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Friday, April 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man Says Judge Arrested Him ‘On a Hunch’

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."

Marchant says he was in Moore's courtroom supporting a friend, when Moore ordered officers to take him into custody. They grabbed Marchant, allegedly without any evidence of illegal behavior, and took him to a different place in the courthouse where he was made to submit to a drug screen urinalysis. He was released from custody when the results came back negative.

In response to Marchant's judicial ethics complaint, Moore allegedly said that plucking suspicious spectators from his courtroom and screening them for drugs was "the routine policy of the court."

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.

The court ordered Moore to "never violate a person's constitutional rights as he did to the Plaintiff," the complaint states/

Marchant also sued the officers who took him into custody, stating: "Only a plainly incompetent officer or a knowing participant would have taken place in such unlawful and unconstitutional procedures."

In Marchant's view, "the facts of the case are not subject to dispute or else the Defendant, Durwood Moore, would have disputed them when his career as a judge was in jeopardy."

He wants punitive damages for denial of his due process rights, outrageous conduct, violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act, assault and battery and false imprisonment.

The Dickson County seat is Charlotte, Tenn.

Marchant is represented by R. Todd Hansrote.

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