Judge Frequently Absent, Cites 'Legitimate Illness'
by Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Nashville judge admits that she's been a no-show for much of this year.
But Judge Gloria Dumas insisted, through her lawyer, that she's got a good excuse and that she's looking out for taxpayers.
Dumas has faced questions about her attendance before -- specifically, her tardiness -- after questions first raised by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
This time, her attorney said, it's a medical problem.
Judge Dumas was first elected to the Davidson County General Sessions Court 15 years ago.
Five years ago, our NewsChannel 5 investigation caught her repeatedly showing up late for work -- sometimes as much as an hour and a half late.
"I'm not going to tell you I don't have issues with being late," she said back in 2008. "I'm not going to tell you I haven't all my life had issues with being late. It is something that I have problems with, always have had problems with."
The Tennessee Court of the Judiciary filed formal ethics charges, accusing her of being persistently late.
Dumas later struck a deal that allowed retired Judge John Brown to monitor her attendance for 90 days, finally resulting in an agreement allowing that ethics charge to be dismissed.
Review all the filings before the Court of the Judiciary
But for the past several months, courthouse observers have told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that Judge Dumas has often been absent -- a situation that we confirmed by watching her courtroom.
On many occasions when Judge Dumas was a no-show, Judge Brown was there as her substitute.
Official stats show that, out of approximately 169 days this year when Judge Dumas was supposed to be on the bench, Brown or other special judges filled in for her on 105 occasions.
For example, it appears she missed nearly all of April, much of May and almost all of August.
Still, Judge Dumas' attorney, Bob Delaney, told NewsChannel 5 in a letter that her frequent absences have been due to a "legitimate illness and treatment for her illness."
He did not say what kind of illness.
In fact, Brown has substituted for Judge Dumas so often that, in April, taxpayers began paying him about $3,000 every two weeks when he worked.
At the same time, payroll records show Dumas had Metro deduct approximately $3,000 from her regular paycheck.
"We do not believe Judge Dumas' absence from the bench due to legitimate illness is a newsworthy matter especially since she has arranged for her own compensation to be paid to Judge Brown," Delaney wrote.
The judge's lawyer said she would answer questions about her absences only if we used lawyers to submit our questions to her lawyer.
We respectfully declined.
Instead, we attempted to email our questions directly to the judge, but we have not received any response to those specific questions.
Still, NewsChannel 5 did receive another letter from the attorney late Wednesday.
In it, he again stressed that this is a "legitimate illness."
He added that, while Judge Dumas is up for re-election next year, she will run only if her health improves enough so that she can campaign and serve for eight more years.
NewsChannel 5 also attempted to call the judge directly.
Someone in her office indicated that she was on the bench that day, but her attorney said in his letter that she did not return that phone call because she had lost her voice -- which, he said, is related to her "continuing health problems."