Tennessee Republican Party (TRP) Chairman Scott Golden exclusively told The Tennessee Star on Saturday morning, that the TRP will be filing an appeal of Chancery Court Judge Russell Perkins’ ruling ordering Robby Starbuck on the ballot on Monday.
“We’re disappointed with the judge’s ruling, obviously, and we’ll be filing an appeal on Monday,” said Golden.
Disqualified TN-5 candidate Starbuck’s request for an injunction to be placed on the TN-5 ballot was granted on Friday by the judge, who is an elected Democrat.
Starbuck had already been denied once in federal court but this time a Davidson County Chancery Court judge agreed with his motion to be placed on the ballot. In particular, he agreed the claim that the TRP was a state actor and violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act.
Perkins did not grant the injunction based on Starbuck’s breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims.
Judge Perkins’ decision, in effect, makes political parties in Tennessee state agencies.
As one prominent political observer said, “If political parties are subject to open meetings rules as public agencies, then the judge just gave the Nancy Pelosi a say in how the Tennessee Republican Party does business. It is like giving the Colorado Avalanche the ability to have a say in what players the Nashville Predators sign and draft.”
The irony of Judge Perkins’ decision is that on the previous day, a similar case was dismissed from Chancery Court by a different judge and dismissed in 30 minutes.
Curtis Carney, a disqualified candidate for governor, made the same open-meetings claim in that suit against the Tennessee Republican Party that Starbuck did with his, but a different judge took a thirty-minute recess after arguments, returned, and then dismissed his case.
Judge Perkins has a long history of Leftist judicial activism. Recent prominent decisions include his striking down of Nashville’s anti-tax referendum and being part of a three-judge panel that temporarily struck down Tennessee’s State Senate redistricting plan.
Perkins was first appointed to the bench in March of 2008 by former Governor Phil Bredesen to replace former Chancellor Richard Dinkins. He was then reelected in 2014, when he defeated Republican nominee Sabrina Johnson Orr.
Perkins is running for reelection this year. He was recently unopposed in the May 3 Democrat primary and is unopposed in the August general election for Chancery Court judge.
Judge Perkins’ decision was filled with factual errors and often lacked citations of law.
One prominent example is the judge completely erred on the timeline in his finding of fact:
On April 11, 2022, the Party decided that Mr. Starbuck was not a bona fide member of the Republican Party, giving no explanation for this determination. This decision was made in a non-public meeting of the Party’s decisionmakers.
There was no meeting on April 11, which was the day that Starbuck was informed that he was challenged. When a candidate’s bona fide status is challenged and that challenge is verified in accordance with the TRP bylaws and state law, the candidate’s removal is automatic and there is no meeting.
The TRP did not decide anything regarding the TN-5 race or candidate qualifications on April 11. Their decision not to restore Starbuck was made at a meeting on April 19. Perkins later notes that a meeting took place on April 19, but does not reconcile the obvious disconnect.
It is unclear if Judge Perkins understands that under the logic he used to make his decision, the Tennessee Republican Party would had to somehow have had a non-public meeting on April 19 and then somehow travelled back in time to April 11 in order to make a decision that he says violates TOMA.
What was not discussed in the case is that there was a public SEC meeting on April 9, in which the names of challenged candidates were discussed.
The judge, like Starbuck did in his claims, cherry picked a quote or two from the TRP bylaws, but either accidentally or deliberately did not cite the operative clause in full, which says:
Any individual who is vouched for in writing (to the satisfaction of the decision makers defined herein) as a bona fide Republican by an officer of the TRP or a member of the CEC, excluding SEC members, of the County and/or District where said individual resides. The decision makers defined herein may require additional verification that said individual is indeed a bona fide Republican.
Legal observers have told The Star that the TRP has a very strong chance of overturning Perkins’ decision on appeal.
– – –