published Friday, February 10th, 2012

Judge's ruling expected at 1 p.m. on Littlefield recall case


by Cliff Hightower
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield faces a recall hearing in court today.
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield faces a recall hearing in court today.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Tweets from recall hearing

Hollingsworth said he will announce a ruling at 1 pm.

Clem says everyone in the state needs to abide by state recall law. #CHAmayorrecall

Chris Clem now closing for election commission. #CHAmayorrecall

Hearing recessed for 15 minutes. #CHAmayorrecall

Mayors attorney said petitions are "woefully short" of threshhold under state law. #CHAmayorrecall

State Attorney Generals office will address that issue in a few minutes. #CHAmayorrecall

Hinges around constitutionality of state election law. #CHAmayorrecall

Mayors attorneys arguing that recall groups did not have enough petitions but this case revolves around if state recall law is constitu ...

Lawyers making closing arguments. Mayors lawyers first. #CHAmayorrecall

Folkner peppered with questions about dating on election petitions and how petitions were turned in with extra language. #CHAmayorrecall

Jim Folkner with Citizens to Recall takes stand. #CHAmayorrecall

Mullis Morgan says all 95 counties should abide by election laws. Davidson County exempt. #CHAmayorrecall

Election Administrator Charlotte Mullis Morgan taking stand. #CHAmayorrecall

Hal North going over a list of reasons on why recall should be stopped. #CHAmayorrecall

Judge Hollingsworth denies recusing himself

Judge Hollingsworth said he had no clue he received 42 percent of his contributions from old firm that represents mayor. #CHAmayorrecall

Was told a few minutes ago I couldnt use my phone. Had to show credentials and argue you people need to know. #Mediablackoutfail

Littlefield attorney Hal North arguing Citizens never raised issue in first hearing.

Littlefield hearing begins. Citizens to Recall asking for judge to recuse himself because of political contributions.

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth is expected to announce his ruling about 1 p.m. today in the recall case against Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Littlefield is in court today, arguing for the second time that a recall election against him set for August should be stopped.

Hamilton County Election Commission Attorney Chris Clem said he thinks this morning’s court battle could mean the end of legal wrangling that has gone on for 18 months, since anti-Littlefield forces gathered signatures for a recall.

“I see that there will either be an election in August or it will be canceled,” he said.

Mayoral spokesman Richard Beeland said Thursday that Littlefield had no comment. Hal North, Littlefield’s attorney, said he’s feeling confident.

“I think the law is still on our side,” he said. “Nothing has changed in regard to the law.”

Hollingsworth must decide whether to issue a permanent injunction to stop the Aug. 2 recall election. It’s Littlefield’s second attempt to stop the recall. In the first, Hollingsworth stopped the election commission from certifying recall petitions. He ruled that state law trumped the city charter and the recallers needed more signatures.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, allowing the election commission to certify the petitions and set the recall election.

Littlefield sued once more and this morning’s hearing will decide the issue. Hollingsworth said Thursday it might take longer than one day to prepare a written order, but the decision will come soon.

This time around, Clem is questioning the constitutionality of the state’s recall statute. If the judge agrees, the state statute would be null and void and the election would continue, Clem said.

“I think he would have ruled the same way as before, but he hasn’t ruled on the constitutional issue, and I don’t know how he’s going to rule on that,” he said.

Also Thursday, Hollingsworth agreed to allow Jim Folkner, Charles Wysong and Darrell Silvey, members of Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, to intervene in the case.

That gives them the right to appeal if the decision goes against them.

“There is no other party acting on the benefit of those citizens,” Wysong said.

LAST MINUTE DRAMA

Late Thursday, North said he and city officials found that Clem, who served in the state legislature for six years, was involved in a vote ratifying the state’s recall statute in 2005 — the same statute he’s now contesting.

North said the vote was 93-0 with seven abstentions. The records don’t say whether Clem voted for the statute or abstained, but they clearly show he did not vote against it, North said.

“What stands out to me is the hypocrisy,” North said.

Clem said he had voted on more than 6,000 bills while in office and couldn’t remember every one.

“I’m not sure what that has to do with anything,” he said. “I’m a lawyer, I do what my client says.”

Beeland also attacked Clem, saying the attorney attacking a statute he never voted against struck the administration as a “little hypocritical.”

Election Commission Chairman Mike Walden called the charge “irrelevant.”

“What do they think should happen?” he asked. “That we don’t have our lawyer tomorrow?”

North said he did not expect Clem to recuse himself, but he did think the vote should be public knowledge.

“I don’t see it as a conflict,” he said. “I just see it as ironic.”

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