The case involving Loudon County Commissioner Julia Hurley’s residency will continue after Chancellor Frank V. Williams III on Thursday denied a motion to dismiss.
Hurley’s attorney, T. Scott Jones, in April filed for dismissal and to disqualify 9th Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson as a legal representative. Johnson, along with assistant district attorney Jason Collver, represented the state.
Hurley was present Thursday with Jones.
Jones argued the case was “improperly filed” because Loudon County Commission Chairman Henry Cullen cannot act as principal and surety. He said “in the absence of a cash bond, there is no security for the costs.”
To settle the issue, Williams ordered another person sign the bond.
“Just to satisfy any potential issues, defects in filing the lawsuit,” Johnson said. “I mean we checked with the clerk and master, she was good with the way we filed it. I think he realized that, but wanted to go one step further and say, ‘Let’s have a second person so we can separate the cost bond and the surety issues so we’ll have a different person on each one’.”
Johnson considered the hearing a “victory.”
“I think what it is is a recognition that the motions that were filed were valid and the judged ruled that he was going to, the order will reflect, that he is going to allow the plaintiff, in this case the attorney general, to amend his pleadings consistent with rules,” Jones said. “I mean I’ve got a responsibility to Ms. Hurley, which means that I’m going to make the state and/or the plaintiff dot every I and cross every T, and I would remiss in my duties if I didn’t do so.
“So there are no questions that the motion was valid, I mean you heard what the ruling was, but we’re going to make an exception and deal with it from that standpoint,” he added.
The matter dates back a year when Commissioner Van Shaver first questioned Hurley’s residency after learning of a real estate purchase and move through social media. Hurley represents the second district, but she moved into the fifth district.
Jones in May emphasized the move was only temporary, that Hurley would return in August and that she was “turning a piece of real estate.”
A copy of the lease provided Johnson in February showed a one-year agreement with a tenant for Hurley’s property on West 5th Avenue in Lenoir City, which is located in the second district, Jones said in May.
Both sides will now conduct discovery.
“We start the discovery process to whatever extent that goes about, and we talked about getting a scheduling order, which we’ll probably need to revisit with the court,” Johnson said. “He doesn’t pre-schedule hearings, he waits until dockets sounding to schedule the actual trials so we’re still looking at months down the road until we get a trial.”
Neither side knew when another hearing would occur.
“The discovery is already pending, it’s already in the court’s filed,” Jones said. “I filed it a long time ago. The attorney general’s office had filed a motion to stay discovery, which I agreed and conceded until we had the hearing here today and so we’ll then file an answer. I’m sure discovery will go back and forth. It’ll go through the laborious process of litigation.
“... There’s a lot that has to be looked at,” he added. “This is not a simple case. I mean, you boil it down and you think, ‘Oh yeah, it’s simple,’ but then there are all these other factors in play that have to be considered. You’ve obviously seen the way that we vigorously defended the case thus far. I think it would be foolish to think that we’re not going to take every step necessary to protect Commissioner Hurley.”