Judges pass order clarifying how domestic violence cases handled - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Judges pass order clarifying how domestic violence cases are handled

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General Sessions judges unanimously passed an order Friday clarifying how they can alter bail conditions.

The court called the special meeting after recent actions taken by Judge Casey Moreland earlier this month. In a widely-criticized move, the judge waived a mandatory holding period for a man arrested for domestic assault.

The law requires defendants to sit in jail for 12 hours to give victims protection after an attack. But court documents show Moreland released prominent developer David Chase before the end of that period. Police said this led Chase to return home and beat his girlfriend again, resulting in a felony charge.

The chief of the Metro Police Department, Steve Anderson, suggested in a scathing memo Moreland helped Chase because of the judge's relationship with Chase's attorney, Bryan Lewis. Moreland's attorney, Robert Delaney, denies Moreland showed special treatment to the contractor.

Nine of the 11 General Sessions judges discussed how they can better protect the victims of domestic violence. They unanimously passed an order and a resolution that outline existing laws.

Senior Jurist William Higgins said he hopes the meeting restores confidence.

"We can't function without the trust of the people," Higgins said.

High blood pressure kept Moreland from attending the meeting, according to Judge Gale Robinson. Judge Dianne Turner also was absent. These two voted through proxies, and Robinson said Moreland will sign the necessary paperwork this weekend.

The order states only the three judges assigned to domestic violence cases can approve early releases and bail conditions: Robinson, Angelita Blackshear Dalton, and Gloria Dumas. All the parties involved in the case must also weigh in on the decision.

Starting Sept. 1, the three judges will preside over all domestic violence cases on a rotating basis. An entire courtroom will be devoted to these issues, as well. The restructuring arose from a domestic violence safety assessment released by the mayor's office earlier this year. Robinson, who's presided over these cases for nearly two decades, says this will better address victims' needs.

"Domestic violence murder is the only murder that can be prevented," he said.

Higgins also proposed a resolution to "maintain the trust and confidence of the people of Nashville." The judges voted unanimously to uphold Tennessee law and their judicial canons. This includes the rules on ex-parte communications, something all the judges in Friday's meeting said they avoid.

"The rule 2.9 ex-parte communications, if that rule had been followed, we wouldn't be here today," Judge Michael Mondelli said.

At least 13 Metro council members have asked for Moreland's resignation in light of this controversy. Citing judicial codes, the judges refused to comment on whether Moreland should stay in his elected position.

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