HomeNewsMadison Co. Judge addresses mass case dismissal before his suspension

Madison Co. Judge addresses mass case dismissal before his suspension

Madison County General Sessions Judge Hugh Harvey raised a few eyebrows in law enforcement last month, and he said his reasoning for his actions in court had nothing to do with his arrest earlier in 2022.

Harvey dismissed almost 400 traffic tickets Dec. 7, 2022, two weeks before he was set to go on a one-month suspension for a DUI conviction. 

“If somebody hurt their feelings, that’s their own fault,” Harvey said. “It was a day of too many cases, and this was to help them out.”

In two phone interviews Wednesday, Jan. 4 and Thursday, Jan. 5, Harvey said he dismissed most of the hearings for that day– only asking the defendants to pay their court costs. However, he said the dismissals were due to the volume of people and not any prior biases. 

What happened?

Harvey said when he arrived for court the morning Dec. 7, 2022, two court rooms at the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex were filled with people, and more people were lined up in the hallways waiting to come in. When he asked how many people were scheduled for the day, he was told 400.

Through an email inquiry, Madison County Clerk Gail Mooney’s office estimated there were 550 tickets scheduled for that court date. With about 150 already paid, more than 400 people were left on the docket, and 175 to 200 people physically in the courthouse. Most of the tickets were written by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, but a few were written by the Madison Co. Sheriff’s Office.

“You have three options: Guilty, not guilty or traffic school,” Harvey explained over the phone. “We treat everybody the same and give them equal opportunity.” 

Harvey said after the first batch of people, a staff member told him the Saturday Traffic School schedule was already full. Knowing that was the most-chosen day due to work schedules and other obligations, he asked the courtroom a question. 

“I asked how many people wanted Traffic School… and a lot raised their hands,” he said. 

At that point, Harvey said he told the courtroom, “The THP doesn’t need your money,” and asked the defendants to pay their court costs and go home. 

He also said there were a few people in the room who clapped when the announcement was made. 

“These people were having to stand in line and wait too long,” Harvey explained a docket like that would have taken all day. “They had to sit around and do all this.”

The backstory:

Harvey said in his two decades on the bench, he’s had every situation you can imagine happen in the courtroom. And, he’s dismissed cases in the past as well. The only reason this particular day is catching attention is due to his personal legal troubles over the past several months. 

On Aug. 17, 2022 Hugh Harvey was arrested for driving under the influence and possession of a handgun. The Tennessee Highway Patrol had pulled him over on Windy City Rd. for driving erratically. 

Harvey later pleaded guilty to a DUI.

“Like I said at my sentencing, I thanked the THP for pulling me over,” Harvey said. 

In the phone interviews, Harvey addressed the possible bias he could have in the courtroom due to the conviction: “If I had some problem, I would have done it at any time. This is just insane.”

This also wasn’t the first time hundreds of people were scheduled to attend traffic court. Harvey said during his time in rehab, he was told of hundreds of people being scheduled for one day. 

Clerk Gail Mooney’s office confirmed this did happen in an email inquiry. 

“We had a similar date in October where there were about 650 tickets written for that court date. About 180 or so paid early leaving about 450 or so as pending the morning of court,” the statement said. 

Going forward:

Judge Hugh Harvey’s suspension is set to last from Dec. 20, 2022 to Jan. 20, 2023.

As to why there were so many hearings scheduled for those particular dates, The Jackson Post reached out to both the THP and Clerk’s office and could not get a clear answer from either. 

Julia Ewoldt, julia@jacksonpost.news

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