A lawyer for incumbent 1st District Councilman James Brown said Friday a lawsuit filed this week challenging Brown's candidacy was without merit and an 11th-hour attempt to discredit Brown before Tuesday's election.
"It really aggravates me that they did this at the last minute so Mr. Brown has no time to defend himself," said Don Todd, Brown's lawyer. "It's rotten."
A hearing in the case has not been set for Monday.
Brown's name will remain on the ballot.
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On Thursday, Jeremy Law, a lawyer who lives in the 1st District, filed a lawsuit in Fayette Circuit Court alleging 47 of the 133 signatures of voters that Brown filed with his candidacy papers were not valid for several reasons including problems notarizing the signatures. The lawsuit alleges Brown has only 86 of the 100 signatures required to run for office.
The lawsuit alleges two pages of signatures should be tossed because they were not notarized properly. The lawsuit also alleges that several individuals who signed the petition were not registered voters or did not live in the district.
Todd said the problems with notarization of the voter signature pages were not Brown's fault. That was the responsibility of the Fayette County clerk's office. Those errors were clerical in nature, Todd said.
"Mr. Brown did everything that he is supposed to do. There is nothing here that is inappropriate," Todd said.
Christine Trout, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Law, said in court documents and in an interview Friday that it's Brown's responsibility to make sure those signatures were properly notarized.
"Mr. Brown, like every candidate, has the legal responsibility to make sure his nomination papers meet the requirements," Trout said Friday.
Brown, a realtor, was appointed by Mayor Jim Gray to the 1st District Council seat in April after former councilman Chris Ford stepped down to take a position in city government. Brown faces Jim Burton, a small businessman and first-time candidate, on Tuesday. Burton has declined to comment on the case except to say that he is not behind the lawsuit.
The 1st District race is the only Urban County Council race on the ballot Tuesday. Urban County Council races are nonpartisan.
This isn't the first time a lawsuit has been filed challenging the validity of a council candidate's signatures.
It's a tactic that has been used as far back as 2006.
Bill Roberts, a former chairman of the Fayette County Republican Party, filed a lawsuit in 2006 against Julian Beard questioning some of Beard's signatures in the 4th Council District race. Beard won that case and also won the race.
Also in 2006, K.C. Crosbie, who most recently ran as a lieutenant governor candidate on a ticket with Republican Hal Heiner, filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of signatures on the petition of one of her two opponents in a 7th Council District May primary race. Crosbie won that lawsuit — getting one of her opponents off the ballot — and later won the race. In 2012, Councilwoman Jennifer Scutchfield questioned the validity of the signatures of an opponent in the 7th Council District race. The opponent voluntarily withdrew from the race.
In 2014, Michael Stuart filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the signatures on incumbent Councilwoman Shevawn Akers' petition for candidacy. The lawsuit also questioned whether she lived in her district six months prior to the election. A Fayette Circuit Court judge sided with Akers and ruled she met the requirements to run. Akers beat Stuart in the 2nd Council District race in November 2014.
Trout said Friday she could not respond to allegations the timing of the lawsuit was politically motivated. "The case is in court and it would be inappropriate to comment further," Trout said.