Judge who set $250K bond for seat-belt violation gets probation in deferred disciplinary agreement

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A Tennessee judge accused of requiring defendants to pay unwarranted fees and setting a $250,000 bond for a mother’s child-seat violation has been placed on disciplinary probation as a result of a deferred disciplinary agreement.

The judge, Amanda Sammons, accepted the agreement and acknowledged temperament issues, but did not admit fault, the Knoxville News Sentinel and WBIR report. Though she was “too hasty to judge and too quick to be angry before,” Sammons said in a letter to disciplinary authorities, she is now “a more temperate and patient person.”

The disciplinary agreement (PDF), dated Jan. 23, summarized the complaints against Sammons, without making findings of fact. The seat-belt complaint had alleged that Sammons imposed the $250,000 bond because she thought the case involved aggravated child abuse, without making a determination of the facts. The defendant was a mother who didn’t use seat belts or child seats to restrain her children in the car.

Other complaints had alleged that Sammons:

• Required defendants to pay fees for court-appointed counsel even though they had private lawyers.

• Purchased drug testing kits and ordered drug tests on individuals in her court without probable cause. The drug-tested individuals were also ordered to pay for the tests.

• Issued an ex parte order causing two children to be taken from their custodial parent, and issued another ex parte order that allowed a mother to take her child out of the country on vacation.

Sammons had also faced criminal charges of official misconduct for allegedly misusing her authority in the seat-belt case. But a senior judge tossed the charges against Sammons in November, saying Sammons had made an honest mistake of fact when she set the bond, according to this prior story by the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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