not the only person in Sumner County with concerns. Several local attorneys said they feel the same way but they think what the community really needs is a couple of new judges, not just a full time magistrate.

Attorney Jim Hawkins calls the magistrate idea a band aid approach. He says the county needs one or two more General Sessions Judges.

"Our juvenile court docket right now is setting cases 5 and 6 months out into the future. That means our children are having to twist in legal limbo, just hanging in the wind so to speak," said Hawkins.

State officials say they've given Sumner County approval for a new judge, but the county refuses to pay for the support staff that is also required.

Right now Judge Brown will be happy to get the full time magistrate, who can help him in juvenile court. The county would not have to pay for additional staff. He should get an answer later this summer.

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