FIRST ON 3: State court throws out Littlefield recall case - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

FIRST ON 3: State court throws out Littlefield recall case

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CHATTANOOGA -

The state court of appeals has thrown out a lower court ruling to stop a recall petition against the Chattanooga mayor. The move means that if the petitioners have enough signatures, the recall could go before the public.

In an opinion released today, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that the Hamilton County Circuit Court acted without jurisdiction in deciding to stop the recall process.

The Appeals Court says it has vacated the decision and dismissed the complaint filed by Ron Littlefield.

[READ THE OPINION]

Mayor Littlefield's Reaction:

"This recall effort has been a costly distraction and a deterrent to the unprecedented progress that we have accomplished in this community.  The Court of Appeals simply ruled that the election commission was entitled to make a final decision regarding the issues surrounding the recall ballot prior to judicial review.  Please note that the Court of Appeals made no decision what-so-ever with regard to the sufficiency of the recall petition and those issues are left to be judicially resolved another day," says Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield.

"Mayor Littlefield is confident that the Election Commission has the courage and capacity to come to a legally-correct decision on how to proceed, especially in light of the inaccuracies and inconsistencies pointed out to the Circuit Court following the filing of this lawsuit," Beeland adds.

"Mayor Littlefield is exploring all legal options at this time," Beeland concludes.

The Legal Battles:

Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth ruled in 2010 that state statute trumped the city charter, and that 14,854 signatures are needed for a recall election to take place.  Recall organizers only had 9,903 "valid" signatures, enough to meet the requirements of the city charter but nearly 5,000 shy of the state mark.

Additionally, more than 5,400 of the signatures were not dated and the Judge ruled those would not have met state guidelines, either, dropping the official number of valid signatures to 4,464.

Judge Hollingsworth's ruling also found a third issue with the latest recall effort. State statute requires a recall election be held during a municipal or county election. The judge ruled that the November 2, 2010, election doesn't fit that requirement because it is a federal and state election day.

Recall organizers appealed the judge's ruling to a state court.

As part of the lower court ruling, the Election Commission was barred from further reviewing or certifying signatures.

With today's dismissal, the Election Commission will now finally be able to rule whether the recallers have enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot.

If the petitioners do have the signatures, the issue could go on a ballot as early as August 2012.

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