By Jamie Schnell
Knox County Judge Chuck Cerny is campaigning for re-election to his General Sessions Division 1 seat. Cerny, a Republican, can certainly boast of experience on the bench. Elected as a judge in 1998, Chuck Cerny has been serving Knox County for twenty-four years. These years also included 10 years of prosecution, civil and government practice. Judge Cerny told The Focus that a judge should be a “student of the law, well informed, always.”
A sessions judge requires a special level of compassion, and to be a good judge, one must be able to discern who needs “health or who needs punishment.” According to Cerny, behaviors can be “motivated by addiction” and the vast majority are just making bad decisions and can be helped. And It is that discernment that allows Judge Cerny to help provide resources to help those to not re-offend.
Judge Cerny believes that resolving differences through “appropriate and passionate problem solving” shows people that they can elect to get out of the criminal system. There are phases in place in the court process to address mental health, addiction recovery, random drug screens, sober living, and reunification with families.
One of the ways Judge Cerny helps problem-solve addiction cases is through serving the Knox Recovery/Drug Court. Judge Cerny runs this recovery court after his regular docket hours with no additional compensation.
“I passionately believe that problem-solving courts are the future of criminal justice,” Cerny told The Focus.
Knox Recovery Court helps the community by keeping it safer when the participants do not re-offend. It helps save the taxpayers money from the decrease in incarceration and allows the participants to become productive members of the community.
After starting Knox Recovery Court, Judge Cerny created the Knox County Veterans Treatment Court in 2013. KCVTC started from an instance of one veteran’s experience within the criminal justice system. KCVTC has a group of volunteer veteran mentors who help provide veterans with additional support and guidance. Since this program began, the original veteran and many others have been free of alcohol and drugs for years and have not re-offended.
The recovery and veterans courts have been tremendous successes. Both problem-solving courts make our community safer by preventing relapse, re-offense and recidivism, saving taxpayer dollars by minimizing incarceration. Participants’ success has been shown through financial success, success in their chosen professions, and being able to reunite with their families and communities.
Judge Cerny is currently in the beginning stages of starting a mental health court as well. “I am grateful for these programs, as they aid in stopping the revolving door of offenses. These programs recognize these are human beings, treating each individual with dignity. And my actions as a judge have a profound effect on these people.”
Recently celebrating thirty years of marriage with his wife, Kim, Cerny prides himself on the joy he also has for officiating weddings. It is a “reminder that folks keep falling in love. Our creator hasn’t given up on us if we keep falling in love.”
Judge Cerny chooses to continue because it is exciting and he continues to enjoy the trial process.
“I have learned through my father, hard work, perseverance, and patience.
“To have the continued awareness and the same caring compass. To be a decent human being, to be the same on the bench as I am in the hallway, exhibit the same aspects as what I say and what I pray on Sunday, to have the same voice. And just doing the best that I can. “
To learn more about Chuck Cerny or to donate to his campaign, visit his campaign website, www.chuckcerny.com.