The city of Jacksonville filed a motion Monday for the disqualification of trial judge Adrian Soud in a court case challenging the city’s Human Rights Ordinance.
A day later, the Liberty Counsel retorted, filing its own motion impeaching the credibility of the city’s arguments.
The HRO was expanded to include the LGBT community on Feb. 14.
Soon thereafter, what the city calls an “instant lawsuit” was filed by the Liberty Counsel.
And that case challenging the expanded HRO was referred to Judge Soud, whose mother — a former Jacksonville City Council member — was among the most active opponents of the HRO, even holding a press conference on the steps of City Hall expressing opposition.
Ginger Soud and Liberty Counsel lawyer Roger Gannam are directors of a non-profit: the “Jacksonville Alliance,” a pressure group promoting the “application of traditional Christian values.”
Gannam was also presented as a “legal expert” warning against the HRO by Mrs. Soud.
The First Baptist Church opposed HRO expansion — and the Souds are prominent members, with the judge and his father holding trustee positions.
The city fears that Soud cannot, given his associations and his philosophical orientation, rule fairly on the case — thus meriting disqualification.
The Liberty Counsel has a different view, as its own motion indicated.
The city’s motion “identifies no disqualifying relationship between Judge Soud and any person in connection with the matter before the Court, which is the validity of the HRO based on the process of its adoption by the Jacksonville City Council.”
The city filing, claims the Liberty Counsel, “flounders about for rationale, ultimately betting on two relationships as ostensible grounds for disqualification … contortion and misrepresentation to make something out of nothing.”
“With respect to Judge Soud’s mother, the Motion falls far short of establishing any legally cognizable grounds for disqualification. The Motion shows no identifiable economic or legal interest of Ms. Soud that could be substantially affected by this case. The Motion does not contain a single allegation of involvement by Mrs. Soud with the Plaintiff, or in the filing or maintenance of the lawsuit, and does not contain any allegation that Mrs. Soud could receive or lose any remuneration, office, position, or other benefit depending on the outcome of the lawsuit,” the Liberty Counsel asserts.
As well, the Liberty Counsel asserts that allegations of a Ginger Soud/Roger Gannam axis are overblown: “they show only that Ginger Soud and the undersigned were both directors for a Christian nonprofit—not a business—and not more recently than 2014.”
The Liberty Counsel also questions the timeliness of the city’s objection, framing it as a desperate attempt to undermine a judge who should not be precluded from hearing the case.