Court hearing postponed

By Justin Boron

Both parties in a federal lawsuit involving Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill's dismissal and treatment of 27 sheriff deputies agreed to postpone the hearing scheduled for Thursday until the judge can decide how to deal with accusations that Hill has continued to retaliate against the employees.

A consent order to be drawn up by the judge would assuage the litigating tension until the question of the sheriff employees' civil service protection can be determined in Superior Court later next week, said Harlan Miller, the attorney for the 27 employees fired by Hill on Jan. 3.

The hearing, originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m., was prompted by a court filing by Miller that alleges the sheriff admonished his clients unnecessarily and narrowed their authority in the face of U.S. District Court Judge Charles Moye's order prohibiting retaliation.

Hill said he has not retaliated.

While Miller could not speculate on what specifically the order would contain, he said he didn't expect it to favor one side or the other.

"It will be very neutral in terms of what is going on," he said.

Court officials and attorneys expect the order to be made public in the coming days.

The civil service question may play an important role in the federal suit because it would nail down whether Hill has a legal right to hire and fire sheriff employees without providing just cause.

The Clayton County Civil Service Act, which sheriff employees have been operating under for more than three decades,

He has maintained that employees were never formally placed under the act.

Superior Court Judge Ben Miller is scheduled to hear the case.

Judge Miller found Hill in contempt of court February and ordered him to restore the positions of the fired employees.