‘Clear appearance of bias’: Judge booted from defense lawyer’s cases after actions ‘indicative of personal animosity’

Left: Shelby County (Tenn.) General Sessions Court Judge Shelia Renfroe (Tennessee Courts). Right: The General Sessions Criminal Court Criminal Division (Shelby County, Tenn.).

Left: Shelby County (Tenn.) General Sessions Court Judge Shelia Renfroe (Tennessee Courts). Right: The General Sessions Criminal Court Criminal Division (Shelby County, Tenn.).

A Tennessee mental health court judge has been pulled off cases involving a public defender due to an apparent personal conflict that the judge couldn’t seem to set aside.

Shelby County Judge Chris Craft yanked General Sessions Judge Shelia Renfroe off 28 cases involving public defender Melody Carlisle, who had filed a complaint in May alleging that Renfroe unnecessarily delayed rulings, potentially causing harm to Carlisle’s clients before Renfroe in mental health court.

Renfroe “has created a clear appearance of bias to the attorney, these defendants and their families, along with the rest of the public sitting in her courtroom, and has refused to promptly rule on the motion to recuse as she is obligated to do by law, and has needlessly delayed the handling of these mental health and other cases without any legal reason,” Craft wrote in his decision, according to Memphis Fox affiliate WHBQ.

Renfroe and Carlisle reportedly had multiple tense interactions over the past year, including a threat from the judge to arrest the lawyer, the Tennessee Bar Associated reported. Carlisle has also reportedly alleged that Renfroe is a danger to the community.

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