Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Second judge recuses self in Sneyd lawsuit against Washington County

Washington County was granted a motion on March 7 for the recusal of Chancellor Thomas R. Frierson II, the judge assigned by the Tennessee Supreme Court to hear the case filed by Clerk and Master Brenda Sneyd, who is suing the county for a 10 percent pay increase.
This is the second recusal in the case, with the first filed by Chancellor Richard Johnson, who appointed Sneyd to her position.
Sneyd is demanding a 10 percent pay supplement to her salary of $73,866 because she operates in more than one court and believes her salary should be equal to that of Karen Guinn, her counterpart in Circuit Court.
However, an additional $42,487 was earned last year by Sneyd through fees she is paid as a special commissioner, another position appointed by Johnson.
“From the beginning, we have said we need a judge who has not been involved in appointing clerks as special commissioners,” said Erick Herrin, who voiced this opinion on behalf of Washington County during a March 1 hearing.
In her role as special commissioner, Sneyd can be designated by the attorneys or families in probate cases to sell the real estate of a deceased person. With permission of the judge who appointed her, she receives 5 percent commission for every property she sells.
“I really think it’s important that we have a truly objective, disinterested judge on a case involving special commissioner fees,” Herrin said.
In his opinion, Frierson wrote, “…Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10…states in pertinent part, ‘a judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned…’ It is this section of the rule which is applicable to the issue presented.
“…Having carefully considered the instant motion…and applicable law, this Court concludes that recusal is appropriate.”
But what will keep the Tennessee Supreme Court from assigning another judge who appoints his or her clerks as special commissioners?
“Since Frierson is stating in his opinion that the criterion is a legitimate element, the Supreme Court should take note of this,” Herrin said.
Herrin hopes a new judge will be in place within the next six weeks and a hearing can take place on two preliminary motions shortly thereafter.
The first is a motion to compel Sneyd to respond to the request for admissions and sanctions. Herrin said Sneyd has not provided the amount of her time she spends generating private funds as a special commissioner during regular work hours, how much of other county employees’ time she spends, and how the county facilities are being used.
The second motion is a response to Sneyd’s request to have her legal counsel fees for suing the county paid by the Washington County Clerk and Master’s office.