MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Did Shelby County's Juvenile Court ignore complaints about racism? Last week the U.S. Department of Justice unveiled findings of widespread problems in the court system including racism, abuse of prisoners and violations of basic criminal law.
Now, a local reverend is coming forward saying the court knew about some of those issues before the Department of Justice uncovered them.
Reverend Dwight Montgomery heads up a local chapter of the national civil rights group, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Montgomery says he was made aware of these issues months, and in some cases, years before the Department of Justice issued its 66-page report.
Montgomery says he and others brought complaints from parents to Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person, but says the judge dismissed the claims as baseless.
This occurred after Judge Person selected Montgomery to be on the Juvenile Court's Advisory Board, which hasn't met in at least two years.
During that time Montgomery says he urged the judge to resume the meetings and address these issues.
"There's no question about it that if we would have been meeting, surely the issue would have been brought forth and we would not be facing in this community that scathing report from the Justice Department," he said. "Put like this: we would have been able to say we're now moving in the right direction and that's just unfortunate."
No one from the court has responded to Montgomery's statements, but last week when the Department of Justice unveiled its findings, Judge Person said regardless of who they are, everyone who comes to Juvenile Court will be treated fairly and with dignity and respect. "I deplore and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind at the Juvenile Court," he said.
Dwight Montgomery plans to meet with Judge Person and others from the Juvenile Court.