Progressive Christian Academy founder Betty Tolbert is fighting efforts to move her lawsuit over control of the school to a south Georgia courtroom in Pierce County.
In filings this week, Tolberts attorney, Lonzy Edwards, argues its ridiculous to argue the lawsuit shouldnt stay in Bibb County, where Tolbert was harmed and the defendants have an office and are doing business.
One of the defendants, E.T. Strickland, argued last month that no Bibb County defendants had been served and that Pierce County made sense because he had an office there.
Edwards accused Strickland of forum shopping through a brazen attempt to relitigate an issue this court has already decided.
Bibb County Superior Court Judge Edgar Ennis has already decided portions of the case in favor of both sides. Among other things, Ennis ruled the school -- now known as Hope Academy -- had to stop using the name Progressive Christian Academy. Ennis also ordered Tolbert to give up her license to run a preschool in the building, so new owners could apply for a new license.
The ownership itself remains in dispute. Strickland bought the property when it was in foreclosure and said that sale included the business. Tolbert disputes that, and she said in a filing this week that she thought Strickland was just taking possession of the property to continue a business arrangement they had.
Tolberts lawsuit claims she was ousted from the school this summer by Stricklands hand-picked agent, Christina Hawkins, who is also known as Christina Perera. The presence of Hawkins -- a convicted felon serving probation -- launched a state investigation that led to the preschool portion of the private school getting shut down. Other grade-levels remain at the private school.
Hawkins remains the owner of a Bibb County house, which she didnt declare in a federal foreclosure filing. She was dropped from Tolberts lawsuit because of the foreclosure case, which has been thrown out of federal court because Hawkins didnt show up. She has since been declared a fugitive by Floridas probation department.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.