Former. judge found guilty of violating judicial conduct rules

Former Cocke Co. judge found guilty of violating judicial conduct rules

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Lu Ann Ballew Lu Ann Ballew
The panel of four judges, one lawyer and one citizen unanimously found Lu Ann Ballew guilty of violating five canons, or rule, of judicial conduct. The panel of four judges, one lawyer and one citizen unanimously found Lu Ann Ballew guilty of violating five canons, or rule, of judicial conduct.

By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter

JEFFERSON CITY (WATE) - Former Cocke County judge Lu Ann Ballew has been found guilty for violating five rules of judicial conduct.

Ballew got national attention last year for ordering a Cocke County baby's name to be changed from Messiah. She was eventually fired from her position and a disciplinary hearing was ordered.

In a television interview Ballew gave the day after deciding the baby's name should be changed, she said Messiah is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ.

It was that statement that the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct, meeting in Jefferson County, had a problem with.

"When a judicial officer indicates a personal affinity for persons of a particular faith or a particular faith position, and they affix the imprimatur of the state upon that belief, that freedom in which we are guaranteed turns into oppression," said Disciplinary Counsel Timothy Discenza.

Ballew's attorney argued that the judge was merely looking out for the child's best interest.

"She made a difficult decision and both respects the constitutional rights of parents to name their children, but also does not disregard the states legitimate interest in protecting the most vulnerable of its citizens its children," said attorney Brent Laman.

He called her mention of religion a "catch-22."

"The word 'Messiah.' The title 'Messiah'. The name 'Messiah' cannot be doubted, is heavy with religious connotation. So if Magistrate Ballew is going to apply the best interest of this child, how is she going to explain her decision without mentioning religion?" Laman said.

Ultimately the panel of four judges, one lawyer and one citizen disagreed and unanimously found Ballew guilty of violating five canons, or rule, of judicial conduct.

Ballew declined to comment about the ruling.

The panel imposed a public censure against Ballew and she will now have to go before the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct.

That board will decide what her course of corrective action will be.

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