Rutherford County juvenile judge announces retirement amid criticism

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Posted at 4:07 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 07:31:30-05

After lawmakers said they were looking to unseat her, Rutherford County's juvenile court judge announced Tuesday she would retire from the bench at the end of her term.

Judge Donna Scott Davenport was the first female judge to serve in Rutherford County and the first independent juvenile court judge by private act.

“After prayerful thought and talking with my family, I have decided not to run for re-election after serving more than 22 years on the bench," she said in a media release. "I will always look back at my time as Judge as one of the greatest honors of my life and I am so proud of what this Court has accomplished in the last two decades and how it has positively affected the lives of young people and families in Rutherford County. I wish my successor the best and hope that this job provides them the same fulfillment it has provided me over the years.”

Judge Davenport was re-elected in 2006 and then again in 2014 for eight year terms.

But her terms on the bench haven't come without criticism.

NewsChannel 5 learned that for years, Davenport gave jailers the discretion to keep kids locked up who they perceived as a threat. Children were forced to wait in detention until their day in court and sometimes it meant staying days behind bars before being formally charged with a crime.

The most recent data given to NewsChannel 5 has shown that at its height, jailers locked up kids nearly 10 times more than the state average. Attorneys for the kids, who in some cases are now adults, said kids were improperly put behind bars more than 1,500 times. A disproportionate number of which were minorities.

The most drastic example goes back to 2016 when Davenport approved Murfreesboro Police to detain 10 children for watching a fight not far from Hobgood Elementary School.

Critics were quick to call out the judge after officers pulled students from class and placed some in handcuffs before transporting them to the detention center.

Davenport has been the only person in her position since it was created in 2000. This will be the first year she would have expected to face an opponent after the county’s senior judicial commissioner Jacob Flatt announced he too will run for the position.