Sheriff steps up legal attacks

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill and his attorneys have gone on the offensive recently in the state and federal litigation stemming from the personnel actions taken against 27 employees Jan. 3.

Since a judge ruled on March 24 that sheriff employees are protected from dismissal without just cause, Hill's attorneys have appealed the ruling, tried remove the judge who made the decision from that case, and most recently accused the attorney for the fired employees of "judge shopping" in a federal discrimination case.

The legal action on Hill's side is a marked shift from the past three months when Hill was forced to deflect heavy criticism for the firings and their cost to the county.

The recent motion is part of a federal case over which U.S. District Court Judge Charles Moye has presided. Hill's attorney, John Stivarius, says Harlan Miller, the attorney for the sheriff employees, re-filed a federal suit to move the case from another federal court judge Clarence Cooper, who is the only African American judge in the northern district court.

Miller said in his response declaration "Hill's motion is full of half-truths, outright distortions and falsehoods."

"It's absolutely absurd," he said. "They're the one's judge shopping."

Miller said the series of legal attacks driven by Hill's attorneys are an attempt to regain their footing after losing several challenges in the case.

"It's a defensive gesture on their part. Their just trying to strike back a little bit."

Stivarius said Hill is not seeking an African-American judge in the federal case, just the integrity of the law.

"This is not an issue about Judge Moye," he said. "It's about judge shopping a case originally assigned to Judge Cooper."