UPDATE: Campbell Co. Commission selects Ayers to replace Judge Sammons

The Campbell County Commission voted to replace a county judge on Monday. This comes after authorities say Judge Amanda Sammons mishandled numerous cases during her time on the bench.

JACKSBORO - UPDATE: The Campbell County Commission selected former General Sessions Judge Joe Ayers to replace Judge Amanda Sammons, who is under criminal indictment for mishandling a number of caseswhile she was on the bench. 

The Commission voted 11-4 in favor of Ayers, who is slated to serve as an interim judge while Sammons faces legal proceedings.

Ayers was selected over two other candidates – prosecutor Tom Barclay  who applied to replace Sammons.

First District County Commissioner Robert Higginbotham said he voted for Ayers over the other two candidates because he believes Ayers will do a good job in the role and came in second to Sammons in the last election. 

"As being a previous law enforcement officer, he appears to be fair to the public as far as I see," Higginbotham said. 

County Commissioner William Baird was one of the four commissioners to vote "no" against Ayers. Baird said he thought the commission acted a little prematurely in finding a replacement judge. 

"I think he's [Ayers'] fair," Baird said. "He'll do a good job, but he wasn't my preference." 

The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has temporarily suspended Sammons from performing any actions as a judge, which left a backlog of cases.

"Now since we do have a general sessions judge appointed. He's able to preside over these cases that's been piled up for a period of weeks,” Higginbotham said. “I'm hoping that he's able to get through them and go ahead with the new cases."

In the 2014 election, Sammons ran for the position as the “blue-eyed assassin,” and edged out Ayers for the job.

The county commission may have to take another vote for a permanent judge to fill the slot if the office is left vacant before the next election.

PREVIOUS STORY: The Campbell County Commission on Monday is expected to replace Amanda Sammons,  the embattled Judge under criminal indictment for mishandling a number of cases while she was on the bench.

The 15-member board, which will meet at 6 p.m. at the Jacksboro Court House, will interview three candidates who applied for the job and make a decision at that time.

“This is one of the most important decisions this county is going to have,” said County Commissioner Ralph Davis. “We’re talking about peoples’ lives.”

For his part, Davis said he wanted to wait at least a few more weeks before voting. He said the county is paying Sammons, who is also under an ethics probe, $2,900 a week in salary and also will have to pay whoever replaces her.

However, Davis said a number of judges who are filling in for Sammons told the County Commission earlier this week they were “overloaded” and that defendants were needlessly spending all day in court.

A grand jury in August indicted Sammons on four counts of official misconduct. In addition, the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has temporary suspended her from performing any actions as a judge.

Each of the Class E felonies carries up to two years for someone with no criminal record.

Since then, four East Tennessee judges have taken over Sammons’ cases.

In the meantime, three attorneys applied for Sammon’s general session judgicial seat: Kathy Parrott; former General Sessions Judge Joe Ayers; and Tom Barclay, a prosecutor in the 8th Judicial District since 2004.

Sammons defeated Parrott and Ayers in the 2014 election.

Sammons, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has a trial set for Nov. 1

Defense attorneys and the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office for some time now have accused her of overstepping her authority.

Earlier this year, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and special prosecutor Dan Armstrong began looking into allegations that Sammons was lying and misusing her authority.

Two of the counts against Sammons are tied to a case involving a 26-year-old Krista Smith of Jacksboro.

In March, Sammons, 41, was removed from presiding over her case.

Smith was pulled over by a Caryville police officer in January 2016 because her children were not wearing seatbelts. The officer arrested her, and she was charged with child endangerment. However, while she was in the Campbell County jail, deputies said Sammons called and had her charges revised to aggravated child abuse and neglect – a much more serious charge.

Sammons denied making that change, but records kept by the jail dispute that.

A third count against Sammons is connected to attorney Kristie Anderson, who represented Smith. The other count is tied to Julie Lester, who also was one of Anderson’s clients.

In September 2014, Sammons issued a show-cause order against Anderson and Lester, saying they should be held for contempt of court because they didn’t appear for a hearing, according to Sammons’ indictment.

Anderson was not aware of the hearing. Sammons changed her story several times about why she issued the order, prosecutors have said.

A native of Memphis, Sammons moved to Jacksboro 14 years ago. An online biography states she'd wanted to be a lawyer since she was a child "so she could help people."

It was while in the courtroom that Sammons acquired the nickname "The Blue-Eyed Assassin," her biography states. She prosecuted Sessions Court and Juvenile Court cases.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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