Fifth Circuit Court Judge Barbara Haynes on Monday morning refused to recuse herself from the increasingly contentious convention center condemnation cases.
Haynes rejected a motion filed by attorneys for Tower Investments, requesting she transfer the cases to another judge. Tower's lawyers argued there could be an appearance of a conflict because Haynes' daughter, Amanda Haynes Young, is an attorney at Miller & Martin, the firm representing the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency. Young herself is not part of the team of lawyers on MDHA's case. Her online profile lists her areas of expertise as health care and telecommunications law.
Haynes noted that all of her children as well as her husband, state Sen. Joe Haynes, are attorneys in Middle Tennessee and she carefully constructed a "Chinese wall" to maintain her judicial integrity during her time on the bench.
"I cannot do a job if I recuse myself every time a firm with ties to my children or their friends comes in here. ... I deliberately do not talk to my children about their salaries or who their favorite senior partner is," she said.
Monday's hearing was set to be the first major day of court proceedings in the battle between a handful of landowners and MDHA over eminent-domain claims on SoBro property Metro wants as the home of the convention center. Instead, attorneys on both sides settled into a imbroglio – and eventually an impasse – about when the hearing could proceed.
At issue is the state's takings law, which creates a 30-day "hiatus period" after notice is served on property owners. The statute prohibits "any further action" on the case during the 30-day window. Russ Frasier, representing the owner of the Musicians Hall of Fame, said MDHA violated the prohibition by filing a motion to consolidate the outstanding condemnation cases.
Others argued MDHA had yet to serve lien holders and other "parties with interest" in the case.
Rather than arbitrate what the exact first day was, Haynes set the next court hearing for Dec. 11, saying all parties needed to have their motions and answers filed by then.
Those motions will include MDHA's motion to consolidate. Tower objects to the move, saying its case specifically deserves to be heard on its own. The company claims it has the ability and intent to develop its Fifth Avenue and Demonbreun tract irrespective of the convention center, which the company claims negates MDHA's eminent-domain filing.
MDHA's attorneys said all the cases should be heard together as a matter of "judicial economy," though Haynes pointed out the condemnation cases for LP Field were heard seperately and handled relatively quickly when they were heard more than a decade ago.