We talked a few days ago about the oddness George Scoville encountered when trying to learn of the legitimacy of an investigation of Chief Justice Gary Wade.
Now Phil Williams over at Channel 5 has the follow-up, which answers the question of whether Wade was reprimanded for wrong doing — no — and raises a host of others. Let's take those questions in order of importance from least to most.
1. Why doesn't Phil Williams refer to George Scoville by his name? "That claim was picked up by conservative bloggers who suggested the court was stonewalling requests about the chief justice's ethics." and "As for the blogger's claim that the Supreme Court was stonewalling, he sent his request for information to the board that regulates attorneys, not the one that regulates judges." Really? Because I think, if you ever wanted to see a man throw a shit-fit, just refer to some investigative work Williams has done and never say his name or his media outlet. Just call him "a Nashville reporter" and see how that goes.
2. Williams makes it sound like Scoville was some kind of dumbass for requesting information from the wrong board. Williams says, "The board that regulates judges freely provided NewsChannel 5 Investigates with the letter that it sent to Chief Justice Wade." That's very nice. But go back and read Scoville's piece. Scoville didn't make a request of the wrong board, never hear back from them, and then decide that meant something fishy was going on, without any evidence. There was plenty of evidence something fishy was indeed happening. I mean, the board that regulates attorneys actively engaged Scoville's request. They didn't send him back an email saying "Oh, you don't need us, you need so-and-so." Instead, they clearly made it seem as if they were stonewalling him — that they had information one way or another, but that they didn't quite believe that they had to give it to him. So, why didn't they just come out and say "We're not the people you need to contact about this."? Why keep him chasing his tail instead?
3. Does this strike anyone else as being really boneheaded on Ron Ramsey's part? Just look at the timeline Williams lays out.
At issue are comments that Wade made to a newspaper reporter back in November, expressing his belief that all of the current appellate judges are qualified to serve.
"I did not try to influence them," Ramsey said. "He did try to influence them and somehow you are asking me is that the right thing. Ask him."
But the Board of Judicial Conduct released a statement to NewsChannel 5 late Friday, acknowledging that it had opened internal investigation after receiving an anonymous complaint.
Still, the board's "Disciplinary Counsel determined that the Chief Justice's comments were not a public endorsement of a candidate for public office intended to influence voters in the eventual election. This would not be a a violation of the Rules of Judicial Conduct."
As result, the complaint against Wade was dismissed.
An anonymous complaint is lodged. An investigation is launched. It's found to have no merit, but it seems no one knows this. Ramsey then makes an accusation "against Tennessee's top judge — a claim that Chief Justice Gary Wade was disciplined by the board that polices the ethics of the state's judges." And, when Scoville looks into it, he finds everybody weirdly unwilling to tell him whether this is true.
Ramsey has to know that he looks like the obvious suspect for the anonymous complainer. After all, he somehow knew it had happened, even though no one was making finding out about the complaint and the investigation very easy. If he was involved, he fucked up in a way you don't often see Ramsey fucking up. You can't shoot at a target three times — twice with the lights on and once with the lights off — and feel confident that you hit the target in the dark without checking that target for the third bullet hole. So, you don't go to the media and claim there was disciplinary action unless you know there was disciplinary action. You can't just count on the complaint and the hearing leading to some kind of discipline. You have to be certain. Ramsey wasn't when he went shooting off his mouth. Why wasn't he, though?
4. This isn't just embarrassing for Ramsey, it also creates problems between him and conservative bloggers. It seems obvious that Ramsey didn't know how the disciplinary hearing had gone, but felt confident it had gone his way. Otherwise, he certainly wouldn't have tried repeatedly to seed the media with the suggestion of this story. But the next time Ramsey comes along with some juicy tidbit, why in the world would Scoville look into it? Or, even if he decided to look into it, look into it assuming that Ramsey is playing square with him? After this debacle, who could blame any conservative bloggers for being more cautious about Ramsey? Is that really such a good idea?
5. We all think the Judicial Branch just ran circles around Ron Ramsey, right? The blogger ostensibly on Ramsey's side gets the run-around. The investigative reporter just happens to easily find what he needs? Ramsey's able to learn that there was a complaint and there was an investigation but he can't find out what came of it? That's all mighty convenient.
I wouldn't put it past Ramsey to someday get his revenge of the Judicial Branch, but this is an embarrassing setback in the meantime.