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Judge Reprimanded for Illegally Drug Testing Random Guy

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Imagine you're in court quietly observing someone else's trial, when suddenly, the judge starts pointing at you:

NASHVILLE (CN) - A judge in Dickson County, Tenn., had officers pull a spectator out of his courtroom "on a hunch," held him in custody and made him submit to a urinalysis for drugs, the man claims in Federal Court. Benjamin Marchant claims that General Sessions Judge Durwood Moore admitted that he "routinely drug-screens 'spectators' in his courtroom if he 'thinks' they may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol." Moore allegedly called it the "routine policy of the court."

The whole thing is so flagrantly unconstitutional and illegal that Moore's fellow judges were forced to throw him under the bus:

Moore acknowledged he had violated Marchant's rights and was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court's Judiciary Court on May 1, 2009, the highest form of punishment short of seeking a judge's removal from the bench, according to the complaint.

Marchant tested negative for drugs, which was probably helpful in illustrating the absurdity of pulling random people aside with no justification and making them pee in a cup. I shudder to think that the outcome may have been different if he'd come up positive. Would Judge Moore have been hailed as a skilled professional who can pick potheads out of a crowd, instead of an out-of-control jerk who doesn't understand the most basic laws he's sworn to uphold?

It's seriously creepy to think that this guy's job is to interpret the law. Pete Guither asks:

How does this guy get to be a judge? You have to be better informed to get a cosmetology license.

Which is why I can't get excited about any form of punishment that falls short of permanently stopping this guy from deciding the legal fate of anyone ever again. Sure, no one was killed, falsely imprisoned, or otherwise substantially harmed by the incident, but it just reveals such a fundamental contempt for the Constitution that I refuse to believe it was a misunderstanding.

The problem is not that this judge was ignorant of the law, but rather that he deemed himself to be above it.
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Status of Durwood Moore

I would be more upset if the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Judiciary Court did not censure Durwood Moore. It shows that the Judiciary Court does take the US Constitution seriously.

Personally, I wish they would have removed him from the bench for what seems to be contempt for the US Constitution. I would also be curious if Durwood Moore made any statement regarding the Judiciary Court’s censure.

borden's picture

it's called kidnapping

I personally am upset that the judge is still a judge. What he did is basically tantamount to kidnapping and false imprisonment, if only for a short period of time. Courtrooms are open to public, and a member of the public who enters a courtroom should not have to worry about being dragged out, detained, and subjected to degrading treatment like having to take a drug test. I'm not convinced that what the judge did is not actually a crime, not mere misconduct. At a minimum he has shown himself to be completely unfit to sit in judgment in our courts. I wonder if there is any way to have the matter revisited. Sadly probably not.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC


I thought that I had read in one article that it was involving a lawsuit, by the victim. So, it may be revisited!

Tennessee Code Annotated, false imprisonment & kidnapping

39-13-302. False imprisonment. —

(a) A person commits the offense of false imprisonment who knowingly removes or confines another unlawfully so as to interfere substantially with the other's liberty.

(b) False imprisonment is a Class A misdemeanor.

39-13-303. Kidnapping. —

(a) Kidnapping is false imprisonment as defined in § 39-13-302, under circumstances exposing the other person to substantial risk of bodily injury.

(b) Kidnapping is a Class C felony.

Under Tennessee law it doesn't seem to be kidnapping but it does seem to be false imprisonment which is a lesser crime. I've not read case law and don't know much about Tennessee but from what I've seen the judge doesn't have immunity just because he's a judge/public official. Be interesting if some of the people who've been subjected to this filed criminal complaints against the judge.And civil suits, of course.

I don't know if conviction(s) would require his removal from the bench.

I suspect the conduct may violate other state and federal laws as well, though I repeat I don't know Tennessee law and emphasise I'm not a lawyer. Just commenting on a political matter of public interest and concern.

Of course, the judge was acting to enforce the religious orthodoxy that's evolved from the Controlled Substances Act so I geuss he's pretty safe. Gotta detect heretics by any means possible.

Judge Moore

So if Judge Moore is picking out people from the spectators as possible drug users, is he paying attention to the cases presented before him at all? Surely he must be observing these people very closely to assume they are using drugs, therefore not concentrating on what he's being paid to do.


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