HomeNewsTroopers claim judge called them ‘pigs’ and ‘villainized’ them in court

Troopers claim judge called them ‘pigs’ and ‘villainized’ them in court

Details are becoming more clear about what happened in Madison Co. General Sessions Judge Hugh Harvey’s courtroom Dec. 7, 2022, the day he dismissed almost 400 traffic court cases. According to a records request, multiple Tennessee Highway Patrol officers filed formal complaints about the judge’s behavior.

This was two weeks before Harvey was set to go on a one-month suspension for a DUI conviction. In an interview in January, he said it was to do with the large number of cases on the docket and not his recent conviction. 

Five different THP Troopers wrote official letters to Cpt. Ricky Bratton, including M. Riley, Trooper Alex Lee, Abel King, and Douglass Williams. One of the letters was not signed. 

The following are excerpts from the letters: 

  • “When I arrived at the court room, it was apparent that Judge Harvey was agitated or mad about the number of tickets that was on the docket.”
  • “Judge Harvey made several disrespectful comments about THP writing so many tickets calling it a ‘Document Dump’ and that he was going to put an end to it by denying the department, their fines cost for each citation. As the courtroom applauded, he did advise them they would be paying ‘his clerks’ for their work in processing all the documents.”
  • “Judge Harvey went on to make another statement in open court in front of everyone saying something to the effect, ‘ever heard the term shave the hogs and the pigs get fatter?’ referring to THP being pigs.”
  • “He also stated if you shave the hog, you fatten the pig, referring to the troopers in the courtroom. The crowd in the courtroom laughed and applauded at that point. He continued with his aggressive behavior with troopers during court.”
  • “Throughout the court session, Judge Harvey continuously belittled Troopers in front of the public that was in attendance for court. Judge Harvey made a statement in front of the public as well as Troopers referencing to the Troopers as ‘pigs’. During the court session, several of the Troopers witnessed Judge Harvey sling a piece of paper, striking one of the Madison County Deputies in the face with the paper.” 
  • “Towards the end of court, one of the court attendees wanted to plead not guilty to a citation. Judge Harvey verbally advised the attendee to plead guilty and just pay the $10.00 court cost in which the attendee ended up doing. Judge Harvey even made the statement after ‘I don’t care if someone complains, I’ll gamble my chances,’ referencing to Judge Harvey persuading the attendee to plead guilty after wanting to plead not guilty.”
  • “That statement indicated that he knew what he was doing was wrong and still conducted himself in a manner that he should not have.”
  • “It was perfectly clear that he had animosity towards the THP in open court. He was out right villainizing us to the people in open court. After court was over and all the people had left, he apologized for calling us pigs. There is no reason to have to deal with this. I just don’t want to have to go through this again. This is not the first time for the open court antics towards the THP.”
  • “Throughout the sessions he made several comments about his ‘sabbatical’ and how easy it was in jail doing his 48 hours. He stated he learned about boundaries and how he’s going to set boundaries for these departments writing so many tickets.”
  • “Throughout the court session Judge Harvey displayed very disrespectful gestures towards the Troopers. Judge Harvey continuously belittled Troopers throughout the whole duration of court. Throughout the whole duration of court, every Trooper in attendance remained very calm and showed the up most respect to the Judge as well as the public in attendance. Throughout my Law Enforcement career this was the most unprofessional and disrespectful setting I have every encountered before a Judge.” 
  • “At the end of the court session after all attendees left, a few of the Troopers respectfully spoke with Judge Harvey asking if there was any animosity amongst him and the THP Troopers. Judge Harvey stated that he was frustrated that there were so many tickets written and scheduled on the same day. One of the Troopers respectfully stated to Judge Harvey that the ‘
  • ‘pig’ reference during court was disrespectful in which Judge Harvey replied ‘Oh I’m Sorry’ in a very sarcastic manner.” 
  • “I have been assigned to Madison County for almost three years and have never seen this display of disrespectful behavior from this judge. Also, as a trooper for the Tennessee Highway Patrol I have worked and participated in 9 general sessions court and have never been treated and belittled like this in my career.”

Text messages between troopers that day were also part of the records request. The following is a few excerpts from those.

“Can you come up here to court? Judge is really showing his ass,” one message read. “He made a comment on open court about troopers being pigs.”

Another read, “This is bad in court. I’ve never had this happen. It’s worse than the day you were here.” That trooper also said his body camera was on.

In a group message, another said it was the most disrespectful thing they’ve seen in their career. One trooper sent a pig emoji in response. 

Harvey answered a few questions in response to the troopers’ complaints.

The first question referenced the comments about calling officers pigs, and the expression “shave the hogs and the pigs get fatter.” 

Harvey said it was an old expression, and when he said it, it didn’t have anything to do with the troopers. 

“I was around in ‘68. You don’t call policemen pigs,” Harvey said.

Regarding the meaning of the phrase, he said one of his professors in law school at Memphis said it, and he now uses it periodically.

Harvey addressed the statement Sheriff Julian Wiser made regarding the court hearing, and the case of someone driving 101 mph in a 45 mph zone.

“I remember seeing it,” Harvey said, “And I thought it was his lucky day.” 

Harvey said the ticket did not include a reckless driving offense, only speeding. So, Harvey said he treated the case the same as the rest that were in the courtroom that day, that would have been given the option for traffic school. 

Harvey also addressed the actual complaints from the troopers. 

Harvey said he did a lot of reading during the 30 days he was suspended from court. 

“The root of suffering is being attached to the past,” Harvey said, “Holding resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

He also said he was moving on and letting it go.  Judge Harvey returned from suspension Jan. 20, 2023. 

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