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New hearing on Pemberton residency case

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By Damon Lawrence

The judge assigned to the Mike Pemberton candidacy case will hold a hearing in Roane County Chancery Court on Thursday at 9:30 a.m., according to Clerk and Master Shannon Conley.

Pemberton faces Tom McFarland in the race for circuit court judge of the 9th Judicial District, which consists of Roane, Loudon, Meigs and Morgan counties.

Chattanooga attorney Wes Kliner filed a complaint last month on behalf of Kingston resident Willis Hall, contesting the Roane County Election Commission’s decision to put Pemberton on the ballot.

Hall contends Pemberton shouldn’t be on the ballot because he doesn’t meet the residency requirements to run for judge.

The election commission, which ruled that Pemberton was a resident, and Pemberton are defendants in the case.

Pemberton attorneys Polk and Pat Cooley have asked for Hall’s complaint to be dismissed.

Gary R. Wade, the chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, appointed Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell to hear the case.

Roane County Administrator of Elections Charles Holiway said the ballots his office sends out to members of the military won’t be impacted if Cantrell issues a ruling on Thursday.

“If he doesn’t, by next week we will have to go ahead and prepare to print the ballots, and we’ve been instructed to go ahead and print the ballots with Mr. Pemberton’s name on it,” Holiway said. “Then if the judge rules that his name should be removed or anything, those votes won’t count, but we can’t program our machines or anything like that. These will just be the ballots we send out to the military and such, which will be very few.”

Holiway said ballots are supposed to be sent to members of the military on June 23.

“Hopefully, he’s going to make a ruling on Thursday, and this will bring an end to the case,” Holiway said.

Kliner and McFarland went to law school together, and Hall is a former McFarland client.

Pat Cooley has accused McFarland of being behind the effort to get Pemberton off the ballot. McFarland has denied those claims.

Pemberton is seeking a prompt resolution of the case because of the upcoming election.

“The Roane County Election Commission voted unanimously to place my name on the ballot, because I’m clearly a qualified resident of the district,” he said last month.