Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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December 13, 2013

Inmate dispute

Attorneys collaborate on a letter to county officials

Athens — A number of local attorneys have collaborated on a letter to County Judge Richard Sanders and the Henderson County Commissioners concerning a decision to retain counsel in a dispute between a district court judge and the Sheriff’s Office.

Commissioners Court voted in November to retain the firm of Flowers and Davis to represent the sheriff’s office in regards to an order issued by the 392nd judge Carter Tarrance. Following the meeting, County Attorney Clint Davis issued a statement that said:

“We believe that Judge Tarrance has issued orders pertaining to additional accommodations for a particular inmate in the Henderson County Jail, and that those orders are outside the scope of the proceedings before his court, and outside his authority as a district judge. Jail accommodations are overseen by the sheriff of the county, and should remain under the exclusive control of the sheriff. We have retained legal counsel to look into, and take any actions necessary to preserve the autonomy and interests of the sheriff’s office, as well as the county’s interests.” 

The response letter, signed by 20 attorneys stated the “accommodations” referred to by the Commissioner’s statement pertained to a diabetic inmate who was experiencing severe fluctuations in his blood sugar levels, and Tarrance’s order was to ensure that the inmate receive proper care. 

The letter states that the United States Supreme Court determined in 1976 that “deliberate and wanton infliction of pain” constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

According to the letter, the Supreme Court allows individuals who can prove such medical indifference have a cause of action against the county that fails to provide adequate medical care. If those allegations of neglect are proven true, the taxpayers of the county would bear the burden of a funding judgment against the county.

In the letter, the attorneys encourage the Commissioners Court to discuss the matter with the judges of the county and the sheriff’s office to see that basic health care is being provided to the inmates.

“We do not see how hiring a law firm to attempt to thwart a judge who is trying to ensure that an inmate is receiving basic, life-saving, medical care is in the best interest of anyone. We hope all parties can work together to resolve this matter in an amicable fashion.”

Davis said Thursday, that because his office is called upon to present cases in Tarrance’s 392nd District Court, as well as advise the county in legal matters, he would step back from the dispute. Davis said Sheriff Ray Nutt has seen the letter, and forwarded it to Tyler Attorney Robert Davis for representation.

Robert Davis was unavailable for comment on Thursday afternoon.

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