ROGERSVILLE — The question isn't, “Does Hawkins County need a full-time juvenile judge?”
The question is, “Are Hawkins County taxpayers willing to pay for a full-time juvenile judge?”
Later this month, for the third meeting in a row, county commissioners will again be asked to answer that $100,000 question.
That's the difference in pay from a two-day-per-week juvenile judge, and a full-time juvenile judge, which must be paid at the same level as the sessions judge per day.
Juvenile Judge Daniel Boyd, who is technically supposed to be a two-day per week juvenile judge, has told county commissioners on multiple occasions over the years that the juvenile judge caseload merits being a full-time position.
On Thursday, the commission's Personnel Committee voted 5-1 to recommend approval of a resolution similar to the original resolution presented to the commission in January.
The resolution requests a private act of legislation from the Tennessee General Assembly to allow the county commission to make the juvenile judge position full time, and authorize the judge to hold court as many days as deemed necessary to cover the caseload.
Assuming the private act was approved, the resolution would be returned to the county commission where it would require two-thirds approval by the commission to go into effect.
Boyd told the Personnel Committee Thursday that he anticipates needing a minimum of four days of juvenile court per week, with Fridays being set aside for miscellaneous chores such as Foster Care Review Board, emergency custody or detention hearings, or other administrative duties.
In February, the committee approved a recommendation stating that the county commission would determine on a year-by-year basis how many days per week the juvenile judge would be paid.
Boyd told the commission at its Feb. 24 meeting, however, that plan wasn't feasible for him or any other attorney because they wouldn't know year to year if they would have to open or close their private law practice, or how much income they would be earning as a judge.
That second proposal was tabled and sent back to the committee.
Boyd told the committee Thursday that the statistics justify a full-time position.
In 2018, Boyd disposed of 1,145 cases in Juvenile Court. In 2019, he disposed of 1,392 cases.
For January and February of 2020, he has disposed of 235 cases.
“If you average that out that's 117.5 cases per month,” Boyd told the committee. “You multiply that by 12 that's 1,410 cases. Certain things are mandated by the state that we address within a certain time period. Detention hearings — if a child goes to detention they have to be seen within 24 hours excluding a holiday or a weekend. In 2018, 157. In 2019, 198. in January and February of 2020, we've already had 51. So I'm already one-third of where I was in 2018 in two months.”
Boyd noted that for 2019 there were 1,084 child support cases.
“DCS (Department of Children's Services) workers are calling me all the time,” Boyd said. “… These issues are pressing. They've been at my house at dinner, and I offer to cook them dinner. They've been at my house at 2 a.m. Not to mention, living where I live, law enforcement officers are knocking on my door quite often too, all hours of the day and night. It's not a part-time job. It's a full-time job.”
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said his officers deal with Judge Boyd four days per week, and with the caseload Juvenile court now has it needs to be a full time position.
Personnel Committee Chairman Mark Dewitte said he believes a full time juvenile judge might be able to turn around some errant youths and prevent them from graduating to adult jail and adult courts, which are an even greater burden on taxpayers.
“Judge Boyd is the first one to interact with these folks in the system,” DeWitte said. “If the programs that he can implement by being full time, and the assistance he can give our educational system to keep people going the right way … the money that we would eventually be talking about (in adult criminal court and jail) is probably saved.”
Commissioner Danny Alvis said he the taxpayers he represents in District 3 are opposed to the increased $100,000 annual expense.
Boyd: “May I ask who your taxpayers are that are giving you that information?”
Alvis: “District 3 from one end to the other.”
Boyd: “I'd like to meet with them and talk to them about it.”
Alvis invited Boyd to meet with his constituents Saturday night at Lafollete’s Chapel Church near Surgoinsville, and Boyd said he will try to be there.
In the meantime Alvis cast the only no vote Thursday on the new full time juvenile judge resolution which will go before the full commission on March 23.