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Is it time for Hawkins County juvenile judge to be a full-time position?

Jeff Bobo • Jan 23, 2020 at 5:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Juvenile Judge Daniel Boyd has been telling county commissioners for years that he needs more than two days per week to do his job.

On Monday, Boyd will find out if they’ve been listening.

A resolution on the agenda for next week’s commission meeting, if approved, would seek a private act from the Tennessee General Assembly to make the county’s juvenile judge position full-time instead of the current two days per week.

If that resolution is approved and the General Assembly approves the private act, the act would then come back before the full commission for a final vote that would require two-thirds approval.

The biggest obstacle to making the position full-time will probably be the cost.

Currently the job pays 40% of what the sessions judge position pays: $68,348.

By state law, if the juvenile judge position becomes full-time, that salary would increase to $170,869.

In May 2017, Boyd told the Budget Committee his caseload had reached the level where he worked every day to some extent on Juvenile Court issues, despite the fact that the position is paid for only two days per week. Boyd suggested that the commission may want to add a second Sessions Court judge position, with both judges covering sessions and juvenile cases full time.

That situation hadn’t changed as of last December, when Boyd went before the Personnel Committee requesting that the juvenile judge position go full time. Boyd told the panel it needs to be full-time regardless of who sits on the bench, and his motive for the change wasn’t the pay.

Boyd also told commissioners last month that on the two days when court is in session, he’s often on the bench as late as 7 or 8 p.m.

On Tuesday, the Budget Committee discussed Boyd’s request, but ultimately took no action.

Last month, the Personnel Committee voted to recommend seeking the private act, with the final decision coming back to the full commission when that act is approved.

Personnel Committee chairman Mark DeWitte told the Budget Committee Tuesday that Boyd’s caseload has increased to the point that it’s not possible to keep up with two days per week.

“His caseload has gotten more, and he and (Sessions) Judge Ross have interchangeably tried to hear these cases, but there’s a lack of time to do that,” DeWitte said. “He suggested that three days a week may be sufficient, but if you tie up an attorney for three days per week, it prevents them from carrying their caseload in their private practice. Everybody on the Personnel Committee agreed that it would be great to have somebody there full time.”

DeWitte added, “The two judges could hear each other’s cases if need be, and a better track could be kept on juveniles that went through the system. It would help the school system, it would help the drug problem. There’s a lot of things it addresses that Judge Boyd brought before the committee.”

Commissioner Valarie Goins told the Budget Committee Tuesday she’d spoken with a variety of professionals who deal with Juvenile Court to get their take on the situation.

“Here’s a few things they told me,” Goins said. “It’s definitely a full-time job. It’s supposed to be a couple of days a week, but he has to do it pretty much every day. That person said he also really cares about the kids and is trying to help.”

Goins added, “Sometimes people show up at his house all hours of the night to do (Juvenile Court-related) things, and the school system has kids who can’t be controlled at a younger age as they did 10-15 years ago. There’s nowhere else for these kids to go except for court, and a lot of that, of course, is related to drugs and mothers on drugs.”

DeWitte said Boyd will attend Monday’s commission meeting to answer questions before the vote on the private act resolution.