Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Casada Backs Down, Will Resign

Posted By on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 12:52 PM

Though his initial instinct on Monday was to respond in the negative to the latest call for his resignation as speaker of the Tennessee House — this time from members of the House Republican caucus — Glen Casada (R-Franklin) has finally capitulated, after indicating in an earlier statement on Tuesday that he intended to remain in office despite a lopsided 45-24 vote against him by his fellow House Republicans.
Glen Casada
  • Glen Casada

The last straw for Casada was Monday’s caucus vote, which was followed almost immediately by a statement from Republican Governor Bill Lee that the governor would call a special session of the legislature to consider the matter of Casada’s tenure if the beleaguered Speaker resisted resignation. "Today, House Republicans sent a clear message," Lee said.

Casada’s first response to the caucus vote was one of continued resistance. ““I’m disappointed in the results of today’s caucus vote," the speaker said. "However, I will work the next few months to regain the confidence of my colleagues so we can continue to build on the historic conservative accomplishments of this legislative session.”

That statement was supplanted on Tuesday by this one: "When I return to town on June 3rd, I will meet with caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as speaker so that I can facilitate a smooth transition.”

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Friday, May 10, 2019

Harris Conducts Smooth First Meeting as Dems’ Chair; Other Local Officers Elected

Exec Committee member Memula successfully moves for future meeting to consider disqualification of the chairman for professional misconduct issues and a new election.

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2019 at 9:44 AM

Harris presiding over his first meeting as SCDP chair - JB
  • JB
  • Harris presiding over his first meeting as SCDP chair

The executive committee of the Shelby County Democratic Party completed its reelection of officers Thursday night in a placid, orderly meeting that concluded in a shouting match over whether its newly elected local chairman, Michael Harris, can continue as party leader.

Harris, a suspended lawyer who has admitted having to live down a formidable list of professional “mistakes,” would, on the strength of commentary from members Thursday night, seem to have ample support on the local committee to continue. But committee member Sanjeev Memula, on behalf of a group of Democrats opposed to Harris’ continuation as chair, was able, amid controversy, to move for a hearing on the Harris matter, coupled with a call for a new chairmanship election.

Harris himself agreed to accept Memula’s motion after a ruling from parliamentarian Larry Pivnick that only the chairman or the executive committee itself, functioning as a grievance committee, could approve the motion. Before that happened, there were calls from several members to purge Memula and two other members publicly opposed to Harris — and a temporary motion to the effect, later withdrawn, from member Williams Brack.

Time and place for the hearing on the Harris matter have, as of Friday morning, yet to be set.

Harris’ professional issues — resulting in a 5-year suspension from the practice of law by the Board of Professional Responsibility and disqualification of him as a bankruptcy petitioner by the United States Bankruptcy Court — have complicated his tenure from the moment of his election, by a single vote over “none of the above” as a stated alternative , in a stormy organizational meeting early in April.

The beleaguered chairman’s conduct Thursday night of his first meeting as chairman could hardly be faulted. It was generally agreed, even by critics, that he seemed smooth, organized, and focused as he discussed a series of items with the membership — including the time and place of future committee meeting (likely to be held at AFSCME headquarters downtown), plans for a forthcoming public event, strategies for community outreach, and possible sponsorship of a mayoral debate during the ongoing city government election.

Memula and other critics of Harris have alleged, however, that his personal issues should disqualify him as a party leader and have brought the party into bad repute. They cite the likelihood that Republicans will be able to exploit those issues for their own purposes, and, indeed, the Tennessee Star, a publication featuring the point of view of right-wing Republicans, has already featured Harris’ problems in a published feature.

Aside from the chairmanship issue, the other standout fact of Thursday night’s meeting was that it included the first fully completed successful use of ranked choice voting in a local election. RCV backer Aaron Fowles was on hand to serve as an advisor on the process, which allows sampling of runner-up votes to determine a winner in multi-candidate races without a majority winner in the first round of voting.
Elected Thursday night were the following:
*Sara Beth Larson, first vice chair;
*Brian McBeidge, second vice chair;
*Regina Perry, secretary;
*Emily Fulmer, assistant secretary;
*Jesse Huseth and Williams Brack, steering committee members

Harris’ appointment of Lucretia Carroll as treasurer was accepted by acclamation by the membership.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

New Filing: The Background Papers of the Michael Harris Case

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2019 at 9:40 PM

The pending intra-party litigation by several members of the Shelby County DemocratIc Party seeking to invalidate the election of Michael Harris
Michael Harris - JB
  • JB
  • Michael Harris
as chairman of the SCDP has been supplemented with an abundance of new documents for the state Democratic executive committee to consider — all this on the eve of the first planned meeting, Thursday night of this week, of the newly elected SCDP executive committee.

As it happened, the local committee, amid an oft-turbulent discussion, took no action Thursday night but agreed, on a decision by Harris himself, to hear out a petition by SCDP executive committee member Sanjeev Memula to hold a new election. Memula's petition asks for the hearing within 20 days, in accordance with local party bylaws.

Before the state party issued its response remanding the issue back to the SCDP, members seeking Harris' ouster had submitted a series of documents:

The first grievance to the state committee, filed on April 10, focused on possible discrepancies in the rules of election practiced by the SCDP executive and grass roots committees on April 6, when Harris, a lawyer who has been suspended from his practice for a five-year period, was elected by one vote over "None of the above."

Subsequent supplements deal with what the litigants believe is the unsuitability of Harris for the position of chairman, given a lengthy and still uncorrected record of professional infractions and misdeeds by Harris. In one supplement, immediately below, the litigants cite these issues in a general way; they specifically seek a public hearing for their evidence, Harris' disqualification, nullification of the election results, Harris' disqualification, and ultimately a new election.

This supplement, like all the others gathered here, speaks for itself:

The second supplement, immediately below, repeats the requests made in the first supplement and cites facts relating to Harris' frequent efforts to claim bankruptcy protection, claims that the United States Bankruptcy Court has now expressly prohibited him from renewing:

In support of this second supplement, the litigants cite the specific efforts made by Harris in his quests for bankruptcy protection, listed below in a timeline:

Next is the order from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court revoking Harris' privileges even to file for further bankruptcy protection:

The next supplement is an itemized record of actions taken by the Board of Professional Responsibility apropos Harris' suspension:

And the final, and most lengthy supplement, is an itemized chronology of the aforementioned infractions charged to Harris during his now terminated practice of law:

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County Commission Backs Censure of Judge Lammey

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2019 at 5:48 PM

In a dramatic morning session, the Shelby County Commission on Wednesday voted 7-2 “in support of the public censure” of Criminal Court Judge James Lammey.

The move, a response to well-publicized Facebook posts by Lammey considered potentially anti-Semitic and racist and to courtroom actions and attitudes of his widely regarded as prejudicial to minorities, came via an add-on resolution from Democratic Commissioner Tami Sawyer.

Several representatives of established civic associations and religious and ethnic groups — Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Hispanic — spoke in support of the resolution, as did most of the Commissioners on hand for the body’s committee sessions.
Dr. Nabil Bayakly, chairman of Muslims in Memphis, speaks for Sawyer resolution. - JB
  • JB
  • Dr. Nabil Bayakly, chairman of Muslims in Memphis, speaks for Sawyer resolution.

Speaking strongly on behalf of the resolution, Republican Commission and Commission vice chair Mark Billingsley made a point of emphasizing that the resolution should be regarded not as “political” or as either Dermocratic or Republican but as a generalized and necessary statement by the Commission as a whole.

Billingsley went on to successfully advocate for several
Commissioner Sawyer - JB
  • JB
  • Commissioner Sawyer
 amendments strengthening the tone of the resolution.

Two Republican Commissioners, Amber Mills and Brandon Morrison, would nevertheless end up abstaining from the vote — Mills on the ground that the Commission had not yet heard directly from Lammey, Morrison warning of entering upon a “slippery slope” and contending that the Commission as a legislative body should defer on judgmental matters to specifically judicial authorities; she recommended the state Board of Judicial Conduct.

Sawyer, who insisted on a Commission vote, would respond that the Commission could afterward ask its staff to contact the Board of Judicial Conduct for further action. She was clearly infuriated by Mills’ remarks regarding Lammey’s “side of the matter” and indicated she was put off as well by a suggestion from Billingsley that Lammey be invited to respond, either in person or in writing, at the Commission’s next regular public meeting on Monday.
Billingsley speaking for resolution - JB
  • JB
  • Billingsley speaking for resolution
In an extended and emotional speech, Sawyer recounted an online communication she personally had received two weeks earlier from a declared white supremacist, who vilified her, threatened her with physical harm, and announced his intention to make sure her body ended up in the Mississippi River. Comparing that communication with Lammey’s various online postings — which included links to Holocaust deniers and overt racists — and what she described as his overly punitive treatment of immigrants in court, Sawyer said if someone had dared to ask her to consider the “other side” of her would-be attacker’s point of view or had told her the Commission, similarly, would be interested in hearing out Lammey’s, “I would be offended.”

Sawyer received applause from attendees, as did Commissioner Eddie Jones subsequently as he choked up while describing being addressed by a white National Guardsman on the night of Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. The man said “Little nigger boy, where are you going?” and said Jones, “I never forgot those words.”

Voting for the resolution were Republicans Billingsley and David Bradford, and Democrats Sawyer, Edmund Ford, Reginald Milton, Eddie Jones, and Michael Whaley.

A letter to Lammey announcing the results of Wednesdays’s action and confirming the Commission’s wish to give him opportunity to respond on Monday, when the action is scheduled to become official, was dispatched by email to the Judge. It can be seen below:

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