Federal lawsuit filed against Pickett County General Sessions Judge
By: AMANDA HILL BOND
There has been a federal lawsuit filed by Cathy Crockett, who is the president of the Pickett County Humane Society, against Pickett County General Sessions Judge Ronnie Zachary.
The Pickett County Press received a press release from the Pickett County Humane Society, also known as PAWS, Monday, February 16th stating that two cocker spaniels had been found at large and were rescued by volunteers. Several humane society volunteers tried to locate the dogs’ owner but claimed that the dogs were in poor condition and needed veterinarian care and grooming due to the condition of their hair and then contacted PAWS President Cathy Crockett. Once the animals had received care, Mrs. Crockett contacted the Pickett County Sheriff’s Department and advised that she had the dogs, but felt that they should not be returned. She also stated that the owner would need to reimburse PAWS for their expenses. The owner of the dogs, Donnie Smith of Black Oak Lane, was contacted by the Pickett County Sheriff’s Department and stated that he wanted his dogs back but would not reimburse PAWS.
According to court records, on January 30th, Mrs. Crockett was summoned to Pickett County General Sessions court where Mr. Smith was asking for a writ of possession ordering return of the dogs. Pickett County Judge Ronnie Zachary ordered Mrs. Crockett to return the dogs to Mr. Smith but advised the court that she did not intend on returning the dogs.
The judge found that Mrs. Crockett was in contempt of court and ordered Mrs. Crockett into custody and was placed in jail for a few hours before Judge Zachary allowed her to post bond.
Another hearing date was scheduled for February 13 and it was heard by Fentress County General Sessions Judge Todd Burnett. Judge Burnett ruled on the original motion that Mrs. Crockett return the dogs to their owner and the ruling is being appealed by Mrs. Crockett.
According to the submitted press release, Crockett consulted Cookeville attorney John Wayne Allen and filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Judge Ronnie Zachary is a non-attorney judge and has had no legal training, nor a law license to practice law in the State of Tennessee.
She alleges that her constitutional rights were violated and that Judge Zachary should be prohibited from presiding over any court hearings where incarceration may be imposed. The date for that civil rights hearing hasn’t been scheduled but will be heard by Judge Aleta Trauger.
Judge Zachary is one of two non-attorney general sessions judges serving in Tennessee and was grandfathered in after state law required that judges must be attorneys. Judge Zachary has held the position of general sessions judge in Pickett County since 1982.