Judge Donna Scott Davenport announces retirement after lawmakers issue resolution to remove her

After lawmakers across the country announced they would like to unseat a Tennessee county judge, the Rutherford County juvenile court judge herself announced her retirement Tuesday. Known as the first female judge to serve in Rutherford County and the first independent juvenile court judge by private act, Judge Donna Scott Davenport announced she would no longer run for reelection and will retire upon the end of her term on Aug. 31, the Daily News Journal reported. “After prayerful thought and talking with my family, I have decided not to run for re-election after serving more than 22 years on the bench," she said in a press release. "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.” The decision to retire follows criticism Davenport faced after an extensive report by ProPublica and Nashville Public Radio, released in October, found that for years Davenport gave jailers the discretion to keep children they perceived as a threat locked up. Children were forced to wait in detention until their day in court. Sometimes this meant staying days behind bars before being formally charged with a crime. A majority of the children in question were Black. Additionally, it was found that jailers in the county locked up children nearly 10 times more than the state average. In many cases, the children who are now adults were also improperly put behind bars more than 1,500 collective times. According to ProPublica, State Sen. Heidi Campbell and state Rep. Gloria Johnson have said they are proposing legislation that could result in Davenport’s ouster. A bill starting the process was filed in the state Senate on Dec. 14. “While judges are given judicial discretion to interpret laws, they are not allowed to make up their own laws,” Campbell said. The public learned of her horrendous policies after a 2016 fight in the neighborhood near Hobgood Elementary led to the arrests of 10 children, the Daily News Journal reported. While Davenport dismissed charges involving the Hobgood arrests, she was criticized for her role in creating a culture of made-up charges and illegal arrests. “Yes, she is resigning,” said Jimmie Garland, vice president of the Tennessee conference of the NAACP. “But my question: Is she the only one that needs to resign, or the only one legislators need to run out of office? Because I’m quite sure there’s more than one person … caught up in that.” “I think they need to continue their research, continue their investigation, just to make sure everybody in that loop is actually out of a job.” Multiple lawsuits were filed against Davenport starting in 2017. According to one lawsuit, "Tennessee law strictly prohibits the pretrial incarceration of children" unless the youth is "being charged with a violent felony, a weapons offense, or a probation violation.” Davenport has run uncontested for years. Since the position was created in 2000, she has filled it. This year would have been the first year she ran against an opponent.

Judge Donna Scott Davenport announces retirement after lawmakers issue resolution to remove her

After lawmakers across the country announced they would like to unseat a Tennessee county judge, the Rutherford County juvenile court judge herself announced her retirement Tuesday. Known as the first female judge to serve in Rutherford County and the first independent juvenile court judge by private act, Judge Donna Scott Davenport announced she would no longer run for reelection and will retire upon the end of her term on Aug. 31, the Daily News Journal reported.

“After prayerful thought and talking with my family, I have decided not to run for re-election after serving more than 22 years on the bench," she said in a press release.

"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.”

The decision to retire follows criticism Davenport faced after an extensive report by ProPublica and Nashville Public Radio, released in October, found that for years Davenport gave jailers the discretion to keep children they perceived as a threat locked up. Children were forced to wait in detention until their day in court. Sometimes this meant staying days behind bars before being formally charged with a crime. A majority of the children in question were Black.

Additionally, it was found that jailers in the county locked up children nearly 10 times more than the state average. In many cases, the children who are now adults were also improperly put behind bars more than 1,500 collective times. According to ProPublica, State Sen. Heidi Campbell and state Rep. Gloria Johnson have said they are proposing legislation that could result in Davenport’s ouster. A bill starting the process was filed in the state Senate on Dec. 14.

“While judges are given judicial discretion to interpret laws, they are not allowed to make up their own laws,” Campbell said.

The public learned of her horrendous policies after a 2016 fight in the neighborhood near Hobgood Elementary led to the arrests of 10 children, the Daily News Journal reported. While Davenport dismissed charges involving the Hobgood arrests, she was criticized for her role in creating a culture of made-up charges and illegal arrests.

“Yes, she is resigning,” said Jimmie Garland, vice president of the Tennessee conference of the NAACP. “But my question: Is she the only one that needs to resign, or the only one legislators need to run out of office? Because I’m quite sure there’s more than one person … caught up in that.”

“I think they need to continue their research, continue their investigation, just to make sure everybody in that loop is actually out of a job.”

Multiple lawsuits were filed against Davenport starting in 2017.

According to one lawsuit, "Tennessee law strictly prohibits the pretrial incarceration of children" unless the youth is "being charged with a violent felony, a weapons offense, or a probation violation.”

Davenport has run uncontested for years. Since the position was created in 2000, she has filled it. This year would have been the first year she ran against an opponent.