Judge Says He’ll Issue Ruling Friday Regarding Disqualified TN-5 Candidate’s Motion to Get on Ballot

Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Russell Perkins said at the conclusion of a hearing on Thursday that he will issue a ruling Friday on disqualified Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District candidate Robby Starbuck’s motion for injunction.

Starbuck’s legal team hopes that the judge will grant the injunction and put Starbuck on the ballot.

Given that the suit is Newsom vs. TN Republican Party et. al. and the state of Tennessee is not a named party in this matter, it is unclear that, even if the judge looked favorably on the motion, whether granting that injunction would indeed place Starbuck on the August 4 primary ballot.

At a hearing on Thursday morning, Starbuck’s legal team argued in chancery court that the meeting in which the Tennessee Republican Party (TRP) voted to not restore him to the TN-5 GOP primary ballot violated Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act because it was conducted in private.

Starbuck’s team said they believed that the case is straightforward and that the TRP in making the determination was functioning as a “state actor” and was subject to the open meetings law. The State Executive Committee (SEC) “acted like the state primary board,” said one of Starbuck’s legal team members.

After they made the state actor arguments, Starbuck’s team made arguments that the TRP violated its own bylaws and broke promises to Starbuck that were stated in the TRP rules.

Joshua Mullen, the attorney representing the TRP, made the argument that there was no contract with Starbuck, implied or otherwise. He additionally referred to the federal court case in which Judge Waverly Crenshaw said that Starbuck did not have the right to run for public office.

One of Starbuck’s attorneys claimed that his client was a lifelong Republican and “really aspired to be the first Hispanic member of Congress from Tennessee.”

Starbuck’s team claimed that the remedy they are seeking is an order to void the TRP’s instruction to the state of Tennessee.

Perkins asked Starbuck’s lawyers if there was anything in the TRP’s bylaws that dictates the procedures or manner in which the TRP SEC must conduct its meetings regarding the determinations of whether a candidate is bona fide.

Starbuck’s attorneys could not find anything in the bylaws that outlines procedures and could be offered to the judge to answer that question.

When it was Mullen’s turn. He argued that if Starbuck’s motion were to be granted, that it would violate the TRP’s right to freedom of association and cited a number of federal and state cases which he said backed up that idea.

He also described what Starbuck was asking the court to order the TRP to do as “forced political speech” that would violate the party’s First Amendment rights.

A large part of Mullen’s argument on behalf of the TRP had to do with the idea that the chancery court did not have jurisdiction. He also said that Starbuck’s team did not cite a single case showing that the chancery court had jurisdiction.

“Courts don’t get involved in these kinds of private disputes,” he said.

Mullen further argued that the case was debatable on its face, as the deadlines had passed in April and the TRP had no further role to play in the candidate qualification process.

One revelation that came from Mullen’s presentation was that several TN-5 counties had already printed their ballots, including Davidson County.

In his summation, the TRP attorney said that the court has no jurisdiction on this matter and there is no justiciable controversy to be ruled on. He reiterated that the TRP is not a state actor, that granting the injunction would be a “direct violation of the freedom of association,” the TRP bylaws are not a contract, and that the bylaws empower the SEC to determine whether a person is bona fide, “to the satisfaction of the decision makers.”

In contrast to the federal court hearing, which Starbuck lost, the courtroom contained roughly 40 supporters. Starbuck and his wife also attended.

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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected] Follow Aaron on GETTRTwitter, and Parler.
Photo “Robby Starbuck” by Robby Starbuck



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2 Thoughts to “Judge Says He’ll Issue Ruling Friday Regarding Disqualified TN-5 Candidate’s Motion to Get on Ballot”

  1. 83ragtop50

    Mr. Newsom needs to go back to California if he cannot play by the rules. He would fit right back in over there.

  2. Kevin

    Whether it’s a coffee or a politician, Starbucks is over hyped! Why would someone spend so much time and money trying to win something that he can’t possibly win? And frankly, this judge has nothing to say in the matter, we voters do!

    Personally, I think Mr. Starstruck is a shill! Sure get a man-bun toting cubanito to claim he’s all about freedom and stuff, yet a quick check of some of his past video work portrays a MUCH different story! NO THANKS!