The number of lawyers attached Sheriff John Darr’s lawsuit against the city is growing, on both sides of the aisle.
Attorney Duke Groover, of the Macon law firm of James, Bates, Brannon and Groover, has been added to Darr’s team, which includes Kellye Moore of Walker, Hulbert, Gray and Moore of Perry, Ga., and Kerry Howell of W. Kerry Howell LLC, of Macon.
On the defense side, attorneys Paul Ivey and Mark Maholick, both of Hall, Booth, Smith have replaced Melanie Slaton, also of Hall, Booth, Smith, and joined Carter Schondelmayer of the The Schondelmayer Firm, also of Columbus.
In addition to those four attorneys, according to a response to interrogatories filed by the city’s defense, it has used six other lawyers at various times in the lawsuits filed in late 2014 by Darr, Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce and another co-filed by Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop.
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Those lawyers, according to the court documents, are Robert Cal Martin, Elizabeth Wise and Tyler Pritchard, all of Hall, Booth, Smith, and Sarah Sillitto, LaRae Moore and David Mize, formerly of Hatcher, Stubbs.
The city in this case has somewhere between 10 and 14 attorneys working on this case, filing multiple motions.
Kerry Howell, attorney for Sheriff John Darr
It is that amount of legal manpower that has caused the Darr team to have to add to its roster, Howell said.
“The city in this case has somewhere between 10 and 14 attorneys working on this case, filing multiple motions,” Howell said. “Up until this point, responding to the multiple motions and fighting against 10 to 14 attorneys has been done by two attorneys, Kellye Moore and Kerry Howell. That is a tremendous burden for two attorneys to try to work against 12 or so attorneys.”
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said the multiple lawyers listed are a result of the demise of Hatcher, Stubbs and Hall, Booth’s subsequent hiring of several of its lawyers.
“Since the merger with Hall Booth, our lawyers are Carter Schondelmayer, Paul Ivey and Matt Maholick,” Tomlinson said. “The other lawyers no longer work this case.”
In a recent filing in the Darr lawsuit, the city asked for communications between Darr’s attorneys and the Georgia Sheriffs Association in an attempt to determine the amount, if any, of participation the GSA has had in the suit. Groover represented the GSA in that matter. All three of Darr’s lawyers have represented the GSA.
Larry Walker and Moore, of Walker, Hulbert, Gray and Moore are general counsel for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association. Howell is a member of a state-wide network of attorneys the GSA keeps from which to refer when one of the state’s 159 sheriff’s needs legal advice or representation. Bill Stone, a Blakely, Ga., attorney, is another of the GSA’s referral attorneys and represents Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce in her similar lawsuit against the city.
What we know as a result is that this litigation is being driven by the Sheriff's Association for statewide political purpose and it is a travesty that our Muscogee County citizens are being subjected to that political objective.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson
Tomlinson said the addition of Groover only bolsters her contention that the GSA is driving the Darr case, a position she has put forth before.
“What we know as a result is that this litigation is being driven by the Sheriff's Association for statewide political purpose and it is a travesty that our Muscogee County citizens are being subjected to that political objective,” Tomlinson said.
Terry Norris, executive director of the GSA, and Moore both called Tomlinson’s initial allegation absurd, and Darr called it “misinformation.”
Tomlinson said she thinks Darr’s adding a third law firm will “definitely” add to the city’s legal bills because, “now you have three law firms doing the same thing.”
“This points back to our original objection, and why we think the court got it wrong and we’ll be appealing to the appellate court at the appropriate time,” Tomlinson said. “Because they’re making us pay for his lawyers out of accounts other than his own, he has no inclination or incentive whatsoever to have efficient and effective counsel.”
Because Darr and Pierce are constitutional officers, the city must pay their legal fees. Countryman and Bishop, who are not constitutional officers, must pay their own fees.
So far, the city has paid a total of more than $1.85 million in attorney fees in the three lawsuits.