The case file for the lawsuit Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter filed last summer over his public reprimand was accidentally sent to Georgia’s Supreme Court — and now a local judge wants it back.
That way, Judge Randy Rich says, he can properly decide if a pending appeal in the case should move forward — and go back to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Hunter filed his initial lawsuit nearly a year ago, as members of Gwinnett’s first-ever ethics board were deciding whether or not to recommend he be reprimanded for writing controversial Facebook posts, including a now-infamous missive calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig.”
The ethics board did recommend a public reprimand, and Hunter’s colleagues on the Board of Commissioners followed suit.
Hunter’s lawsuit challenged his reprimand by arguing that the ethics board was unconstitutional because it represented an illegal delegation of power. Judge Melodie Snell Conner initially ruled against Hunter, and Hunter attorney Dwight Thomas filed an appeal.
Fast forward to this month and, even though the county had a pending motion to dismiss Hunter’s appeal, the lawsuit case file was sent to the Georgia Supreme Court. Conner would subsequently recuse herself after an attorney from the office of Ken Jarrard, who is representing the Board of Commissioners, was accused of having an improper out-of-court phone call about the error with the judge’s office.
Rich, the new judge in the case, held a hearing Monday morning. The county argued its motion to dismiss Hunter’s appeal should be heard before the suit was allowed to progress to the Supreme Court; Hunter’s attorney argued the case was already in the state’s highest court and, even though it hadn’t officially been docketed there, it couldn’t be taken back.
On Thursday afternoon, Rich issued a ruling that the local court should retain jurisdiction over the case and asking that the Supreme Court return the file so he could address the motion to dismiss Hunter’s appeal.
If the appeal were allowed to proceed, the case would likely go back to the Supreme Court — for keeps, this time.
And even if the case is killed, the litigation involving Hunter might not be over.
The commissioner has also threatened to file a separate, $5 million federal lawsuit against his fellow commissioners. No such lawsuit had been filed as of Monday morning.
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