Is Mableton Lawyering Up with Judge Melton and Attorney O’Dell?
During the recent meeting of the Mableton City Council, the lawsuit against Mableton was not on the agenda but many speculate it was discussed when the Mayor and City Council moved to Executive Session.
Some are speculating it will be the big guns that will be defending Mableton in the lawsuit filed in Cobb Superior Court in May by five Mableton residents, also know as de-annexers, who claim the legislation which enabled the creation of the city is unconstitutional.
Former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court Troutman Pepper attorney Judge Harold Melton and Marietta attorney Justin O’Dell were in attendance and joined the Mayor and Council for a lengthy executive session.
Although he did not comment directly on the lawsuit, Mayor Michael Owens said Melton and O’Dell’s presence “shows just how serious we’re taking this lawsuit.” Owens pointed to the Georgia House and Senate that approved the bill allowing for a public referendum to create the city and Gov. Brian Kemp who signed that bill into law before the public voted to create the city last fall.
Owens went on to say, “So declaring now at this point in time that it’s unconstitutional, and the ramifications is it completely dissolves the city and negates the will of the voters, is something that we have to take very seriously.” Owens knows that it is the mayor’s job to protect the city and that with this lawsuit, they are attempting to declare the city unconstitutional, “which is why you saw who you saw tonight.”
Owens went on to say that the city of Mableton had nothing to do with the creation of this bill nor the governor signing off on it. He also opined that you cannot stop people from filing suit saying, “This is the first time we’ve been sued. But I’m certain it won’t be the last.”
Said Owens, “I think anyone you would ask would say you have to go get counsel to represent yourself. The fate of the city, the voice of thousands of voters, and people’s livelihoods as a city depends on the outcome of this case. So no, it’s not one we’re going to take lightly. We’re going to at some point retain the absolute best representation that we can to ensure that the city continues to exist, because we don’t feel that any wrongdoing has been done.”
The lawsuit was filed by Mableton residents Deidre White, Ronnie Blue, Judy King, Tanya Leake and Robert Swarthout. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of House Bill 839, calling the law “unconstitutional and fatally defective.”
The lawsuit alleges the bill is unconstitutional because it created both the city and community improvement districts. The suit asks the court for a declaratory judgment ruling that HB 839, and thus, the city is void.
As Mayor, Owens said he has not yet been served with the lawsuit. When he is, the city will have 30 days to respond.
About Justice Melton
Justice Melton provides actionable insights for clients involved in appellate, state attorneys general, and commercial litigation matters. He served for 16 years as a justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia and resigned as chief justice in 2021 following his appointment in 2018. Prior to leading Georgia’s judicial branch, Justice Melton served as executive counsel to Governor Sonny Perdue and as an assistant attorney general in the office of the attorney general in the Georgia Department of Law where he also led the Consumer Protection Section for four years. Justice Melton is experienced in a wide cross-section of complex litigation and regulatory matters. He led the administration of Georgia’s tobacco settlement as well as the creation of the Georgia Lottery Corporation.
About Justin O’Dell
Justin O’Dell has been actively practicing law in Georgia since 2002. O’Dell has litigated bench and jury cases in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, and in the various Superior, State, Probate and Juvenile Courts of Metro Atlanta, Georgia. O’Dell has a broad range of practice areas, including but not limited to business and civil litigation disputes, family law matters, probate litigation and property litigation. He has also litigated consumer cases involving personal injury, wrongful foreclosure, wrongful eviction, breach of fiduciary duty and defective construction. He has also successfully represented residential and commercial property owners facing claims of eminent domain. Mr. O’Dell has successfully handled each of the last three election disputes in Cobb County.