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Commissioners want community monitors for juvenile court

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Two Shelby County commissioners hope words, not threats of a court fight, will allow community monitors inside juvenile court.

The court was ordered by the Department of Justice to make changes after it found preferential treatment to White inmates. Part of an agreement allows federal monitors.

But Commissioner Henri Brooks wants trained community volunteers to gauge the process. She has been relentless in her criticism of the county juvenile court.
"When I first proposed the community monitoring program it was about transparency, it was about making sure the public knew exactly what was going on at juvenile court," Brooks said.

The 13 monitors are people are like Janice Banks.

"If we don't look out for our children, if we don't show support then we can't expect the Department of Justice or anyone else to," Banks said.

Jude Person denied Brooks' request in June after the county, the court, and DOJ signed an agreement to make reforms that will cost taxpayers more than $1 million,

Commissioner Steve Mulroy said Judge Person is denying access to the volunteers out of spite, that may violate state law.

"They were denying that request in retaliation for the fact that Commissioner Brooks had made public comments criticizing juvenile court, didn't vote they way they wanted on certain juvenile court budgetary matters, and had the unmitigated temerity to actually run for office regarding juvenile court clerk."

Commissioner Brooks has been a harsh critic of the court, but court administrator Larry Scroggs said the agreement doesn't require monitors other than the ones provided by the justice department, who will visit infrequently.

Scroggs insists Judge Person is concerned about keeping the court proceedings confidential and without disruption. Brooks says her monitors are trained by the county attorney and follow a program already in place in Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

"They would be observers, non-intrusive, not disruptive," she said. They would have a checklist that would follow the memorandum of agreement."

Both Commissioner Brooks and Mulroy hope to convince Judge Person to change his mind. If not, legal action is possible.

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