Wed04162014

Greater Metro

The Judge-Joe-Brown effect now showing for local Democrats

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Last year and in the same week that he walked away from a reported $20 million offer from CBS to continue the wildly successful "Judge Joe Brown" television show, Brown made a very visible public splash.

With the directness that long has accented his character, Brown announced that he would host a fundraiser backing the campaign bids of retiring Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks for Juvenile Court Clerk and District Judge Tarik Sugarmon for Juvenile Court Judge.

Flash forward a year and it's official. Brooks and Sugarmon now are duly-filed candidates. So is Brown, who filed Tuesday for the Democratic Party nomination for Shelby County District Attorney General. And Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Bryan Carson says Brown's celebrity status could be a major tipping point for the party this election cycle.

"The District Attorney's office is this election's leading ticket and Judge Brown's ability to draw attention to our candidate slate is demonstrated here," said Carson, looking around Tuesday afternoon at the crowd that wedged into the Shelby County Election Commission for the official filing of Brown and Brooks.

"If the people listen and get involved, I think we could be seeing a day of change for Shelby County. His star power will get people to the polls, but his record speaks for itself. Several decades on the bench cannot be denied."

Both Brown and Brooks are expected to cruise through the May Democratic Primary. No opposition is expected for Brown, who seems to be on a collision course with incumbent D. A. Amy Weirich, a first-term Republican. A former city employee has publicly announced plans to oppose Brooks in the primary, but his campaign has so far been silent.

Sugarmon was not at Tuesday's high-profile filing event. Brooks and Brown carried the moment.

After arriving onsite at 3:15, it took Brown more than 30 minutes to wade through the cavalcade of party officials, candidates for other offices, supporters, fans and media to execute his filing. Cars honked, people waved and others snapped photos with their phones as he crossed the street from the parking lot to the Election Commission.

"I'm running with the hopes of bringing a change to what I call country club justice. We have too much of a justice industry here, where you have an entire economic sector built up to capitalize on the pains of the labor market. You don't have jobs for the labor market and the pressures of life force too many into compromising situations where they make bad choices," said Brown.

"Now you know me, I can never be accused as being soft on crime. But I would like to see a comprehensive outlook and administrative expertise of the entire system. Where is the money spent and who it is spent with, and how it is utilized. We have people paying for grown children and the mothers never receive any of the money. And the District Attorney's office should be looking into these matters," said Brown.

"When the people of this county begin to realize how their resources are being misused, then they will know it is time for a change."

Some have publicly suggested that Brown is on an ego trip.

"That's utter madness," Brown said when asked about such assertions. "If you want to know the real truth, I never planned any of this, but so many people called me, and I'm not talking about (Democratic) Party people, just regular everyday people calling me talking about the problems we have with justice in this area and the hurt and pain it causes.

"My only real intent was to help bring some attention to the fight Henri Brooks and Judge (Sugarmon) will be facing in trying to make some real change in that mess we call the Juvenile Court, but the problem is just so big and so egregious..."

He paused.

"The point is this. If you ever saw the 'Judge Joe Brown Show,' and if you have ever been in the courtroom where I presided over cases, I am always telling young people that you have to be concerned about and do what is right for your community, and that is why I am running.
"I can't tell them to do one thing and then when I am called on, not do the same. This is not a campaign, this is a crusade."

Ushered into the Election Commission by a support group, 100 Women For Brooks, and her campaign chairperson Ruby Wharton, wife of Mayor A C Wharton Jr., Brooks noted the energy she said the campaign is building. A day after the filing, she talked about the impact of attorney Wharton, calling her a true advocate that she has known since the '70s.

"She has charged the supporters to roll up their sleeves and let's start working for real, not just for the dress-up events but at home diligently planning to get together and do what needs to be done to make this a successful campaign," said Brooks.

"And she has been a true motivator, telling them how I've been on the front lines by myself and how it led to the Justice Department investigating Juvenile Court and that the court is still in denial and still has real problems that need addressing. I've been about to burst (with enthusiasm) hearing her speak about how our children need us and it is for them that this campaign must be successful."

With local Democrats having been spanked at the polls in recent elections, Carson made it clear that moves would be made to ensure party unity and proper planning.

"We're going to have a meeting with all the candidates this Thursday (Feb. 20th), which is the filing deadline," he said.

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