Plan to sever Cannon from Rutherford opposed

BY MIKE WEST/  Courier Editor

Elected officials are calling on Rep. Mark Pody to oppose a plan to sever Cannon County from Rutherford County in the 16th Judicial District.

The plan would move Cannon to a new six-county district that includes Coffee, Warren, DeKalb, Smith, Jackson, Trousdale and Macon counties. The plan was presented by state Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey who wants to reduce the number of districts from 31 to 29.

"As someone who works daily in Cannon County's judicial system, I cannot emphasize enough the negative impact separating Cannon and Rutherford counties from each other would have on the people of Cannon County," said Circuit Court Clerk Lynn Foster in a letter to Pody.

“I can absolutely understand that because that system is working so well,” Rep. Pody said Friday.

“I don’t see where it makes any sense to cut this district,” Pody said referring to Cannon and Rutherford County.

Pody said Ramsey’s proposal is an initial plan that is open to change.

“I’m not sure what the final proposal will be. I’m not comfortable with what I have seen thus far,” he said.

Ramsey is currently accepting proposals from judges, prosecutors and officials involved in Tennessee’s judiciary.

Foster, along with other Cannon County officials, fear that the change would pack the already heavy local court dockets and would increase the overcrowding problem at the Cannon County Jail.

The jail, built in 1993, was designed for 53 inmates. It currently houses 72 inmates and is subject to possible state and federal action due to overcrowding. The Sheriff's Department is, at the present time, is collecting information for a Tennessee Corrections Institute study on overcrowding.

"As one of only two counties in the 16th Judicial District, Cannon County has unique and important access to our Circuit Court judges," Foster said. "This ensures justice comes swiftly and efficiently to Cannon County's citizens.

"To add Cannon County into a district with several other counties would greatly restrict its citizens access to justice. This, in turn, will result in jail overcrowding and the clogging of our dockets to levels never experienced before," the Circuit Court Clerk said.

Foster also pointed out Cannon County's long-term relationship with Rutherford County that dates back to 1821 when Cannon was founded from a portion of Rutherford.

"Cannon County has an excellent working relationship with the judges, district attorneys and public defenders who serve our courts. In fact, many of them hail from here," she said.

"These individuals have a long-standing relationship with the people of Cannon County and are extremely familiar with the needs of its people, and, most importantly, its judicial system. It would be a travesty to replace them with individuals who have no insight into what it is like to live in Cannon County," Foster said.

"Words cannot express how disappointment I will be if Cannon County is removed from the 16th Judicial District and Rutherford County. Please vote against any plan which calls for the separation of these two counties," she concluded.

The redistricting plan calls for Rutherford County to stand alone as its own district.

In announcing his plan, Speaker Ramsey said reducing the number of judicial districts would allow Tennessee to focus funding in areas with heavier case loads without spending more money. Ramsey said he anticipates some disagreement to his plan.

 "In any kind of redistricting plan - whether it's legislative or congressional - there is some fallout from that, but I think that's good government," Ramsey said.

Every county with more than 100,000 residents will have its own judicial district under Ramsey's plan including Rutherford, Wilson and Sumner.