Judge: Littlefield's letters forced recusal in pet store raid case
Story by Callie Starnes
Eyewitness News Reporter/Anchor
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) – A Chattanooga Judge is calling Mayor Ron Littlefield "unethical" and wants the district attorney to know about a letter he sent her.
It involves McKamey Animal Center's quest to close down The Pet Company in Hamilton Place Mall.
Its been more than month since McKamey raided The Pet Company. Now the case starts all over again.
Judge Paty blames the mayor, but Mayor Littlefield says she's just avoiding making a decision in the case.
McKamey and The Pet Company returned to court Monday only to find the case will start from scratch.
"After consultation with disciplinary council I'm compelled to recuse myself from these proceedings," says Judge Paty.
City Court Judge Sherry Paty then declared mistrial and blamed Chattanooga's mayor.
"Unfortunately I have been contacted by Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield by email during these proceedings," says Judge Paty.
In the email, sent to Paty on July 1st, the mayor requests to speak with her about the case and concerns about city-funded McKamey Animal Shelter footing the bill for The Pet Company's problems.
It ends with Littlefield writing, "I do not trust this company."
In a strongly-worded open letter from Mayor Ron Littlefield on Friday, he expressed similar concerns, calling the court proceedings slow and reluctant.
Paty says she did not respond to what she calls a blatant attempt to sway her judgement.
"Mayor Littlefield has demonstrated an improper, unethical and perhaps contemptible disregard for the separations of powers between the judicial and executive branches of government," says Paty.
He says following his email, a conference call between him, Paty, and attorneys was held to address his concerns
"To have a conference and have her office actually set up that conference to me shows she found nothing wrong with it at the time. And I certainly found nothing wrong with requesting it," says Mayor Littlefield.
Littlefield believes he has the right to share his opinion with Paty since she enforces city code.
He says Paty has avoided making a ruling in a case he says is simple.
"I think if she would have taken this in its proper context, the door was open for her to make the right decision in this case and she just did not decide," says Mayor Littlefield.
Judge Paty sent Littlefield's email and open letter to what she calls the "proper" authorities for their review.
It will be up to the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts to appoint a judge from another jurisdiction to the case.
Until then, McKamey will continue to house 19 Pet Company dogs still in their care.
Originally, a judgment for restitution for the treatment and housing of the dogs was expected. McKamey had been seeking upwards of $40,000 for the treatment and care of the animals.