This goes against the media narrative that voters hate progressive DAs and judges, so you won’t hear as much about their loss as you heard about the San Francisco DA losing his race, but it is great news nonetheless.
Voters in Shelby County swept away a slate of tough-on-crime officials on Thursday, ushering in a new era for criminal justice in Tennessee’s most populous county, home to Memphis.
Shelby County has been notorious for punitive practices that leave people languishing in jail for years without a conviction and fuel harsh youth prosecution, largely against Black residents. Local advocates have fought for years to change the system. The county was under federal monitoring by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the rights of Black children between 2012 and 2018. In 2018, a DOJ report found continued violations and discrimination in juvenile courts, and characterized the policies of the district attorney’s office as a “toxic combination for African-American youth.”
The local officials who oversaw that system, District Attorney Amy Weirich and Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, were both ousted on Thursday. The winners, Steve Mulroy in the DA race and Tarik Sugarmon in the juvenile judge race, ran on reform agendas and secured eight-year terms.
Mark Ward, a local criminal court judge, also appears to have lost his re-election bid. Ward sparked an outcry earlier this year for sentencing Pamela Moses, a Black activist who was erroneously told by a state agency that she was eligible to register to vote, to six years in prison. That case was prosecuted by Weirich’s office, and Moses decried the aggressive charges as a scare tactic.