eli richardson

So much for 6 months: Judge reschedules Phoenix Solutions trial for October 2023

Then-House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) presides over a floor session in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

As part of his request for delaying his trial on public corruption charges, former House Speaker Glen Casada’s attorney asked for putting off proceedings by 180 days, or six months. U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson nearly doubled that time in scheduling the trial to begin on Oct. 3, 2023.

Here’s the order:

Defendant Casada’s Unopposed Motion to Continue Trial Date and Corresponding Deadlines (Doc. No. 24) and Defendant Cothren’s Motion to Continue Trial and to Extend Pretrial Deadlines (Doc. No. 25) are GRANTED. The trial in this case is rescheduled to October 3, 2023 beginning at 9:00 a.m. The pretrial conference is rescheduled to September 22, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. All lawyers who will try the case shall attend the pretrial conference; as indicated below, the time slot for the pretrial conference alternatively may (upon advance notice to the Court) be used as a change-of-plea hearing, but it is not intended to be a status conference and so counsel should plan and prepare accordingly.

All pretrial motions shall be filed no later than six weeks prior to trial. If a party does not meet this deadline, or any later deadline obtained via a timely motion to extend the deadline, it may be deemed to have waived any right to file pretrial motions. A response to a motion shall be filed within fourteen days after the filing of the motion. A reply in support of a motion, should the movant choose to submit one, shall be filed within seven days after the filing of the response.

Speedy Trial Act

The Defendants have filed waivers of speedy trial (Doc. Nos. 24-1 and 25-1, respectively). The Court concludes that the period of delay is reasonable and is excludable under the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161, et seq. The Court specifically finds that the interests of justice served by granting the continuance outweigh the interests of the public and a Defendant in a speedy trial on the date previously scheduled. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(A), (B). The diminished weight of a Defendant’s interest in a speedy trial is reflected by his choice to submit a speedy trial waiver. Moreover, a Defendant is likely to be prejudiced if he is not adequately prepared for trial despite due diligence, and the public interest will not be served if such prejudice ultimately requires this case to be retried.

Change of Plea

Any plea agreement shall be consummated no later than two weeks before the above-stated trial date, and the Courtroom Deputy so notified. Likewise, if a Defendant opts to plead guilty without a plea agreement, the Courtroom Deputy shall be so notified no later than two weeks before the above-stated trial date. If a plea agreement is submitted or if a Defendant opts to plead guilty without a plea agreement, the hearing to take the plea will take place on September 22, 2023 at 9:00 a.m., or at such earlier time as the Court may schedule upon request of the parties.

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Cue the delay game? Cothren attorney seeks extension on motion

Cade Cothren, speaking on phone, attends a meeting with lawmakers and fellow staffers on the balcony outside the House chamber on April 29, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Under federal laws guaranteeing criminal defendants a trial within 70 days of entering a plea, U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson scheduled former state House Speaker Glen Casada and his onetime chief of staff Cade Cothren to start mounting their defense before a jury on Oct. 25.

Richardson ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys to make all pre-trial motions no later than six weeks before the scheduled start of the trial, or by Sept. 13. Cothren’s attorney Cynthia Sherwood on Tuesday asked the judge for a weeklong extension to decide whether she would make a motion for a bill of particulars, or a more detailed accounting by prosecutors about the allegations raised in the indictment.

Cothren and Casada technically have until Oct. 11 to decide whether they will waive their right to a speedy trial. But more motions to extend deadlines on interim filings might lead a decision to be made sooner.

UPDATE: Richardson approved the motion on Wednesday.

Read the lawsuit filed against congressional residency requirements in Tennessee

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Nashville seeking to prevent a state law from going into effect that would impose a three-year residency requirement for congressional candidates in Tennessee. The challenge was filed on behalf of three residents who say they want to vote for Republican Morgan Ortagus in the the open 5th District race. Ortagus has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, but state lawmakers have chafed at her candidacy because she only moved to the state a year ago.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson, who was appointed to the bench by Trump. The lawsuit was filed by the Washington, D.C., law firm Dickinson Wright PLLC.

As frequent offenders when it comes to typos, we wouldn’t ordinarily make a point of highlighting the mistakes of others, but misspelled words in the lawsuit are particularly jarring given their central nature to the arguments presented. They include “Tennesse,” “Represenatives,” “unconstitional” “Repulican,” “impermissably,” “Consitution,” “Congressionl,” and “critreria.” They are replicated within the full text of the complaint below:

BARBRA COLLINS, AMY C. DUDLEY and DONALD J. SOBERY, PLAINTIFFS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE, and TRE HARGETT in his official capacity as Tennessee Secretary of State, DEFENDANTS.)

COMPLAINT

Plaintiffs Barbra Collins (“Collins”), Amy C. Dudley (“Dudley”), and Donald J. Sobery (“Sobery”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), file this Complaint against Defendants State of Tennessee (the “State”) and Tre Hargett (“Hargett”), in his official capacity as Tennessee Secretary of State, (collectively “Defendants”), and allege as follows:

NATURE OF THE ACTION

1. This is a civil action seeking damages and declaratory relief arising under the Qualification Clause of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const. Art. 1 § 2; U.S. Const. Art. 1 § 5. This action challenges the constitutionality of Tennessee Senate Bill 2616/House Bill 2764 (the “Provision”) that imposes an impermissible residency requirement on candidates running for United States Congress Specifically, the Provision requires that a candidate running for United States Congress reside in Tennessee, as well as within the congressional district they seek to represent, for at least three years in order to appear on the primary ballot as a candidate.

2. This Provision will become law unless Governor Bill Lee vetoes the legislation.

3. Under the challenged Provision, an otherwise constitutionally qualified candidate for whom Plaintiffs intend to vote in the Republican primary for the Fifth Congressional District, will be prohibited from running because she has not lived in Tennessee for at least three years. The Provision blatantly violates Article I of the United States Constitution (the “Constitution”) because the Constitution delineates the only qualifications necessary to serve as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and vests with the House of Representatives the exclusive authority to judge the qualifications of its own members.

4. Plaintiffs seek damages and a declaration that the Provision is unconstitutional so that all qualified candidates who wish to run for Congress in the August 4, 2022 primary election may do so.

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