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State ex rel. Byrge v. Yeager

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 25, 2015

STATE OF TENNESSEE EX REL LANDLE BYRGE, ET AL.
v.
NICHOLAS JAY YEAGER

Session April 14, 2015.

Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed and Remanded. Direct Appeal from the Chancery Court for Anderson County. No. 14CH6354. Don R. Ash, Judge.

Gregory Brown, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Landle Byrge, Mark DeVol, Ray Hagan, Toby Geren, Barbara Gaspel Gregory, Clyde Cook, Doug Walden, Carnelson V. Terry, John E. Seiber, Larry Ownby, Hal M. Hagan, Phyllis H. Terry, Thomas T. Adams, Jason Stiltner, Virgil L. Rainey, Dennis Pemberton, Charles W. Jackson, Gary L. McLemore, Earl T. McLemore, Jr., John Walker, Darlene Adams, and Tipton J. Garland.

Wade Vance Davies, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Nicholas Jay Yeager.

BRANDON O. GIBSON, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which JOHN W. MCCLARTY, J., and THOMAS R. FRIERSON, II, J., joined.

OPINION

Page 658

BRANDON O. GIBSON, J.

The petitioners filed this action seeking to remove the respondent from the position of county law director of Anderson County pursuant to Tennessee's ouster law, found at Tennessee Code Annotated section 8-47-101. The respondent filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted after concluding that the position of county law director is not a public office subject to the ouster law. On appeal, the petitioners argue that the trial court erred in concluding that the position of county law director is not a public office. Because the county law director is subject to oversight by an advisory committee that may remove him or her at any time with the subsequent approval of the county legislature, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

OPINION

I. Background and Procedural History

In 2006, the General Assembly established the Office of County Law Director for Anderson County, Tennessee by Chapter 77 of the Private Acts of 2006 (the " Private Act" or the " Act" ). 2006 Tenn. Priv. Acts Ch. 77, § 1. The Act provides that " [t]he office will be managed and supervised exclusively by the county law director."

The Act also established a Legal Services Advisory Committee made up of eleven elected officials of Anderson County.[1] The Act directs the advisory committee to assist in development of the office's policies and procedures and to monitor and provide oversight for the office and its director. The Act provides that the advisory committee will " develop the job description and required qualifications for the law director and staff, and will also develop the selection process for the director's position." The Act provides that the advisory committee will, upon a two-thirds majority vote, select and recommend a candidate for final confirmation by a majority vote of the Anderson County legislative body. The Act provides that the advisory commission may terminate the county law director at any time with a two-thirds majority vote followed by two-thirds subsequent approval of the county legislative body.

The Act also sets forth the following parameters for the role of county law director:

SECTION 3. The county law director shall devote his or her full-time legal employment to the duties of the Office of the County Law Director and shall not represent any other clients in the practice of law while holding office as the county law director.
SECTION 4. The law director shall be a licensed Tennessee attorney; graduate of an ABA accredited law school; duly licensed and admitted to practice law in the courts . . . . The Legal Services Advisory Committee is authorized to promulgate and establish additional mandatory job requirements and preferred

Page 659

job requirements for the position . . . .
SECTION 5. The annual salary of the county law director is hereby established at a minimum floor of ninety percent (90%) of the annual salary paid to the Anderson County General Sessions Court judges and shall be payable out of the general funds of Anderson County . . . . The county law director . . . shall be eligible for all employee benefits offered to other Anderson County employees . . . ; and salary adjustments as authorized and approved by the county legislative body.
SECTION 6. It shall be the duty of the county law director of Anderson County to take the oath of office prescribed for other county officials by the county clerk and appropriate to his or her office . . . .
SECTION 7. The duties of the county law director shall include, but are not limited to, the following:
(a) Represent and render legal advice to the county legislative body and all county officials, including, elected and appointed department heads, employees and duly appointed boards, commissions and committees in matters relating to their official work and duties; and
(b) Represent the county in all litigation, whether the county is suing or being sued in all state or federal courts, administrative boards and commissions; and
(c) To meet with the county legislative body at all regular and ...

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