Commission Approves Legal Fees in Schools Fight

By Bill Dries

A week after they won a major argument in the federal court fight over municipal school districts, Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, Dec. 3, an additional $473,549 from its contingency fund to pay its legal fees in the lawsuit.

And commissioners met with their attorneys privately after Monday’s regular session of the 13-member body.

The commission filed the third-party motion contesting the constitutionality of the state laws permitting the school districts.

U.S. District Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays ruled last week in favor of the commission on one of the three state laws referred to as the “school acts.” The ruling voided all moves that the county’s suburban towns and cities have taken to date in forming such school districts. Mays also ordered them to stop any further moves toward the school districts.

Commissioner Terry Roland requested an unredacted accounting of legal expenses from Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, which has represented the commission in the case.

Shelby County Commissioners have approved an additional $473,549 from its contingency fund to pay its legal fees in the schools lawsuit.

Shelby County Commission chairman Mike Ritz instructed the attorneys not to provide such an accounting because the case is ongoing.

Mays is still considering the fate of the two other state laws in the “school acts.”

Ritz said an unredacted accounting would violate attorney-client confidentiality and give those on the other sides of the case a “roadmap to where we are going.”

Although the commission as a whole filed the third-party motion leading to Mays’ ruling, a vocal minority on the commission object to the legal move.

Meanwhile, commissioners are scheduled to meet again Dec. 17 for two public sessions before the regularly scheduled commission meeting that day. The separate public sessions will be to discuss tax increment financing rules and pre-kindergarten access, according to Ritz.