Chancery Follies 2010

Chancery Follies of 2010 – a farce in one act

Scene: Wilson County Chancery Court

BAILIFF: All rise! Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Chancery Court of Wilson County is now in session, the Honorable C.K. Smith, Chancellor presiding.

JUDGE SMITH: Call the first case.

BAILIFF: City of Mt. Juliet vs. City of Mt. Juliet

JUDGE SMITH: Bailiff, quit horsing around. Call the first case.

BAILIFF: That is the first case your honor.

JUDGE SMITH: Don’t be ridiculous.

BAILIFF: That’s the first case, your honor – see, right here in the suit – City of Mt. Juliet vs. City of Mt. Juliet

JUDGE SMITH: This is not another one of those cases where the City of Lebanon is suing Wilson County and the Mayor of Watertown is the attorney for both sides is it?

BAILIFF: No, your honor. The case is “the City of Mt. Juliet vs. the City of Mt. Juliet.” Each side has a different lawyer.

JUDGE SMITH: Alright, will counsel please identify yourselves?

FRANK LANNOM: Frank Lannom, esq, your honor, representing the plaintiff, the City of Mt. Juliet

KATHRYN SASSER: Kathryn Sasser, esq, your honor, representing the defendant, the City of Mt. Juliet

JUDGE SMITH: Mr. Lannom, why is your client suing itself?

FRANK LANNOM: Well, your honor…

JUDGE SMITH: And before you go any further, I see the City Attorney for Mt. Juliet sitting in the courtroom. Mr. Holleman, aren’t you counsel for the City of Mt. Juliet?

JASON HOLLEMAN: Your honor, the city commission decided to engage these two attorneys to bring the action to the court.

JUDGE SMITH: Mr. Holleman, please approach the bench. [whispering loudly] Why didn’t they ask you to do it?

JASON HOLLEMAN: Your honor, my bringing an action in the court would require me to actually form an opinion and express it – and I believe the city commission did not want to press me to take an action that I have no experience with…

JUDGE SMITH: hmpph… Sit down Mr. Holleman. Alright Mr. Lannom, you may resume. Please explain to me why the city is suing itself.

FRANK LANNOM: Your honor, last July, the Mt. Juliet City Commission passed an amendment to the City Charter which was submitted to the voters and approved by them In November. But the City Commission does not know what the amendment that it passed means. They have filed this action asking the chancellor to tell them what they meant when they passed the amendment.

JUDGE SMITH: The city commission does not know what an amendment that they wrote and passed means?! Really?

FRANK LANNOM: That is correct your honor.

JUDGE SMITH: And I’m supposed to tell the City Commission what they meant by the amendment that they wrote?

FRANK LANNOM: Yes, your honor.

JUDGE SMITH: What does the charter amendment say?

FRANK LANNOM: I believe you have a copy, your honor…

JUDGE SMITH: Summarize it for me.

FRANK LANNOM: The charter amendment forbids members of the Mt. Juliet city commission from holding any other elected office.

JUDGE SMITH: Very well done Mr. Lannom. But now I really am baffled. You clearly understand what the amendment means. I believe the voters understand what the amendment means. It seems the only people who don’t know what it means are the Mayor and commissioners of the City of Mt. Juliet. And they’re the ones who wrote it!

FRANK LANNOM: Objection Your honor! The question before the court is, “when does the amendment take effect?”

JUDGE SMITH: Mr. Lannom, this is a court of equity. You do know what a court of equity is don’t you?

FRANK LANNOM: Yes, your honor.

JUDGE SMITH: I don’t think you do. A court of equity hears cases where one party alleges that it has been treated unfairly, or inequitably by another party. Now, in what way does the City of Mt. Juliet feel that it has been treated inequitably, or unfairly by the City of Mt. Juliet?

FRANK LANNOM: It’s not clear to the City Commission when the amendment that they passed takes effect.

JUDGE SMITH: Does the city commission read the newspaper?

FRANK LANNOM: I beg your pardon?

JUDGE SMITH: Does the city commission read the newspaper? Did they notice that there were several stories a week or so ago reporting on something called an election. It occurred on a Tuesday in November, I believe.

FRANK LANNOM: Your honor, the city agrees that the charter amendment passed in the election, but it’s not clear when it takes effect.

JUDGE SMITH: Does the city commission know when their terms of office begin?

FRANK LANNOM Your honor I’m not sure I understand…

JUDGE SMITH: They do know when their terms of office begin, don’t they? A new city commissioner or a new mayor is elected as soon as the vote is certified, are they not? What’s unclear?

FRANK LANNOM: The problem is that one city commissioner already holds an office on the county commission and the mayor has just been elected to the state legislature.

JUDGE SMITH: Ah, so it is really the Mayor and a city commissioner who want to know if the amendment will apply to them.

FRANK LANNOM: That is correct, your honor.

JUDGE SMITH: Well, where are they? Where is their counsel?

FRANK LANNOM: Your honor the action before you has been brought by the City of Mt. Juliet. Mayor Elam and Commissioner Bradshaw are not parties to the lawsuit.

JUDGE SMITH: I see Linda Elam and Jim Bradshaw sitting in the courtroom. Will you both please approach the bench.

JUDGE SMITH: Ms. Elam has the city brought this action on your behalf?

LINDA ELAM: Objection your honor!

JUDGE SMITH: Objection? I was just asking you a question. What could you possibly object to?

LINDA ELAM: Your honor, I insist that you refer to me at all times by my title. I am MAYOR Elam. I worked really hard for that title, I’m entitled to it, and I insist that you use it when you address me.

JUDGE SMITH: Ms. Elam, are you a party to this lawsuit?

LINDA ELAM: OBJECTION! I insist that you refer to me as MAYOR ELAM! Unless you refer to me as Representative Elam. That would be acceptable.

JUDGE SMITH: Are you a party to this lawsuit?

LINDA ELAM: No your honor, I am not. I am here only as a matter of academic interest. Also because I need a field trip for my continuing legal education class.

JUDGE SMITH: Please sit down Ms. Elam


JUDGE SMITH: Mr. Bradshaw, are you a party to this lawsuit?

JIM BRADSHAW: I wasn’t invited to any party, no sir.

JUDGE SMITH: Sit down Mr. Bradshaw.

JUDGE SMITH: Mr. Lannom – Who is paying your legal bill in this case?

FRANK LANNOM: The City of Mt. Juliet, your honor.

JUDGE SMITH: Ms. Sasser – Who is paying your legal bill in this case?

KATHRYN SASSER: The City of Mt. Juliet, your honor

JUDGE SMITH: So, all the attorneys in the room on this case today are being paid by the city of Mt. Juliet, is that correct?

CHORUS: Yes, your honor.

JUDGE SMITH: They may need a property tax after all.

I understand why this lawsuit was brought in the name of the City of Mt. Juliet, counselors. I’m sure you’re all aware that it be illegal for a City to file a lawsuit for the personal benefit of an elected official. But it does raise another question.

FRANK LANNOM: What’s that, your honor?

JUDGE SMITH: You do know what a court of equity is don’t you?

FRANK LANNOM: Your honor, please…

JUDGE SMITH: Because, I’m still not sure you do. If Ms Elam…


JUDGE SMITH: . . . believes she has been treated unfairly by the City then she can bring an action in this court and ask the Judge, as a matter of equity, to require the defendant in her action to do something to correct the inequity.

FRANK LANNOM: Your honor, I represent the City of Mt. Juliet. . .

JUDGE SMITH: Then tell me, counselor, what injury or damages have been suffered by the City of Mt. Juliet? And what action does the plaintiff, the City of Mt. Juliet, wish me to order the defendant, also the City of Mt. Juliet, to take?

KATHRYN SASSER: If I might your honor? [judge nods]. I represent the defendant, the City of Mt. Juliet, and in my brief, answering the complaint of the plaintiff, the City of Mt. Juliet, I have requested that you declare the charter amendment not to take effect until 2012 and to order the plaintiff, the City of Mt. Juliet, to swear in Commissioner Bradshaw for his new term of office and to allow Mayor Elam to continue to serve as Mayor after she is sworn in to the state legislator.

JUDGE SMITH: Well before I start probing your reasons for declaring that the results of the 2010 election should not take effect until 2012, I have a question for you.

KATHRYN SASSER: Yes, your honor?

JUDGE SMITH: If the defendant, the City of Mt. Juliet, wants the plaintiff, the City of Mt. Juliet to swear in Commissioner Bradshaw for a new term, why don’t they just do it?

FRANK LANNOM: Your honor, if I might respond? The Plaintiff, the City of Mt. Juliet, asks this court to declare that the charter amendment took effect upon the certification of the referendum approving it and to order the defendant, the City of Mt. Juliet NOT to swear in Commissioner Bradshaw for a new term and NOT to allow Mayor Elam to continue to serve as Mayor after she is sworn in at the legislature.

JUDGE SMITH: Mr. Lanom, I’ll ask you a remarkably similar question. If the plaintiff, the City of Mt. Juliet, wants the defendant, the City of Mt. Juliet NOT to swear in Commissioner Bradshaw for a new term, why don’t they just do it? Or not do it? (as the case may be)

FRANK LANNOM: Your honor, the effective date of the amendment is not clear.

JUDGE SMITH: You keep saying that. Mr. Lannom, am I correct to assume that Mt. Juliet still has the City Manager Commission form of government?

FRANK LANNOW: Yes your honor.

JUDGE SMITH:  Mr. Holleman, would you approach the bench.

JASON HOLLEMAN: Yes your honor.

JUDGE SMITH: How long have you been a City Attorney, son?

JASON HOLLEMAN: Almost 4 years.

JUDGE SMITH: Do like the work?


JUDGE SMITH: Have you ever read section 6-21-202 of Tennessee Code Annotated? It is the section that covers the duties and compensation of a city attorney.

JASON HOLLEMAN: Yes I have your honor.

JUDGE SMITH: I have, too. Let me read from (a)(4).  “The City Attorney shall advise the board and committees or members thereof, the city manager, and the heads of all departments and divisions, as to all legal questions affecting the city’s interest.” Mr. Holleman, do you think you have fulfilled your duties as city attorney with your advice on this issue?

JASON HOLLEMAN: Yes, your honor.  It was my advice to hire two opposing attorneys to present this case for you to decide.

JUDGE SMITH: Mr. Holleman, in these times you are extremely lucky to have a job. Especially a job where no one compels you to do the work associated with the job. I’m sure these Lebanon Attorneys are grateful that the City of Mt. Juliet is willing to spend taxpayer dollars to stimulate the Wilson County Bar Association, but I’m not particularly amused to have so much of this court’s time taken up with a matter you ought to have settled yourselves. You may sit down Mr. Holleman. I have heard enough to reach some conclusions about this case.

JUDGE SMITH:  Let me preface my remarks by saying that I think you’re all wasting the court’s time. Let me remind all of you. This is a court of equity. I could understand how Linda Elam…


JUDGE SMITH: . . .or Jim Bradshaw might feel they had been treated unfairly by the city – if the city had actually made a decision to not swear them in. I could understand how the citizens of Mt. Juliet might feel THEY had been treated unfairly by the city – if the city had made a decision TO swear them in. what I DON’T understand is how the City of Mt. Juliet has been unfair to the City of Mt. Juliet!


JUDGE SMITH: Here’s my opinion:

1.                   The City of Mt. Juliet has no standing to bring an action in chancery court because they haven’t been injured by anyone.

2.                    The relief requested by both sides renders the lawsuit frivolous, if not downright ridiculous. The City is requesting that the Court order the City to do something. The court’s response is, “Make up your own damn mind!”

The case is dismissed. And now I am going to render a solomonic decision. The costs of this action are to be apportioned 50% to the plaintiff, City of Mt. Juliet and 50% to the defendant, City of Mt. Juliet.

And gentlemen (and ladies). . . do not waste my time in this fashion again.

FL & KS: No your honor. We promise. Next week we’ll find a new way to waste your time!

JUDGE SMITH: Oh, and Mr. Holleman? The idea that you can fulfill your obligation as City Attorney to give the City of Mt. Juliet legal advice by advising them to hire two more attorneys and seek legal advice from Chancery Court. . .

LINDA ELAM: That was MY idea!

JUDGE SMITH: Well, whoever’s idea it was. . . it’s too smart by half.



Filed under City Charter, Local News, Mt. Juliet City Commission

31 responses to “Chancery Follies 2010

  1. Man of the People!

    I laughed! I cried!

    You can find this one-act play and other items on this subject on Facebook, look for the Citizens for Responsive and Accountable Politicians in Mt Juliet issue page.

  2. Southsider

    Judge Smith is clearly brilliant!

  3. Doug

    “JUDGE SMITH: You keep saying that. Mr. Lannom, am I correct to assume that Mt. Juliet still has the City Manager Commission form of government?”
    A small but significant correction: A City Manager/Commission form of government does not allow for city initiated referendums. Since 2006 MJ has neither had or nor been under a City Manager/Commission form of government. Although under its HOME RULE form of government MJ can structure government however it wants, including one that is identical in structure to that of a City Manager/Commission form.

  4. Butch Huber

    Interesting point, Doug. I don’t know if you are correct or not, but it is an interesting twist on things. I wonder where that could lead?

  5. Southsider

    Doug is correct but it doesn’t matter. Mt. Juliet has a Home Rule Charter derived from the City Manager / Commission form of government. It remains identical until it is amended.

    Judge Smith could have asked if the duties of the City Attorney had been amended since the city became Home Rule, but this is the first amendment so the attorney’s duties are the same anyway.

    Give the Judge a break. He probably doesn’t get many cases where people sue themselves.

  6. Doug

    First look at where it already has lead! Without a Home Rule form of government Elam and Bradshaw (which both opposed and obstructed) would not have a problem. If MJ was governed by a C-M/Comm charter we could have NO referendums, ever.

  7. Adopting “Home Rule” didn’t change the type of charter that Mt. Juliet has. It changed the WAY in which the charter can be amended from now on. It’s still a City Manager/Commission form of government. It’s just no longer a General Law charter, it’s a Home Rule charter. The legislature can’t change it anymore – only the City Commission or a Charter Commission can recommend changes and they only take effect if approved by the voters.

  8. Doug

    I disagree. MJ’s charter and its form of government are one and the same, or it can be better said, MJ’s charter COMPLETELY constitutes its form of government. The fact that MJ currently functions with a CM/BoC is irrelevant to its form of government, unless by “form” one is only thinking about how the city is run (operated, structured). MJ is governed by its charter, regardless how it is run, therefore “form of government” can only refer the type of charter by which is obtains its authority.

  9. Old Blevins

    If Elam and Bradshaw don’t think the election results should apply until 2012, then that means Elam should not take her seat in the State Assembly until 2012 and Bradshaw should not return to his commission seat until 2012. Makes sense to me, the same amount of sense anyway.

  10. Doug

    The fact that the adoption of Home Rule actually changed MJ’s charter is evidenced in how it can be modified. We are no longer changing a BoC/CM charter.
    “Adopting Home Rule didn’t change the type of charter that Mt. Juliet has” is exactly what Elam and Bradshaw maintain in their defense, and IF they were correct they would have a valid argument in questioning when the result of referendum goes into effect. BUT they are not correct. Home Rule did indeed change the type of charter MJ has. MJ’s Home Rule charter and its modifications is MJ’s supreme authority. It’s analogous to me telling somebody under my authority to do such and such, then they telling me that my orders do not apply, or not yet, because I had previously gave different orders. There exists no BoC/CM charter or BoC/CM form of government that can even be referred to!!

  11. Doug

    “If Elam and Bradshaw don’t think the election results should apply until 2012, then that means Elam should not take her seat in the State Assembly until 2012 ….”
    LOL, hold it, I think your venturing off into rational thought!

  12. Butch Huber

    Doug, you have my interest. Can you expound on your position a little more? Can you provide any supporting evidence for your position, such as case law, state law, or even guidelines for the establishment of homerule? What you are saying has a ring of truth to it, and it makes a lot of sense, but making sense has nothing to do with what politicians do, does it? From what I remember from when the city was going through the process of enacting homerule, everything that existed before remained in effect until specifically changed. However, that does not negate what you are saying, because our charter must have in fact changed because the power to change the charter changed from the state legislature to the city commission, charter commission, and to the people of this city.

    Could it be that we are a city manager/commission form of government still, only governed by the people of this city? Yes, we are homerule, but that explains how we change the charter. I think the “form of government” stayed the same.

  13. Doug

    Butch, it’s simple really, but people constantly confuse or mix ‘form’ with function. Which is understandable, because they do go hand-in-hand and as humans we are preprogrammed to confuse them. Here’s an exercise. What form of government does the USA have? But answer that question WITHOUT ever referencing HOW the USA functions or is structured, then you will indeed discern the authority on which it functions (governs) and is based (given life or empowered). I assure you MJ has not had a BoC/CM charter since 2006.

  14. Let’s see…we got the red queen, bearded Gump, a commitee happy has been that has been shone the door, a dissapointing should have known better talk out one side your mouth vote out the other “former” public servant, a new kid that has the opportunity to stand up and stand out, a lawyer who needs to pull up his big boy pants, and Ed, the lone voice of reason…..sounds like “group” to me.

  15. This Land Is Your Land

    I want all of you to know that I’m disappointed that Jim Bradshaw is following MAYOR ELAM’S

  16. Butch Huber

    She keeps spilling milk along her path.

  17. Butch Huber

    There is an agenda item for the swearing in of Commissioner Maness, but no agenda item for swearing in Commissioner, or should I say, former commissioner, James Bradshaw. Could it be that they woke up and realized that Jim can’t be a commissioner for the city and for the county, too? They should have put a resolution to appoint a new commissioner for Jim’s district. That way, if he doesn’t resign his county commission seat they could just go ahead and fill his vacated seat on our commission. Lost opportunity.

  18. Pop Korn

    At the very least it would have made Bradshaw fish or cut bait.

  19. Doc Cider

    Looking at the lame and wrongheaded argument that the voters wanted their ‘public servants’ in both offices, Bradshaw can probably at least point to a roomful of people who voted for him for both offices and against the amendment. I can point to a roomful of people that voted Elam for assembly and YES on the amendment largely because they want her ample posterior out of that middle chair at city hall. Her ‘overwhelming mandate’ of 32 percent in 2008 percent hardly enables her to claim she is universally loved.

    Bradshaw’s loyal fans aside, both need to choose one office. The numbers make it clear that is what the voters want now and in the future.

  20. Butch Huber

    As I see it, this is the only thing a Judge needs to see.

    5,212 people voted “yes” on the amendment to the charter that disallows an elected official in our government to simultaneously serve in any other capacity as an elected official.

    1,024 people voted for Jim Bradshaw. Even if every single person who voted for Bradshaw were to be queried as to what their vote meant, it still doesn’t override the 5,212 people who do not want to have him, or anyone else, serve in two elected offices at the same time.

    The right choice for Jim is to step down from his office (one or the other) with whatever dignity and grace he has left. If a person cannot discern the will of the voters when they voted so resoundingly against having an elected official in two offices at the same time, well, how will he hear the voters on any other topic.

    “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

    Hmmmm. Seems like I have heard that before….I wonder where?

    If Jim fights and wins, and if he wins on the basis that the people in his district voted for him in spite of the fact that he was already in an elected office on the county court, that pits his district against the rest of the entire city by default. I don’t think that is the case. I think that the results of the election can be interpreted as follows. “Jim, you can keep your seat on the city commission provided you resign your seat on the county commission”.

    It is clear that the people of Jim’s district wanted him as their commissioner more than they wanted Dick Kasnik, but not by much. I think the outcome of this election could be exactly what the voters wanted. If Jim doesn’t step down, the city commission should appoint Dick to fill Jim’s spot on the commission. I think the voter’s of Jim’s district’s priorities are as follows:

    1) I think that the voters of Jim’s district want Jim as their commission, but not while he is still a county commissioner.

    2) If Jim won’t resign from his seat on the county commission they want Dick Kasnik as their city commissioner and Jim as their County Commissioner.

    I don’t think this is so hard to figure out.

    Even if all of the voters of Jim’s district voted for Jim it still wouldn’t override the overwhelming fact that the citizens of this city at large don’t have any desire to have an elected official serve in two offices at the same time. A person would have to be blind AND stupid not to be able to pick up on that one.

    Jim will have to make a decision, county or city. For all you EMS workers, please make sure you are present while Jim makes this decision. I am afraid it will split him right up the middle. Jim isn’t used to making hard decisions ya know. Think about it from Jim’s perspective. He has to decide whether to try to stay in both seats, which likely ends up with him being thrown off the city commission or not re-seated on the city commission, which effectively is the same as if he were to decide just to keep his seat on the county commission, only with much more embarrassment to him… “or”… he can make a decision of whether to stay on the county commission or take his seat on the city commission. I believe the city commission pays more, so I suspect he will eventually choose the city, but only after his head spins around on his shoulders and his eyes pop in and out for some time. The way his face gets when he has to make even a minor difficulty level decision I am afraid he will pop a blood vessel on this one. This could be bad. Heck, he could even self-destruct right there on the spot. Better take pictures so you know where all the pieces go when you are putting him back together.

  21. American Idealist

    Some civic minded citizen with a little extra time and money and needs a little excitement in their life should sue the BoC for willful violation of the city charter. They would win in a court of law. Had the BoC not voted to abuse the court system for the personal benefit two of its members, only Elam and Bradshaw, as individuals, would be in contempt of the charter. As it stands now the whole Board has demonstrated willful contempt of the Charter of MJ. Ed Hagerty of course has grounds to be exonerated.

  22. Matthew 6: 24
    Luke 16:13

    Also try,
    Leviticus 25:43

    Have a safe short week and a great Thanksgiving to all.

  23. NoSider

    FYI, In Chancery Court, the person who presides and makes the ruling is a Chancellor

  24. duly noted.

    artistic license invoked.

  25. Butch Huber

    Linda Elam explained during the last commission meeting that she wasn’t a politician, but that she was instead a public servant. I have included herein the definition of politician provided on Webster’s Dictionary website for your review.

    Definition of POLITICIAN
    : a person experienced in the art or science of government; especially : one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government
    a : a person engaged in party politics as a profession

    b : a person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow usually short-sighted reasons

    Please, someone, tell me which part of that definition doesn’t apply to her?

    She is experienced in the art and the science of government.

    She is actively engaged in conducting the business of a government.

    She is a “Democrat” infiltrator into the “republican” party for the benefit of the “Democrat” cause.

    From what I can tell, politics is now her ONLY profession.

    Finally, didn’t she call then city planner Bobby Franklin and vociferously attempt to get him to remove an agenda item from the technical review committee agenda; an item that was not in the interest of her then secret employer who is a developer with interests in this city?

    Did I miss something?

  26. Glen Linthicum

    Nope………I think you summed it up nicely Butch.

  27. Master Butch,
    What do you think about this?

    Max Weber, considered the founder of modern of public administration and governement descibes those who have chosen the path of public servant to be…
    a. personally free and appointed to their position on the basis of conduct.
    b. an individual that exercises the authority delegated to him/her in accordance to impersonal rules, and his/her loyalty is enlisted on behalf of the faithful execution of his/her official duties.
    c. a person whose appointment and job placement are dependent upon possessed technical qualifications.
    d. someone that must exercise judgement and skill, but whose duty is to place these at the service of a higher authority; ultimately responsible only for the impartial execution of assigned tasks and must sacrifice their own personal judgement if it runs counter to the official duties.
    “I am not a politician”. Well, sister, you ain’t no public servant either.
    It is time for you to go.


  28. Butch Huber


  29. Doc Cider

    Someone who is so blatantly playing the power card, using elected office as a way to enrich themselves, and lying and manipulating as standard operating procedure cannot call themselves a ‘public servant’ without howls of laughter erupting from those watching at home.

  30. Pop Korn

    Elam is quoted in Wilson AM as saying she will leave office ‘sometime in the first quarter of 2011’. According to the state Constitution as researched by Sonny Griffin, that ‘sometime’ is January 1st, or 60 days after the election.

    She is also quoted as saying to Ed Hagerty at the last Commission meeting, ‘I realize…that you would just as soon I walk out the door tonight and never return…’. Ed Hagerty is hardly alone in that sentiment.

  31. Unbelieveable…she’s like political herpes. You try everything and she just won’t go away. And there will be a scar. Bradshaw’s making like alzheimer’s disease…the more it advances, the worse it gets.
    MJ needs its citizens to take up the role of broad spectrum antibiotic and acetylholine.

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