Judge Who Jailed Black Kids With Bogus Laws Announces Retirement Plans Amid Push By Tennessee Lawmakers To Remove Her

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Amid a push by lawmakers to remove her, Rutherford County Judge Donna Scott Davenport has announced she won’t seek reelection.

Davenport, whose term will conclude in August, made the announcement a day after Democratic lawmakers in the Tennessee General Assembly said they were seeking legislation to remove her from office, due to criticism she’s faced for creating fake laws that led to lawsuits and the incarceration of Black children.

Tennessee Sen. Heidi Campbell (D), and Rep. Gloria Johnson (D), announced a joint resolution intended to remove Davenport Monday. Late last year, Rutherford County settled a $6 million federal civil court case related to the illegal arrests and jailing of children in 2016 at Hobgood Elementary after an off-campus school fight.

Additionally, a student that was incarcerated for three days in 2016, filed a $15 million lawsuit against Davenport, which states the student was not present for the fight.

According to WREG and ProPublica, Judge Davenport, a Rutherford County juvenile judge, instituted a policy in 2016 that all children charged with crimes be processed at the local detention center. The policy gained attention when, later that year, 11 Black schoolchildren were detained after witnessing a fight between a 5 and a 6-year-old.

The children were detained for “criminal responsibility for conduct of another,” a bogus, made-up law. Under Davenport’s filter system, police would bring children they arrested straight to jail, where staff decided whether or not to detain them until their detention hearing, which could take days. That means children who did something as minor as skipping school could spend a week in jail.

Davenport’s filter system also allowed the detention center to jail children it considered unruly, defined as “a TRUE threat.” However, there is no definition of what a TRUE threat means.

Davenport announced her retirement in a statement, calling her years on the bench one of the greatest honors of her life.

“After prayerful thought and talking with my family, I have decided not to run for re-election after serving more than twenty-two years on the bench,” Davenport said according to the Daily News Journal. “I will always look back at my time as Judge as one of the greatest honors of my life ,and I am so proud of what this Court has accomplished in the last two decades and how it has positively affected the lives of young people and families in Rutherford County. I wish my successor the best and hope that this job provides them the same fulfillment it has provided me over the years.”

Davenport has served as a count juvenile judge since 2000 when the county established the seat. She ran uncontested twice after, first as a Democrat in 2006, then as a Republican in 2014.