The Tennessee Court of Appeals has reversed Davidson County Circuit Judge Barbara Haynes for appearing biased in a medical malpractice case involving Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Haynes is a voting member and former chairwoman of the hospital’s board of directors.
Smyrna mother Annette Olerud is elated with the decision. She sued a pediatric surgeon at the hospital and Vanderbilt University, of which the hospital is a part, after her 12-year-old daughter, Rachel, died of cancer in 2007.
Haynes dismissed the suit last year. Olerud later was shocked to discover Haynes’ affiliation with the hospital. The family filed a request for Haynes to reverse her dismissal and step down from the case. Haynes refused.
Olerud said that after turning to the judiciary for help after her daughter’s death, she instead ended up in a fight with the courts, as well.
“I can tell you that my confidence in the judicial system is being restored,” Olerud said of the Court of Appeals decision. “Today is a glorious day because someone has listened. It’s been four long years.”
In its opinion, the state Court of Appeals did not find that Haynes was biased or partial but said the appearance of a conflict was reason enough for the judge to step down.
“Applying an objective standard, we believe that the court’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned under the circumstances presented,” the opinion states.
The Court of Appeals ordered that Haynes be removed from the Olerud case, that all of her orders in it be reversed and that the Davidson County Circuit Court appoint a new judge to hear the case.
Reached at home Tuesday evening, Haynes said she had not read the opinion and wanted to do so before commenting.
In November, Haynes told The Tennessean that she didn’t believe her involvement with the hospital was a conflict of interest because the board is not the hospital’s governing body. That role falls to the Vanderbilt Board of Trust.
“Her relationship is a voluntary position on an advisory board for the hospital that does not oversee governance issues,” Vanderbilt spokesman John Howser wrote in an e-mail.
Olerud said a disciplinary case against Haynes is ongoing. She filed a complaint with the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, which investigates allegations of misconduct by judges. The complaint has not been dismissed.
The Court of the Judiciary does not comment on its cases unless it decides to hand down some form of public discipline against a judge.
Source: Brandon Gee of The Tennessean
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