MTSU Removes Rutherford Juvenile Court Judge from Adjunct Staff Amidst County Lawsuit

Judge Donna Scott


Juvenile Judge Donna Scott Davenport will no longer hold her position as adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) following a recent lawsuit. The suit claims that Davenport sent nearly 1,500 students to jail, regardless of the crime.

Individuals born after October 1997 who were jailed at the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center may file a claim to collect a portion of an $11 million settlement connected to the class action lawsuit.

A recent ProRepublica story about Davenport and her court gained major nationwide attention. Journalist Ken Armstrong reported that 48 percent of minors that went through Davenport’s courts ended serving time in prison, where as the Tennessee state average is about 5 percent.

There have been some other problems reported in Davenport’s courts though. Judge Davenport has been known to rule her court strictly, dubbing herself the ‘mother of the county,’ enforcing a lengthy dress code, and keeping a bag of belts handy for those with loose jeans. She also encourages parents to drug test their children, and has said on the WGSN radio station, “Don’t buy them at Dollar Tree. The best ones are at your local drug store.” Davenport has also reportedly said, “I’m here on a mission. It’s not a job. It’s God’s mission.”

During Davenport’s time as Judge, Lynn Duke was appointed to run the new detention center that opened in 2008. Duke, who had formerly been a youth service officer, created what she calls a ‘filter system.’ The filter system she created was written into their jail’s handbook. The system is explained as:

When police arrest a child, they bring the child to jail. There, under the system, staff decide whether to hold the child before a detention hearing, which could take place days later. Say a child is hauled in for something minor, like skipping school. Under the filter system, the child would be locked up if deemed “unruly.” But the filter system defines “unruly” simply as “a TRUE threat,” while “TRUE threat” is not defined at all.

So any child, no matter the charge, who is considered a “TRUE threat,” however that’s interpreted, can end up being locked up.

While Davenport has been removed from the MTSU staff, she still holds her position as Juvenile Court Judge. Davenport said in response to News4, “Thank you for reaching out to me and your willingness to allow me to tell my side of the story. At this time, due to pending litigation, I cannot make further comments.”

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Morgan Nicole Veysey is a reporter for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow her on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Judge Donna Scott” by Rutherford County.


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