Clayton County judge mulls motion to end Lockhart libel case


Mike Gippert


David Lockhart

JONESBORO — Clayton County State Court Judge Linda S. Cowen has taken under advisement a motion for summary judgment in a libel case involving the Forest Park mayor.

Defendant Mike Gippert filed the motion that, if granted, would stop the suit in its judicial tracks. Although Gippert started out defending himself and two other Forest Park residents in filings in Clayton County State Court, they are being represented by Jonesboro attorney Keith Martin.

Martin said Cowen told the parties Wednesday morning that she would take the motion under advisement and issue a ruling soon.

Martin, who started his career as a police officer, was Clayton County Solicitor General from 1988 to 2004, and has been in private practice since then.

Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart is also an attorney and is representing himself in the suit he filed in June against Gippert and Joy Trammel Church and Lenora Dove. Gippert, retired Forest Park Public Works Director, lost a mayoral election to Lockhart Nov. 5.

Lockhart first took office in May after winning an April special election. The following month, at the start of a council meeting, someone left a box of copies of an anonymous two-page document alleging things Lockhart had said or done, with a note reading, “Take one,” taped to it.

Lockhart had the Forest Park Police Department pull the surveillance tapes that recorded activity in front of City Hall to learn the identity of the person who left the documents. The women were readily identifiable and Lockhart sued them within a day or so for libel.

Lockhart denies the totality of the allegations contained within the missive, calling them “lies and cowardice.”

Lockhart added Gippert when he went public in the Clayton News Daily supporting the women. Gippert shrugged off the complaint.

“I am quite proud to be a part of the mayor’s frivolous lawsuit filed against Joy and Lenor for merely leaving information sitting for anyone to read,” stated Gippert in a release in June. “They did not publish the information, nor did I.”

In fact, Gippert went on to state he is surprised that Lockhart is continuing the suit, suggesting the possibility of having witnesses to the alleged comments come forward and establish them as truth, which is a defense to a libel charge.

Among other allegations, the document accused Lockhart of making racial comments during the National Day of Prayer breakfast held at the National Archives in Morrow and even suggested he was involved in discussions regarding the reopening of closed strip clubs in the city. Lockhart has consistently denied the allegations in the unsigned letter.