Blount County’s mayor was angry and emotional as he stood before a room of more than 160 citizens Tuesday night at the Blount County Public Library. He stood, he said, as a concerned citizen, saying he was not there as mayor but to support a friend.
The gathering was a rally to support Blount County Circuit Court Judge W. Dale Young, who has been the subject of recent news reports alleging judicial misconduct in two cases. One involved a woman who accused Judge Young of denying an order of protection from her estranged husband because she was an immigrant. The other alleged the mishandling of a divorce case involving a Knoxville attorney.
Judge Young was not at the rally, and Mayor Cunningham said that the canons of his position prevented him from attending as the cases in question are still active cases.
Cunningham said he was “troubled” by what has been happening, saying the reporting was “unfair.” Before he addressed some of the specifics in each case, Cunningham spoke of Judge Young’s character.
“Judge Dale Young is my friend,” he said. “I knew Dale Young to be the epitome of integrity in everything he ever did. How many people in here have been the recipient of a kindness from Dale Young? Hold your hands up. I don’t see a hand in here that’s not held up.
“To see him ambushed, shanghaied, side-winded, and everything that’s been done to him angers me just like it does Gen. Tiebout.”
Gen. Robert Tiebout also spoke at the event, saying, “I have nothing to gain, and you have nothing to gain, but when I see principled people who are being attacked … it upsets me.”
After the meeting, Tiebout said he had known Judge Young for over 14 years and had had dealings with him in judicial matters and found him to be a true leader. “Because he is a true leader and demonstrates all the leadership principles we as a country are looking for, he deserves support when he is being attacked.”
Brian Frazier, a deputy in the Blount County Sheriff’s office, said he was at the rally to support Judge Young. “I deal with Judge Young in court, and I find him to be someone I respect and look up to,” Frazier said.
Assistant County Mayor Dave Bennett introduced the speakers, pointing out that the room was filled with Republicans, Democrats, men and women. He said he was at the rally as a private citizen who was “tired of a friend of mine being criticized for doing his job.
“This is not about race,” Bennett said. “This is not about ethnicity. This is not about religion. The message we want Judge Young to know is that he is doing a tremendous job.”
The mayor outlined several points in the cases that he says have been reported unfairly, with bias and without checking the facts.
“I’m not a reporter,” he said, “but I went to the courthouse, and I found out things in just a snap that anybody could have found out if they had bothered to look.”
Cunningham went on to discuss the points he said had been overlooked or not reported in both cases and read the group the Journalists’ Code of Ethics.
“Things have got to change,” he said. “We’ve got to have reporting that is fair and balanced.”
With obvious emotion, the mayor said, “If you’ve ever practiced law and done an adoption in front of (Judge Young) and seen him shell out of his own pocket and have a party for an adoptive child, it angers me to see him hurt, and it hurts me to see him hurt.
“Judge Young doesn’t need the headlines. His life speaks for itself.”
Cunningham added that Judge Young has had 23 years of “unblemished service” to Blount County and now is being attacked not just by traditional media, but by bloggers.
“Judge Young’s not only been attacked by the unfair reporting,” Cunningham said, “he’s been attacked by these bloggers. And the bloggers that do the attacking, if you ever have time to look at that trash, are always anonymous. They will anonymously attack you on somebody’s website, and it will say anonymous or some false name.”
The rally attracted an A-list of Blount County citizens and elected officials, including Sheriff James Berrong, State Rep. Doug Overbey, Bill Dunlap, Keith and Peggy McCord, Peggy Lambert, Maryville City Manager Greg McClain, several from the Blount County Republican Women’s Club, Roy Crawford and several county commissioners.