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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Judge reprimanded by state

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One of the county's Circuit Court judges has been reprimanded by the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary for delaying an opinion on a case for nearly 11 years.

Judge F. Lee Russell received an public reprimand from the Court of the Judiciary on Monday for his handling of a complaint for damages that had been filed by David Reha against Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. in Marshall County Chancery Court.

Russell had tried the case in a bench trial on Nov. 12, 1999, and the matter was taken under advisement.

According to a letter from Presiding Judge Don. R. Ash, a motion to ascertain the status of the case was filed by Reha's counsel on March 12, 2003.

Ash also wrote that an additional motion to ascertain the case's status was filed by Reha's lawyer on July 23, 2009, "and as a result of that motion, you indicated to all counsel in a letter dated August 13, 2009 that you would enter a Memorandum opinion and order in the case on Sept. 4, 2009."

According to the reprimand, Russell received a notice of a complaint of Mr. Reha from the Disciplinary Counsel to the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.

Russell promptly responded, "admitted the facts of the complaint, accepted responsibility, and entered a proper memorandum opinion and order on October 12, 2010, 10 years and 11 months after the bench trial," Ash wrote.

Ash indicated that the excessive delay in the case was a violation of Canon 313(8) which requires a judge "to dispose of all matters promptly, efficiently, and fairly."

"Accordingly this letter constitutes a public reprimand for your actions. In the future, you are to follow the Code of Judicial Conduct and to decide promptly the cases submitted to you," Ash wrote to Russell.

Russell told the T-G Wednesday he was not allowed to comment on any case that has been before him.

According to court records, Reha, who is a builder, had an insurance policy with Tennessee Farmers Mutual, and while constructing a house in October 1996 for Rick and Jo Mary Sisk, structural damage occurred to the rear concrete block wall of the basement.

The damage was repaired at an estimated cost of $11,703.35, but the insurance company only offered to pay $3,900. Reha replied that was insufficient to pay for the loss.

Reha's original suit requested a "bad faith penalty of 25 percent," however, the insurance company replied that the policy does not provide coverage for defective work of the insured or his subcontractors, and furthermore, David Reha LLC was not a named insurer under the policy.

In April 1998, Reha agreed to settle for $13,000 and Russell's order dated Oct. 12 of this year was for an award of $10,300 to be paid by the insurance company to Reha.

According to the web site for Tennessee's Court of the Judiciary, only 13 public disciplinary actions have been taken against 12 judges in Tennessee.

Two of the actions were against General Sessions Judge Charles Rich -- one taken in October 2008 for signing orders in a juvenile court matter after he recused himself from the case, and another in August 2009 over an eight-month delay in a child custody case.

--Marshall County Tribune senior staff writer Clint Confehr contributed to this report.