Knox County judge: drug testing judges would waste money

Knox County judge: drug testing judges would waste money

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"I don't think it's going to get the result they're looking for, which I think is reassurance it would never happen again," said Knox County Circuit Court Judge Dale Workman. "I don't think it's going to get the result they're looking for, which I think is reassurance it would never happen again," said Knox County Circuit Court Judge Dale Workman.
State Sen. Randy McNally says he would like to see random testing, or have a judge take a drug test if prosecuting or defense attorneys believe he or she is impaired. State Sen. Randy McNally says he would like to see random testing, or have a judge take a drug test if prosecuting or defense attorneys believe he or she is impaired.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Could judges someday be subjected to drug tests to prove they're fit to hear cases?  

It's an idea brought up in the wake of a scandal that's rocked Knox County's criminal justice system.  

Ex-judge Richard Baumgartner's addiction to painkillers led to retrials in the Christian-Newsom murders.  

Parents of that young couple met last week with lawmakers and the DA's office and this drug screening idea is one of the changes they're backing.  

State Senator Randy McNally is sponsoring with House Representative Ryan Haynes to call for drug testing for all Tennessee judges, but it's an idea that may not be the solution, according to one judge.  

Knox County Circuit Court Judge Dale Workman says that ex-judge Richard Baumgartner was the first case of a judge's personal behavior affecting the outcome of a court case in Knox County history.

It's for that reason he believes drug testing judges may be a waste of taxpayer dollars.  

"I don't think it's going to get the result they're looking for, which I think is reassurance it would never happen again," said Knox County Circuit Court Judge Dale Workman.  

Workman says he's explored the idea of drug tests for judges, but believes even if they were required, Baumgartner still would have passed.  

"Pass or fail, if you list you're taking a prescription drug, you pass the test if it shows up. If all the judges say 'Yeah, I have the prescription,' what are you going to do?"

State Sen. Randy McNally is in the preliminary stages of drafting a bill that would require judges to undergo tests for all types of controlled substances. He says Baumgartner's long history of drug abuse may have been uncovered much earlier, if he was drug tested.    

"Had there been a system in place, it would have prevented them going through four trials and three re-trials," McNally said.  

McNally says he would like to see random testing, or have a judge take a drug test if prosecuting or defense attorneys believe he or she is impaired.  

McNally says no judges have been removed in the state's history because of drug abuse, and most attempts to do so would require a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the state legislature.       

"Just testing your judges won't do it, because if you have same thing happen and it was a prosecutor or a witness or juror then you could have some horrific results we had in this community as the result of actions by one person," Workman said.  

McNally says he wouldn't ask for drug testing of other elected officials, but only judges.

The bill will be finalized when the general session starts back in January.  Other states legislatures have looked into this idea.  

Georgia passed a law in 1997 requiring a drug test for candidates seeking state offices including judges; it was overturned by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

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