published Friday, December 9th, 2011

Hamilton County General Sessions Judge David Bales issued reprimand

by Andrew Pantazi

Judge Bales Release
Judge Bales Release
Judge Bales Complaint
Judge Bales Complaint

A local judge has been issued a public reprimand by Tennessee Court of the Judiciary after the court determined he twice violated judicial ethics.

Hamilton County General Sessions Judge David Bales received two complaints earlier this year, one from Judge Rebecca Stern and the other from local attorney Hank Hill.

Public reprimands by the judiciary court are rare. Only two other Tennessee judges have been issued reprimands this year, and only three were issued in 2010, according to the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.

Bales acknowledged that he made mistakes and said he would "strive to not make mistakes in the future."

"I, at all times, tried to rule fairly and impartially for all citizens," he said. "Sometimes I've made mistakes, and I am human like everyone else. I admit I have made mistakes in these two matters."

In Bales' case, the Court of the Judiciary found he violated a rule requiring he honor the law and promote "public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary," according to a court release.

The first incident happened in November 2010, when Bales set a bond of $70,000 in a domestic assault and false imprisonment case without the defendant or his attorney present.

Defendant Dennis Wininger's attorney appealed the bond, and Judge Stern released him with a provision that he couldn't contact the victim, who was his wife.

Bales then summoned the defendant's attorney to his court in front of reporters and criticized Wininger's release.

He said Thursday that he had been worried after the victim said in an affidavit that Wininger had vowed to get away with the alleged crime. Bales also tried to reinstate the bond, although Assistant District Attorney Steve Smith told him he didn't have jurisdiction.

In the second incident, Bales set a bond of $1 million in a murder case in March. Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman reduced the bond to $250,000. The defendant, Montez Davis, was eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

"I had set what I thought was an appropriate bond due to all the gang violence that was going on," Bales said Thursday, "and one of the Criminal Court judges decided to lower the bond. I said it was troubling, and I should not have done that. I made a mistake.

"I go to work every day trying to give fair and impartial hearings to all defendants and try to weigh the rights of the defendants with the communities."

Staff writer Kate Harrison contributed to this story.

about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Lr103 said...

Judges need to stop allowing these court watchers to run their courts. Some judges have become so intimidated by these court watcher groups in their courtrooms that they're afraid they maybe labeled as weak on crime if they don't rule the way they think the court watcher group would want them to rule. Court watchers are nothing more than bullies, and should be banned from appearing in the courtroom as court watchers. If they want to be spectators, then so be it. But they shouldn't be appearing to influence a judges decision on any case. That should be illegal.

December 9, 2011 at 3:16 a.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.