Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line to give updates on the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act referendum.
At the top of the third hour, Roberts explained how the Metro government has gone out of their way to suppress voter rights in Nashville by ushering in a former Supreme Court justice and the former Attorney General. He also noted that Metro legal brought in a former Supreme Court Justice and the former Attorney General to get involved to aid in suppressing the Nashville voters’ rights.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by our good friend attorney Jim Roberts. Jim, good morning.
Roberts: Good morning to you.
Leahy: You’ve had a busy week. You represent the 4 Good Government and the folks that want to get the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act referendum on the ballot. It’s in litigation in the Court of Chancery. What has this week been like?
Roberts: Well, it’s been pretty tough. Metro is pulled out all the stops to try to stop this and to keep the people from being even able to vote on it. They hired a former Supreme Court Justice and the former Attorney General was involved. And I mean they have gone to whatever lengths possible to suppress the voters rights.
Leahy: And so is the case now before the judge? Have all the arguments been made?
Roberts: Yes. We had a trial on Monday and Tuesday and we did closing arguments the next day. And we filed the briefs yesterday. And it is done. It is in her hands. And she has said that she would rule by November third because the election commission meets on the fourth. And depending on what she rules they may or may not have something to do.
Carmichael: Was that the city’s legal argument?
Roberts: Well, basically they argued that the court should adopt a standard that’s never been used before in Tennessee, but has been used in other states. And they sort of went along on that and they basically said that this court should, pre-election, do a complete analysis of all the different aspects of the law and the effect it would have.
That is simply not the law in Tennessee currently. And we are pushing very hard to tell the judge that her responsibility is not to make law. That’s the appellate courts. But they are desperate. It is clear to me from the testimony of the lawyers that they are just absolutely desperate to keep this from going to a vote.
Carmichael: Jim, let me ask you a question because a lot of times local governments, and this is true in Tennessee, especially because I’ve seen it happen. Local governments, and Nashville is one of them, have passed laws that apply to the city and then the state legislature when they come back into session and they pass a law that overrides it.
Would another course of action be that if if all of a sudden our judiciary and now we’re talking about going all the way up to and I guess including the Supreme Court if the Supreme Court adopted laws that apply to other states and pulled it into our own state in the absence of any constitutional law or statutes, would one of your paths be to go to the state legislature and have the state legislature pass legislation that says that cities have to live with their Charter and be very specific about it?
Roberts: One of the things that we may do. The legislature has very clearly set out the way the tax rates are set. Even the attorney general, not this one. That was a trial. But another one had said that the way that the Tennessee law reads is that the people can affect property tax rates by referendum. And Metros is just ignoring that. The Tennessee law is not super clear and we may go back to the legislature in the spring and just say hey, can you clarify this?
Even though everyone seems to or knew what it meant right up until about last week. Metro has taken the position that it doesn’t apply to them and it does. And we may see some clarification there. We’ve got several ideas. I mean, we’re not something I don’t think our judge is going to rule against us because we think we’re right and that they shouldn’t bring new law into Nashville especially after 27,000 people have asked for this to be on the ballot to change the rules. And to change the law afterward is really not right.
Leahy: So their argument in court was that Tennessee should not be governed by Tennessee law but by laws of other states. Do I have that right?
Roberts: That’s pretty much a good way of saying it. There was a case from West Virginia that said exactly what they wanted it to say. And so they kept saying to the judge basically you need to apply West Virginia law. Here’s a case that shows good reasoning and you should follow their reasoning.
Leahy: So she should follow West Virginia law. I’m sure you mentioned in the constitution, we have a concept called federalism where the state governments are sovereign in their areas of the state. That was a logical argument I would guess, right?
Roberts: Absolutely and we argued that. We made it very clear on this West Virginia case that was cited and it was cited for a very specific legal principle that is inconsistent with Tennessee law and it had some other things. And Metro was trying to say oh, well the Supreme Court met these other things that didn’t.
Leahy: So Jim, I guess Mayor Cooper wants us to be Nashville-West Virginia apparently.
Roberts: (Laughs) Mayor Cooper wants to pat us on the head and tell us to shut up and go home.
Listen to the full third hour here:
– – –
Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Background Photo “Davidson Courthouse” by Michael Rivera CC BY-SA 4.0.