Publisher’s Positions

By Steve Hunley

Piper Seeks Appointment

Cortney Piper began lobbying for an appointment to the Knox County Board of Education just as soon as the news broke that incumbent Mike McMillan had died.  Piper sent an email to 8th District County Commissioner Richie Beeler saying she is “new” to the 8th District as her home in Holston Hills had been redistricted from the 1st to the 8th.  Piper did say her husband was from the Carter community.

Piper did have a word of thanks for McMillan’s service, but the gist of the email seemed to be to promote herself for a temporary appointment to the board of education.  County Commission Chair Terry Hill had indicated the best way forward was likely to wait until the results of the March 5 primary and then appoint the winner, which is not only a good idea but also very practical.

Piper didn’t file to run for the board of education and is a Democrat in a highly Republican district.  To put it mildly, it’s unseemly to start lobbying for an appointment before Mike McMillan’s funeral.


Huge Support For ESA

The Beacon Center conducted a poll of Tennesseans which asked the following question: “Under Tennessee’s existing Education Savings Account (ESA) program, families of eligible K-12 students can use a portion of their per-pupil funding on certain educational expenses such as private school tuition, tutoring, educational therapy, or other educational purposes. These ESAs are available to families in Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga. Gov. Bill Lee has proposed an Education Freedom Scholarship Act to give the same options to all Tennessee families. Would you support or oppose expanding educational choice statewide?”

68% of respondents said they would support it.  85% of those who were Republicans said they supported the idea.


Tougher Bail Requirements Needed For Violent Crimes

Several state legislators, including House Speaker Cameron Sexton, have announced their intention to amend the state constitution.  The reason is that Tennessee’s State Constitution does not allow anyone other than those charged with capital murder to be denied bail.  The proposed constitutional amendment would give judges the power to set bail for a  variety of charges for violent crimes aside from capital murder.  The announcement came in Memphis alongside newly-elected Mayor Paul Young, a Black Democrat.  Sexton said the bill proposing the amendment would also require judges to explain why they were denying bail.

“There are a lot of cases all across our state that you’ve seen, not just in Memphis, but all across the state, of someone who is out on bail, who is a violent criminal who committed another violent crime shortly thereafter that took another victim. We don’t have the tools to give, due to that limiting constitutional aspect, the judges and the DAs the capability of denying bail on those violent criminals,” Speaker Sexton said at the Memphis press conference.

Memphis crime has been steadily rising and outgoing Mayor of Memphis Jim Strickland, a Democrat, has been especially vocal in stating his belief that much of the crime is being committed by those criminals out on bail, who commit more crimes.  The Memphis Police Department has pointed the finger at repeat offenders for the rising tide of crime in the city.

Sexton was quite clear in stating that non-violent offenses would not be affected by the proposed amendment to the state constitution.  Bail would still be available for those accused of non-violent offenses.


Process Started To Remove Judge

The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct recommended the removal of Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Melissa Boyd from office.  That process requires the Tennessee General Assembly to remove Judge Boyd.  The Board of Judicial Conduct’s verdict came after months of a flurry of charges against the judge, which include “substance abuse, harassment, and violating agreements with the board.”  The Board of Judicial Conduct had apparently originally recommended a public reprimand and a suspension from office, as, ”She acknowledged that she used illegal drugs while a judge, acknowledged that she needed treatment and she failed to comply” with an order issued on November 22, 2023.  Other criminal court judges have had to carry much of Judge Boyd’s caseload, as well as their own.  “Meanwhile, Judge Boyd has continued to collect her full salary and benefits going on the better part of a year and, unfortunately, there is no end in sight but her removal.”  All of the information was posted in letter form on the Board of Judicial Conduct’s website.  It is the beginning of the process, which will go before the General Assembly.


Congratulations to Justice Wagner

Governor Bill Lee has named Judge Mary L. Wagner of Shelby County to the Tennessee State Supreme Court.  Wagner is a judge of the Shelby County Circuit Court.

According to a statement released by the governor’s office, Lee said: “Mary is a highly qualified judge who will bring significant experience to the Tennessee Supreme Court.  Her understanding and respect for the rule of law and commitment to the conservative principles of judicial restraint make her well-suited for the state’s highest court, and I am proud to appoint her to this position.”

Governor Bill Haslam appointed Judge Wagner as a judge of the Circuit Court in 2016.  Wagner was the only Republican to win countywide in Shelby County in 2018.  Only 39 years old, Wagner can remain on the bench for years to come and is a solid choice.  Congratulations to Justice Wagner!