The Court Finds a Friend in the Republican Coalition

Yesterday, attorney Brent Herrin, Counsel for the Georgia Republican Coalition, Inc. filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the ongoing court battle between the Catoosa County Republican Party/Georgia Republican Assembly (GRA) and several candidates who were denied the right to qualify to run in the Republican Primary because the Catoosa County GOP leadership deemed them “not Republican enough.”

Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Don Thompson eventually ordered the Catoosa County Board of Elections to qualify the candidates for the GOP primary ballot and heaped harsh fines for contempt of court on the Catoosa County Republican Party and, individually, its officers. The Party officers avoided incarceration for contempt of court at the time as Judge Thompson deemed they were relying “on [bad] legal advice” from their attorney, GRA President Alex Johnson, who has been advocating a notion that a political party could deny individuals access to the primary ballot through the subjective decision of the party’s leaders. Johnson seems to have found a willing partner for his experiment in tyranny in Catoosa County.

The affront to freedom was not lost on the Georgia Republican Coalition and Herrin as he wrote in the amicus brief, “The Appellants, as a group of party insiders, seeking to limit the choice of the Republican voters, are eerily like the Guardian Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is the body that decides who can and cannot run for public office in Iran.”

In the end, the Republican voters in Catoosa County did defeat in the June 18 runoff (which saw voter turnout a little over 10%) two of the incumbents targeted by the Catoosa Party leadership. County Commission Chairman Larry Black lost to former Commission Chairman Steven Henry and District 3 Commissioner Vanita C. Hullander lost to Richard Tharpe (and even in that election the GRA endorsed candidate, Jimmy Gray, failed to make the runoff). However, the caveat to the GRA’s claims of success is that the election winner, Steven Henry, was also denied the right to qualify by Party leaders making the runoff between two candidates that the Party tried to keep off the ballot.

The final decision in the court battle will rest with the Georgia Supreme Court (though the parties could very well appeal that decision to the United States Supreme Court), but what will a loss mean for the GRA and Alex Johnson? While the GRA has been steadfastly declaring “victory” in every defeat and spinning every court loss into an affront against the US Constitution, there could be serious consequences for Johnson as the principle advocate for the policy enacted by the Catoosa GOP. State Bar Rules are clear that an attorney cannot represent a client where a clear conflict of interest exists.

State Bar Rule 1.7[6] states, “The lawyer’s personal or economic interests should not be permitted to have an adverse effect on representation of a client. See Rules 1.1 and 1.5. If the propriety of a lawyer’s own conduct in a transaction is in serious question, it may be difficult or impossible for the lawyer to give a client objective advice” <emphasis added>.

The Rules also note that, “the maximum penalty for a violation of this rule is disbarment.”

While it does not seem opposing counsel has raised “conflict of interest” as in issue in this case, Judge Thompson’s acknowledgement of the “bad legal advice” goes to the heart of the conflict’s existence. A final disposition of Catoosa’s court case could just mean the beginning for a fight for Johnson to maintain his ability to practice law.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have covered the legal back and forth in numerous articles posted on PeachPundit the Blog and PeachPundit the Podcast if you need to familiarize yourself with the full saga.

5 Replies to “The Court Finds a Friend in the Republican Coalition”

  1. Should not a Party be able to decide if someone running is actually in line with that party…as far as the GOP goes maybe it needs to set up a type of inquisition that will determine if the candidate or elected official is an actual Republican.

    1. The Party members, yes, which includes all voters who identify as a Party. Not 0.001% of Party members. That’s the point of both the Plaintiffs in the case and the amicus filed by the GA Republican Coalition. If you want to limit who can make that decision, lobby for registration by party, like many states already have, but GA doesn’t. I will also point out that in many states that have party registration, party officers, including precinct chairs, are elected in the primary, not by conventions that last 8 hours and require you to give up a whole day.

  2. Jason I know this is pie in the sky but I wish the Republican Party was like the BAATH Party .When I was in Iraq to vote or hold office you had to be chosen by committee to be a member…and then members of the Ba’ath Party voted ,held office and were on the same page.No other Party was allowed…I think for conservatives in the future to save this country we need to go the Franco-Pinochet route with a Republican Party set up like the Baathist.It would be left to conservatives to run the country meanwhile the liberals might scream and holler at 1st but they will ultimately be happier and freeer having been relieved of running the government…I think it’s something conservatives need to consider and hopefully a strong man like Trump will come along only smarter and more ruthless…then conservatives will be able to save the unborn,strengthen America …we will be in a good place

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