published Monday, July 30th, 2012

Federal lawsuit against Hamilton County Commission's prayers amended a second time

  • photo
    Plaintiffs Brandon Jones, left, and Tommy Coleman, right, lead a rally on the second level of the Hamilton County Courthouse. The group attended the Hamilton County Commission meeting to address commissioners on their belief that a moment of silence should open government meetings instead of prayer.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

The federal lawsuit against Hamilton County over the County Commission's weekly prayers officially was amended a second time on Monday.

Plaintiffs Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones sought to amend their complaint in July after a Hamilton County sheriff's deputy escorted Coleman from a commission meeting. The amendment alleged the removal violated Coleman's Fourth Amendment rights.

Though federal Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice said during last week's preliminary hearing that the court is usually liberal about granting amendments to suits early in the process, the county's attorney, Stephen Duggins, objected to it.

Mattice asked Duggins to file his brief explaining his opposition by Monday. Mattice said the amendment could be important in his pending decision on whether to grant a preliminary injunction halting the county's prayers until he can rule in the case.

Instead of filing a brief opposing the amendment, Duggins and the plaintiffs's attorney, Robin Flores, agreed to amend the suit without objection. The parties also agreed that the county alone would be named and not the commissioners and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor, as the suit originally stated.

Though the county agreed to the amendment, the filings stipulate that it is "for the purpose of judicial efficiency and shall not be deemed agreement with or acquiescence to the factual and legal allegations included in the second amended complaint."

Both sides are allowed to file briefs by Aug. 8 supporting positions they took in a preliminary hearing last week. Mattice said on Thursday that he intends to rule quickly once the briefs are filed.

Staff writer Ansley Haman can be reached at 423-757-6481 or

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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