Judicial candidates on ballot despite repeated disciplinary histories

Connie Reguli knows when she’s out on the campaign trail to try and be Williamson County’s new juvenile judge, there’s a question she could face.
Published: May. 2, 2022 at 1:00 PM CDT|Updated: May. 2, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Connie Reguli knows when she’s out on the campaign trial to try and be Williamson County’s new juvenile judge, there’s a question she could face.

“If someone says, wait, aren’t you that lady that just got convicted of a crime?” asked News4 Investigates.

“Uh huh,” Reguli said with a smile.

“How do you respond?” asked News4 Investigates.

“That’s a good question,” Reguli said.

But it isn’t just that the long-time attorney was just convicted of felony.

The lawyer who represented her at her trial, Paul Walwyn, has been censured repeatedly by the Board of Professional Responsibility, including a six-month suspension of his license for failing to timely represent his clients.

Like Reguli, Walwyn is also running for judge, but in Davidson County for General Sessions Court.

Walwyn regained his license long before he represented Reguli at trial.

“I know there will be people who will say, are you kidding me? How can I vote for someone who has been repeatedly censured? And someone who has been convicted of a felony?” asked News4 Investigates.

“It’s amazing. They should because if they can do this to me, they can do it to anybody,” Reguli said.

Reguli is referring to her felony conviction, including facilitation of a felony-custodial interference after prosecutors said she knowingly shielded her client and her client’s 12-year-old daughter from the Department of Children Services.

A frequent critic of DCS who refers to the agency as a “dumpster fire,” she claims DCS improperly went out of county to obtain a judge’s order to get custody of the girl.

At the trial, prosecutors said Reguli knew DCS had custody and hid the girl anyway.

“Ultimately as a judge, you have to follow the letter of the law. But in this case, they say you willingingly ignored it,” asked News4 Investigates.

“The letter of the law would have been for proper jurisdiction,” Reguli said.

In her appeal to regain her license, Reguli argues that important context was omitted from both the indictment and to instructions given to the jury.

“You can’t be convicted of a serious crime unless it’s a crime in the first place,” Reguli said.

As for her attorney, Walwyn denied our repeated request for an interview, citing, in part, that his disciplinary issues happened years ago.

“I don’t doubt that you are interested in doing a fair story, but I am respectfully declining to do an interview now due to the fact that 1) the disciplinary action took place several years ago; 2) I abided by the Board’s decision and took their recommendations; 3) I have addressed the issues in past interviews. My sold focus is on the election and my desire to serve in our justice system, which disproportionately affects people of color in our community,” Walwyn said in a statement emailed to News4 Investigates.

The attorneys’ past and present problems that keep neither of them of the ballot.

Reguli intends to file for a new trial and is currently appealing her law license suspension, claiming that the state law reads a candidate for judge must have a law license.

The law does not clarify, however, what happens when a judicial candidate had their license suspended during an election.

Reguli interprets that law to read that she can still run for judge if she has a law license, whether or not it is currently suspended.

“Obviously your law license has been suspended, you can’t practice law. After this interview, are you going to campaign some more?” News4 Investigates asked.

“Absolutely. Yes, absolutely,” Reguli said.

But Barbara Peck, communications director for the Tennessee Administrative Office of the courts, wrote in an email to News4 Investigates that a judge with a felony conviction could be removed from office.

“Judges must have an active law license and be in good standing. The Board of Judicial Conduct has jurisdiction over judicial candidates and judges. If a candidate with a complaint wins a primary tomorrow, the Board would conduct an investigation and could at the end of that process impose sanctions, including suspension or recommendation of removal from office should the candidate get elected in August. The Board also has the legal authority to summarily suspend a judge who has been indicted of a felony,” Peck wrote

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