Judge Disciplined After Setting Erroneous $250,000 Bail in Seat Belt Case
It's not every day you hear a judge throwing herself on the mercy of the court.
But that's what Judge Amanda Sammons was doing in her judicial disciplinary case for multiple complaints of judicial misconduct. Having survived a criminal trial on two counts of official misconduct, Sammons was begging for another chance to show that she is not the same angry judge who set bail at $250,000 for a seat belt violation.
"In thinking this through, there is no question that I was too hasty to judge and too quick to be angry before," she wrote to the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct. "The trials I have endured have shown me these faults of mine and have molded me into a more temperate and patient person."
Noting that she had been suspended from the bench since her criminal trial last year, she pleaded for her her job back. The court accepted her "plea" and placed her on probation for three years with conditions.
Sammons said she learned from her experiences, including her criminal trial. In that case, she was exonerated on charges that she allegedly changed a criminal charge and set a $250,000 bond without authority.
As a former prosecutor, Sammons had run for judge in 2014 with a campaign calling herself "the blue-eyed assassin." Since elected, she has had repeated run-ins with the public defender's office and many defendants in her courtroom.
In addition to the criminal case, she was facing a dozen complaints about her conduct on the bench. The complaints included:
- Ordering defendants to pay for court-appointed counsel even though they had private counsel.
- Ordering defendants to pay for drug-testing without probable cause to determine whether they abused drugs.
- Ordering a change of custody that allowed one parent to take a child out of the country without notice to the other parent.
In her letter to the disciplinary board, Sammons said she had come to the bench to remedy a corrupt legal community and that some of complaints against her were false. She said that she was working in a small town with a handful of attorneys, and she had to contend with them.
"A large number of them in recent months and years have not only been disbarred but have been brought up on charges of severe embezzling, and have faced severe discipline and suspension," she wrote. "The existence of officers of the court who were more interested in helping themselves rather than helping the people of this county is not a question that is up for debate: it's a proven fact."
Sammons said in her criminal case, which was dismissed at the end of the prosecutor's evidence, there was no evidence that she did anything criminal. She said she made a mistake by setting bail at $250,000 in the underlying matter, but she quickly corrected it.
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