Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Tennessee Judge Facing Misconduct Charges Tries to Depose Disciplinary Counsel

by Matt Clarke

Cocke County, Tennessee General Sessions Judge John A. Bell, while facing a judicial misconduct complaint, sought to depose Joseph S. Daniel, disciplinary counsel for the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, in February 2010. Bell also asked to review all complaints filed against Tennessee judges due to delayed rulings since 2003.

Daniel filed a motion to quash the requests for a deposition and the records as well as a separate subpoena filed by Bell.

Daniel was prosecuting a complaint against Judge Bell that stemmed from a civil case involving a car accident. David Pleau had accused Bell of misconduct in the civil case, including a lengthy delay in issuing a judgment. Bell then allegedly asked his attorney, Thomas V. Testerman, to convince Pleau to drop the ethics complaint.

Judge Bell initially refused to answer Daniel’s questions, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and attorney-client privilege in his communications with Testerman.

Previously, in 2008, Bell faced disciplinary charges of funneling probationers to a company operated by his brother-in-law and improperly accepting payment for a speech he gave at a local church. In that case he cut a deal with the Court of the Judiciary by agreeing to stop doing business with his brother-in-law’s firm, East Tennessee Probation, Inc. He was further disciplined by the Court of the Judiciary earlier in his 12-year career as a judge, which resulted in a private reprimand.

In the most recent misconduct complaint filed by Pleau, the Court denied Bell’s request to depose Daniel. Judge Bell was found guilty of misconduct following a two-day trial in June 2010, including a lengthy delay in rendering a judgment in Pleau’s case and improperly trying to influence Pleau to drop his ethics complaint.

Judge Bell was suspended for 90 days. He was also ordered to pay the costs of the trial, amounting to $3,107.45, and to take additional ethics training at his own expense.

Although Daniel tried to have Bell suspended without pay, or to have him pay for the cost of a replacement judge during his absence from the bench, those requests were denied by the Court of the Judiciary on September 1, 2010. As Tennessee’s constitution does not allow a judge’s pay to be diminished while he is in office, Judge Bell’s 90-day suspension amounts to little more than a paid vacation. See: In Re: The Honorable John A. Bell, Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, Docket No. M2009-02115-CJ-CJ-CJ.


As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

In Re: The Honorable John A. Bell