A Fulton County judge on Wednesday ordered Secretary of State Brian Kemp to set the Bibb-Monroe county border well south of where its currently marked.
Superior Court Judge Kelly Lee ordered Kemp to use the controversial 2009 survey by Terry Scarborough, which Kemp has rejected multiple times. Monroe County first appealed Kemps rejection to Kemp himself, filed and lost in Fulton County courts, then filed again in Fulton County to win Wednesdays victory.
John Ricketson, a Monroe County resident, attended the hearing and said Lees order shocked attorneys for the state, leaving them stammering like you had taken a baseball bat and slapped them upside the head. It was just that, really. Everybody in the court was just going, Unbelievable.
Ricketson said Lee announced plans to sign an order in the case Wednesday.
Bibb County was not a party to the case, which was fought entirely between Monroe County and the Secretary of States Office, which was represented by the state Attorney Generals Office.
After the ruling, Bibb County officials announced they intended to try to intervene in the case they said they didnt even know existed.
Because we had no notice of these proceedings, we will take immediate steps to intervene prior to the Judge issuing a final order, Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said in a statement.
Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams said he expects the Secretary of State also would appeal any order -- meaning the fight likely will go on for a while.
We expect the county will take whatever actions (are) deemed necessary to have a proper review of any ruling the county deems detrimental. We will exhaust all legal avenues possible, Adams said.
Bibb County and Kemp opposed the Scarborough line, saying it didnt prove where the border actually is. Monroe County favored Scarboroughs proposed line, which would place homes, infrastructure and part of the Bass Pro Shops complex in Monroe County. Taxes from the areas that could become part of Monroe County are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
James Vaughn, an attorney and former Monroe County commission chairman who worked on the border dispute for most of his time in office, said he doesnt know whether the ruling will stand.
I think this is uncharted territory, Vaughn said.
Monroe County Chairman Mike Bilderback, who defeated Vaughn in his re-election bid, had opposed further legal fighting if the most recent court case failed. Bilderback said the county has spent more than $2 million on the case.
We need to be guarded in our excitement now, Bilderback said. Well know in at least 30 days what Kemps going to do. ... I was very, very skeptical of this working, and weve spent so much money. And the taxpayers tolerance for the millions weve spent has reached an end.
The borders definitive location has been questioned since at least the 1940s. Much of the dispute involves disputed ferry locations and a lost survey from shortly after the border was established in 1822.
Lee was the same judge who dismissed the earlier Fulton County Superior Court case, accepting a motion to dismiss by Bibb County.
Ricketson said Lee accused Kemp of not performing his duty in the case. Kemp assigned a special administrative law judge to hear the case as an expert for him but then rejected that judges arguments and conclusions of law. That administrative law judge recommended the Scarborough line be upheld.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.