By Deborah Culp
This past weekend, the General Sessions Music City Community Court, Division VIII marked another success of fair justice and transparency. Judge Rachel L. Bell and Community partners facilitated several Saturday Court Dockets at Nehemiah Missionary Baptist Church, with Minister Thomas Hunter) located in the Andrew Jackson Boys and Girls Club. Court proceedings were held in the gymnasium of the club; with a fully staffed court agenda.
Saturday Community Service Return Docket for 4 hours credit- 41 defendants
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Saturday Indigency and Expungement Clinic Registration (Limited to the first 100 participants) 48 were pre-registered/ 19 participated, 8 pre-registered from the community service return docket and 76 day of registrants
10:15 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.
Saturday Indigency and Expungement Clinic Docket with Pro Bono Lawyers providing free legal advice and review of criminal defendants
• 103 participants
• 12 Pro Bono Attorneys reported providing over 5 hours of legal consultation
• Over $120,000.00 court cost and fines waived
• Expungement paperwork processed for over 978 cases
Judge Bell shared, “The Saturday Community Court Dockets were birthed in keeping my promise to provide access to justice and to allow our courts to be more visible to the community at large. The Saturday Community Service Return Docket was created to allow each defendant that pled guilty and the court agreed to take their plea under advisement with the condition of performing 4 hours of court ordered community service.
The participants are originally set for a return docket on January 27, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. in Courtroom 5C. Those participants that attended this Saturday do not have to come back to court to show proof, their cases were dismissed right on the spot and they were automatically registered for the Indigency and Expungement Clinic Docket. I am happy that this docket allows the defendant to avoid having to take off work, pay for parking downtown and go through the hassle of attending court amongst the many other dockets we have set through the week.”
Those required to do 4 hours of community service work were required to report on time and after a briefing, they were given reflective safety vest for the cleanup work. Judge Bell’s Court officer Fred Kilpatrick and the Court Interpreter, Maureen Villabos oversaw the community service cleaning crews. They were divided into 3 separate groups and each group was given a charted route in the North area of Nashville to follow and to square away. Cleaning parts of 16th Ave., Jo Johnston, 14th Ave. and Herman Street, Martin Luther King Magnet School and Watkins Library.
Meanwhile back at the community court site, the indigency docket and expungement clinic was set to run effectively from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. In efforts to fully and fairly accommodate all of the registrants, the clinic ran a bit over. Formal introductions were made per Judge Bell which included; a welcome by Min. Thomas Hunter. Her honor introduced Davidson county Criminal Court Clerk, Mr. Howard Gentry. Amber Floyd, Volunteer Pro-Bono Attorney Coordinator, Patricia Mills, TN Administrative Office of the Courts and other volunteer staff and supporters for the day. Some Local professional and community leaders and icons stopped by.
Including Dr. Marquetta L. Faulkner, Senior Vice President for Health Affairs – and Dean School of Medicine for Meharry Medical College. Also attending with the days activities at the Boys and Girls Club were the Nashville Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity providing families with turkeys for Thanksgiving Dinners and some other members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., several church members from Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Nehemiah Missionary Baptist Church and staff from the TN Administrative Office of the Courts assisting with sign-in and registration.
Along the day’s agenda there was more than enough literature on hand with a bevy of other resources for attendees to research if necessary. One sheet specifically provided a brief synopsis of various agencies and organizations. That sheet included; an ABA (American Bar Association) free legal answers: www.tm.freelelgalanswerrs.org A statewide phone legal helpline: 1-844-HELP4TN and www.Help4TN.org. / www.justiceforalltn.com/resource/legal-clinics-tennessee As well as the TN Faith and Justice Alliance:
Source:: Divine Magazine