Judge William “Bill” K. Swann oversaw my divorce, Heather Russell Wilder vs. Joseph Chamblee Wilder, Docket No. 108931, case from November 2007 through the end of March 2011 in his capacity as judge of the Fourth Circuit Court in Knox County, Tennessee.
Prior to my actual filing for divorce, I was granted a No-Contact Order of Protection, obtained through the Family Justice center in Knoxville, Tennessee, for myself and my three minor sons against my husband in November 2007; it remained in effect as a Bridged Order of Protection until September 2009, when it was replaced by an agreed permanent injunction. I had also gone to our family attorney to file for conservatorship of my husband to get him help, but was advised that my father-in-law would fight this because portions of the family trust(s) could be placed in jeopardy. This was prior to my husband hiring the law firm of Bernstein, Stair & McAdams and Swann learning that my husband was the grandson of former Tennessee and State Senator, Lt. Gov. John S. Wilder, Sr..
Throughout the entire proceedings concerning my divorce, Judge Swann made rulings, orders and statements against me, all of which show the court’s own personal bias and blatant discrimination, and all of which denied me the opportunity to timely and unprejudiced actions by the court with regards to settling any issues stemming from the divorce itself.
I have found a disturbing trend about women like me in Swann’s court; he punishes the wives of wealthier spouses. Judge Swann had been accused of acts of domestic violence, mental illness and even found guilty for failure to pay child support, just like petitions filed against my now ex-husband, in divorce issues with former wife, Diana Lynn Swann. Unfortunately, I found this out too late...
I was forced to participate in mediation with attorney John K. Harber, despite the Order of Protection and the abuse allegations involved in my case. The first, November 2008 lasted four hours where I spent 3.5 sitting by myself in a room. The second, held on September 1, 2009 lasted over eight hours. Mr. Harber, self-proclaimed “best friend” of Bill Swann, threatened me during both mediations that I would lose custody if I didn’t agree to what the Wilder family wanted. Mr. Harber went so far as to get an order for his costs against me, signed by Judge Swann two weeks before our hearing date for that specific matter; showing that Mr. Harber does get whatever he wants from Bill Swann…
I was also forced to participate in a custody evaluation preformed by another favorite of Judge Swann, Dr. Tom Hanaway of Behavior Consultants Psychological Firm. Behavior Consultants, is a firm that is favored by Swann, especially because the doctor’s within the practice write negative reports against mothers to force them into unequal divorce settlements (in order to simply keep some type of custody of their children). Through my investigation I discovered that Judge Swann was even involved on a Board of Directors that was spearheaded by this group.
Dr. Thomas Hanaway was issued a referral from the Fourth Circuit Court by Judge Swann to complete a Psychological Evaluation with regards to my request due to the situation regarding visitation in my divorce. This was granted on February 6, 2008 and was ordered to be completed and back to the court on or before June 6, 2008.However, it would not be until March 2009 that the report was completed and May 2009 before it was entered into the court record. While on the surface the report appears to have taken a great deal of time, preparation and detail to complete, using different methods of observation, interview and testing, one must look closer to those same items to see the problems of said report. This includes what sources were actually used, what resources were SUPPOSED to have been included, for example, Father’s mental health medical records, whether the report is shadowed or skewed by one party seemingly favored by Dr. Hanaway, in this case the Father, and whether or not Dr. Hanaway’s report is truly an evaluation of issues for the purpose of determining custody or merely written in a manner to negate Mother and children’s allegation of abuse and criminal behavior by Father. Additionally, information and documentation in other case that Dr. Hanaway also completed custodial evaluations for, ended in the very same manner as with this case; Dr. Hanaway always finds against the Mother (except for one case against a poorer Father in jail who had mental illness and violence), regardless of the situation, for some type of “Parental Alienation” and recommending that the Father have full custody and Mother to have some type of supervised visitation.
Dr. Hanaway, based on the opinion of the Wilder family, their employees and their family members, against me for “Parental Alienation”. He failed to listen to the opinions of other psychologists and therapists for myself and the children, ignored police reports, statements by the children and I, and even failed to obtain or even speak to the doctors who treated my husband in the four separate mental institutions he had been in from January 2007-May 2008. He also wrote that my husband was simply depressed, leaving out the multiple mental illness diagnosis’s he had; all of which would have greatly backed mine and the children’s statements and greatly impacted his visitation with our children.
Denying my expert witnesses, and based only on the report by Dr. Hanaway, Swann condemned me, and ordered unsupervised visitation, despite his own Order of Protection still being in effect, with no contact from me, for our children, beginning June 8, 2009 (what would have been our 12th anniversary) with Joseph and his parents. Swann also doubled the amount of time Joseph would have gotten as the non-residential parent; especially with Joseph having moved back to Fayette County (in West Tennessee) and the children and I still living in Knoxville. I fired my first divorce attorney because he refused to file an appeal (which would have stopped their court ordered unsupervised visit as well)… but my children still had to be turned over to their father.
During that visit all three of my children report that they were both physically and mentally abused both either their father and/or their paternal grandfather, while their paternal grandmother knew and did not stop said Abuse. For six long weeks my children were tortured by these people to “teach” me a lesson…and to show me that the Wilder's and Swann were in charge and I would obey or my children would pay the ultimate price.
I learned that DCS did not care because the Wilder’s and their (divorce and trust) attorney said it did not happen; and used Swann’s statements and Dr. Hanaway’s custody evaluations were the reason they ignored the children’s statements, five doctor’s statements, photos and more. I was forced by my second attorney to agree to a Parenting Plan during the second mediation with Harber in September 2009. I only agreed because the Parenting Plan was incorporated into the Mediated Agreement signed that day. In it, my husband would have to comply with being drug tested (to show medication compliance and that he wasn’t self medicating) and that he was in therapies to help rehabilitate his severed relationship with the children.
He never complied… he also failed to show up for either his October 2009 visitation that he demanded with the children or to pick them up the day after Thanksgiving (and never called about the son in the hospital over Thanksgiving )and I refused to send the children back to him for the Christmas Holiday 2009. In fact, when his grandfather (Lt. Gov. Wilder) was injured and then passed away on January 1, 2010, not one member of the Wilder family, called to inform my children; they were not invited to attend the funeral either. My children learned about their “Pop’s” coma and death from the newspaper and television…
In March 2010, I forced Judge Swann to temporarily suspend Joseph’s visitation rights; though Swann never had that order entered into the court record, forcing the children and I to depend on the transcripts to stop demands…
You should know Swann gave him, not one court date to comply with the mediated agreement, but three court dates between March and May 2010 and allowed him to choose, without my agreement per our mediated agreement via my attorney, the doctor to facilitate such therapies and ordered me to take the children to Memphis to see the doctor; despite the children already seeing Dr. Robert Hunt in Nashville. He chose Dr. Michael Patterson in Bartlett, Tennessee , saw him only once, and never followed through. Dr. Patterson had already lost his license on numerous occasions for his own drug use and writing fraudulent recommendations for other court cases; his license was again revoked in 2010.
Swann, on his own accord canceled our hearing/trial date for May 11, 2010, days before it was set to be held and ordered me to depositions (but not Joseph) with less notice than required by law. It is also then that he signed John Harber motion for mediation costs; again two weeks before the hearing. I discovered that the order had been signed when I showed up for the above hearing (my attorney did not), I was told by Judge Swann and Harber that the attorneys had agreed these debts were owed and when I spoke up saying John Harber had lied because my attorney had not agreed that I owed said costs (I also have letter from him and my ex-husband’s attorney stating they had not agreed to this matter), Swann said he didn’t care, he had already signed off on it and it was entered against me two weeks ago (again breaking the law).
Even after hiring my third attorney, the matters got no better. I was forced to agree to the Final Judgment of Divorce; my husband agreed to have his visitation right permanently, so long as I walked away with nothing; he agreed to some debts, but as of yet, has failed to pay them, over a year and a half later. It was signed October 1, 2010; despite Swann trying multiple times during that hearing to get him to change his mind.
I have also discovered a large number of reported complaints against Swann for similar behavior that have been dismissed or ignored by the Court Of The Judiciary. For those complaints that ended in sanctions against him that I have discovered, have been dealt with “privately” by the Court of the Judiciary; leaving the public unaware of his misconduct in the court and unable to do anything about it once they find themselves a casualty in Fourth Circuit Court.
On October 5-6, 2010, hearings were held in Nashville about the Court Of The Judiciary (COTJ) failing to investigate, much less discipline judges abusing their position; especially Judge Swann. I too testified and re-filed my complaint against him.
In late November I received a letter from Timothy Discenza, Chief disciplinary counsel for the COTJ, stating they were not going to investigate Swann, despite the violations, law breaking and pattern of behavior and bias dating back twenty years.
However, Swann was notified of my complaint…
In December 2010, my ex-husband and his attorney committed fraud before the Child support magistrate, which virtually went uncontested my attorney (the third again); I fired her the next day because she was unprepared and had failed to counter anything. I began representing myself Pro se and filed my first appeal over the December child support order; which my husband’s attorney signed off for my attorney. The appeal was before Swann in February 2011.
Swann, knowing that I had filed the complaint in addition to testifying about his behavior, found against me, despite that even he acknowledged that parts of the order were wrong. He did this, just like his rulings in the past, to punish me; he thought I would be unable to come up with the funds to appeal. Additionally, he heard my husband’s attorney over matters relating to our hearing, set for two weeks later, regarding my Petition to Modify the Permanents Parenting Plan; since my ex-husband’s visitations rights had been permanently suspended in the Final Judgment of Divorce. Swann ordered us to mediation (again prior to our hearing and in violation of domestic violence laws, since there was a permanent injunction), disallowed me to speak about either and told my ex’s attorney to right it up.
I borrowed the money for the appeal from my parents to got before the Tennessee Court of Appeals. I also filed a federal lawsuit against Judge Swann and nine other persons, for vilating mine and the children’s rights and due process throughout the divorce proceedings; I had gone to the FBI and was advised to file a federal suit against Swann to force him to recuse himself.
I forced Judge Swann to recuse himself on March 31, 2011, however, the harassment was far from over. I am basically having to have all things adjudicated on during the last four and a half years; especially child support and the permanent parenting plan. My husband lied about his income, his behavior and his actions and Swann let him get away with it because he was from a wealthy, political family. The same can be said for his father, who is/was trustee over trust(s) in mine and the children’s names, which he refused to say existed for over two years, then showed that the trust were depleted; forcing my father to file suit as successor trustee to retrieve said funds. Swann allowed Joseph (and the Wilder’s ) to allow my vehicle and our family home to be foreclosed on (despite there being money to pay both debts) and sent my children, over his own order of protection and order for supervised visitation, to their father to be abused.
Unfortunately for Swann, the attorneys , Hanaway and DCS, there was lasting damage to my children beyond just emotional… My oldest son was finally diagnosed with having Mild Traumatic Brain Injury; and injury consistent with being cause by the type of abuse that all three of my children described happened during that unsupervised summer 2009 visit…
Swann didn’t care about the best interest of my children. He did not care that my middle child is Autistic. He did not care that my husband had developed mental problems and become abusive; which he apparently belived when he signed the first order of protection, prior to learning of my husband’s family. He did not care one bit about canceling court when my husband was in contempt and giving him second, third, forth chances to comply. He made sure that my husband got away with never having to disclose his finances… and He damn sure did not care that my children had been abused.
In November 2011, my oldest son and I testified before another general assembly committee about the COTJ failing to investigate, reprimand and remove Swann (because of his pattern, not just because of my complaint). The committee members were horrified about what was said, however, the COTJ continues to do nothing. I have filed new complaints to the COTJ. However, I am still in court over all the issues which remain open that Swann failed to address; the only two items that actually are done is that I am no longer married and that he has no visitation. I also want to point out that unlike the majority of women who found themselves in similar cases to mine before Judge Swann, I was able to never lose being Residential Parent or custody of my children, however, it was at a great cost. I have spent or borrowed around $50,000, just for three attorney’s fees, the custody evaluation and part of the mediation costs. I have borrowed more than that from my parents for living expenses and needs for the children. We lost our home, car and monies; despite my ex-husband profiting from the divorce via large financial gifts and support from his family and suffering no loss financially. We lost saying good bye to granddaddy (Lt. Gov. Wilder). The children and I have basically lost the last five years of our life. Judge Swann, along with the attorney’s, Hanaway and the Wilder family, enable my husband, so that he has yet to be held accountable for his actions. Had Joseph gotten the help he needed at that time, he might have salvaged his relationship with his children. Instead, his mania was uncontrolled and he abused his children and allowed his father to abuse his children. My ex-husband has yet to respond to anything (medical records, school tuition, income disclosure) related the best interest of the children and has not once sent them anything, even just a card, for either their birthday or Christmas, since I filed for divorce. Swann and Dr. Hanaway virtually gave him an unimpeded way to gain full custody of our children; thankfully he did not want them.
We are not the only family that Judge Swann has done this to and until he is removed from his position, we will not be the last. He is biased and corrupt, failing to pay his own child support and he should not be allowed to remain on the bench. He has allowed the entire process to become corrupted in the Fourth circuit Court. The other professionals who actively work within court have become just as corrupt; either afraid of Swann or heavily profiting from work because of his court behaviors. I am asking for your help to remove him from his position to stop this judicial abuse from continuing. Please sign this petition and help my children and all the children who have been threw his court and those who will be forced into his court if he is allowed to remain. Also, if you or someone you know has been a victim of Judge Swann, please contact me at:Heatherrussellwilder@gmail.com
Thank you for your support. Heather
- Members of the 107th Tennessee General Assembly and Governor Bill Haslam
I just signed the following petition addressed to: Members of the 107th Tennessee General Assembly and Governor Bill Haslam.
Remove Judge Bill Swann as Knox County Fourth Circuit Court Judge
This petition is to ask for your vote to remove Judge William “Bill” Kirk Swann as judge from Knox County Fourth Circuit Court. Tennessee judges may be removed in one of two ways:
Judges may be impeached by the house of representatives and convicted by two-thirds vote of the senate.
Upon recommendation by the court of the judiciary, the general assembly may remove judges by a two-thirds vote of both houses, with each house voting separately.
Currently the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary (COTJ) has failed to reign in Judge Swann, despite complaints on him dating back more than twenty (20) years. Judge Swann has received some private punishments, but the unsuspecting voters of Knox County Tennessee have no idea about his behavior until they find themselves in his court. The majority of complaints against Judge Swann were dismissed simply because they stemmed from what the COTJ calls a “Domestic” case; essentially meaning they do not investigate matters stemming from a divorce/custody/child support matter because, in the words of current COTJ Presiding Judge Chris Craft,
"Most of them, frankly, are not being truthful about the facts,"
Excerpt from the Knoxville News Sentinel article dated October 1, 2011 where Craft, defended the COTJ. He said many of the complaints legislators heard — and the vast majority of all complaints received by COJ — are simply from people angry over losing in court.
However, that is not the case. We are not upset over losing in court. We are upset that apparently in Judge Swann’s courtroom, both the state and federal constitutions are ignored, and that rather than the law, Judge Swann’s bias runs the court; granting whatever his close friends (attorneys and professionals who practice within his court) want. If the litigants within his court had instead murdered someone, the COTJ would at least be willing to entertain their complaints. As it is, the COTJ seems to instead say that the litigants, or “losers” according to Mr. Craft, have no constitution rights if they are in a divorce, custody or child support case; an apparently neither do their children.
Judge Swann finds against women divorcing their wealthier or politically connected spouses. He makes rulings that favors the wealthier litigant, who coincidentally use lawyers who are close personal friends with Judge Swann. The parties are forced into expensive mediation (mediation is required by law, however, it does not have to be enforced and/or the rules change if there is domestic violence issues). At the same time a referral for a custodial evaluation is ordered. They are preformed by three main psychological practices who also have a close relationship with Swann. The findings are always the same… they find against the Mother for some type of “Parental Alienation”. If the Mother does not immediately agree to inequitable divorce (either through attorneys or the mediator), Swann takes custody away from the Mother , hands the children over to the Father, until Mother agrees to whatever the Father wants; simply to regain some type of visitation (often supervised for a length of time to ensure Mother will comply with Father). The poorer parent is more often that not also left without the financial resources to care for either herself and/or the children involved while the wealthier parent goes without punishment by Swann, never disclosing assets or resources, that could be used to help pay for support; leaving financial burden for care of the children on the State of Tennessee (IE: Food Stamps, TennCare, etc.). While Swann is known for this biased behavior, the COTJ refuse to hear the complaints of Mothers and the professionals are failing to report him; either because they too are a part of said corruption and profit from said corruption or because they are afraid of what reporting Swann will do to them both professionally and privately.
Numerous women over the last two years have testified against Swann’s behavior and how the COTJ has failed to do anything about it; mainly because they stem from divorce cases. All the women testified to being treated similarly by the court and its professionals within their respective cases. Two would be a coincidence… Three or more is a pattern.
Judge Swann is corrupt and damaging the poorer litigants that appear before him, and more importantly, the children of those litigants. He ignores violent or inappropriate behavior by a litigant, so long as they are wealthy and can afford to hire professionals who are Swann’s “close friends”. Justice is for sale in Knox County and the only way to stop him, is by removing him from his position. I am asking for your help in removing this judge from office. Thank you for your time.
Heather Wilder started this petition with a single signature, and now has 119 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.