Chancellor Frank V. Williams sided with the state Thursday in a case concerning Loudon County Commissioner Julia Hurley’s residency.
The sides met at the Roane County Courthouse to again review motions to dismiss and disqualify 9th Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson after Williams’ initial decision in July. The sides left with a possible April trial date, but a specific day is not determined.
Johnson said Monday that Williams would try to find a two-day trial date in April.
The issue dates back to July 2019 when commissioners first questioned if Hurley had moved out of her elected second district into the fifth district.
“My argument centered around the fact that under the Rules of Professional Responsibility, you can’t be a party plaintiff, and you read the style, that’s what the general is, and the attorney,” T. Scott Jones, Hurley’s attorney, said. “You just simply cannot do that, and so that makes it a difficulty. ... We certainly respect the court’s ruling. I’m not going to question the saged wisdom of the chancellor, but that’s why we have other avenues of redress. So that was what we had questioned.”
Jones argued in July the case was wasn’t filed correctly because Loudon County Commission Chairman Henry Cullen cannot act as principal and surety. Williams in July ordered another person sign the bond.
Williams on Thursday again sided with the plaintiff, but asked for Johnson’s name to not be included to avoid future complications in the case.
The case for the plaintiff currently reads, “State of Tennessee, Russell Johnson, as the District Attorney for the 9th Judicial District, on information of Henry Cullen” versus Hurley.
“When we draw the order from today’s hearing, it will say, ‘State of Tennessee on information of Henry Cullen,’ and it will leave my name out of the style of the case.” Johnson said. “Like Mr. (Jason) Collver, general Collver from my office made the point, the first paragraph says I’m bringing this because I’m the district attorney and am entitled under statute and the proper person under statute to bring it on behalf of the state of Tennessee as their attorney, so to speak.
“... Our position in the lawsuit is in the state, in the name of the state of Tennessee on information of Henry Cullen, but by me just saying, ‘I’m the district attorney, I’m the person entitled under the statute to bring it,’ and so that’s why it was included in there,” he added. “I think Mr. Jones tried to make an issue out of it for his client’s advantage, which he’s entitled to do and should do, and so the chancellor I think what he was trying to do was go back and put something on the record to clarify that so if Mr. Jones were to appeal that on behalf of Ms. Hurley, that it would be more clear and I think now that he’s done this may prevent that from being an issue for appeal.”
Jones said he planned to speak with Hurley about any possible appeal for the motions.
Hurley has 30 days to consider the ruling.
“I mean it’s just we want to get it right,” Jones said. “You saw what the chancellor was doing is wanting to get it right, because he addressed that in his comments from the bench. Most certainly it’s going to be looked at some point in time from some other authority. So I have respect for the chancellor in that he likewise is doing it, but that’s why we painstakingly dot every I and cross every T, and we like to make sure that our opponents do so likewise.”
Johnson in July considered Williams’ ruling a “victory.” On Thursday, his opinion didn’t waver.
“Even more of a victory in that two issues were clarified,” Johnson said. “No depositions from me and my office, we just give them the normal discovery, and we’ve got — don’t know what the day is certain — but we have a court date.”