Lawyers for the city of Columbus have filed state Supreme Court appeals of two rulings recently handed down in the lawsuits filed against the city and several of its top leaders.
The appeals were filed Tuesday afternoon with Clerk of Superior Court Linda Pierce, one of the four elected officials suing the city. The others are Sheriff John Darr, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton-Bishop.
The recent Superior Court rulings and the appeals deal with Darr’s and Pierce’s lawsuits. Stone Mountain Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller, appointed to handle the cases because local judges recused themselves, has not yet ruled on a motion to dismiss the suit filed jointly by Countryman and Bishop.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who is listed as a defendant along with members of Columbus Council and other top executives in the Consolidated Government, said the defense side is confident they have a strong case for appeal. She said the city prevailed on a majority of points that the judge ruled upon and is confident they have grounds to win the rest on appeal.
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“In our opinion, of course, we have succeeded or won as to dismissing about 75 percent of the claim, and they have survived as to about 25 percent of the claims,” Tomlinson said. “So we are going to be seeking appellate review of that bit that is remaining and we hope to succeed in very large measure, or in totality to dismiss the rest of it on appeal.”
Bill Stone, attorney for Pierce, disagreed with Tomlinson’s assessment of Fuller’s ruling.
“That is a complete lie,” Stone said. “I can’t characterize it any other way than a complete misrepresentation of the truth.”
Further, he called the city’s appeals a waste of taxpayer money.
“What they’re going to be asking the Supreme Court of Georgia to do is to overturn 200 years of Georgia jurisprudence, and they’re not going to do that,” Stone said. “This is just an utter waste of taxpayers’ funds, and it’s the mayor’s fault.”
Kellye Moore, one of Darr’s attorneys, said she was expecting the city to appeal the ruling, but added that the city jumped the gun.
“They filed them before the judge had actually entered the orders, so there is no valid appeal right now,” Moore said. “They obviously are going to have to fix that if they want to have a valid appeal.”
Tomlinson and City Attorney Clifton Fay say Moore is mistaken. Judge Fuller’s order was entered April 22, Tomlinson said. In the interim, minor mistakes (Councilor Tom Buck was not listed where he should be and Fay was listed where he shouldn’t be) were noticed and addressed, Tomlinson said. The judge then reissued the corrected motion, which was re-entered, but with the judge’s signature and date from the order on the 22nd.
“That’s silly business,” Tomlinson said. “We are still going to the Supreme Court.”
Regardless, Moore said she is confident that the plaintiffs will prevail.
“We don’t think that the orders that have been entered by the court are immediately appealable at this stage,” Moore said. “On the merits, we think we have a very strong argument as to why there are no grounds for an appeal at this stage of the litigation.”
Like Moore, Stone is confident that the plaintiffs will prevail on appeal.
“We’re going to respond to the appeal in due course, when the time is right to do it,” Stone said. “I’m looking forward to winning the appeal.”
Tomlinson said the appeal is being expedited, and she hopes the plaintiffs share the defense’s sense of urgency.
“We will certainly be doing everything we can to move with dispatch, and we would like to hope the other side is motivated to do the same and resolve this,” Tomlinson said. “That being said, I would expect everybody to get down to briefing promptly without any requests for delays or extensions. I know we’re committed to that. I hope we can see something by the end of the summer.”