|Tamara Harris Johnson|
In his petition for a writ of mandamus, Roberson says Jeffco judge Tamara Harris Johnson has been sitting on some motions, without rulings, for roughly 14 months.
From the petition:
The court held a hearing on May 29, 2019, and the hearing lasted about ninety minutes. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Johnson asked the parties to submit additional briefs on various issues . . .
No order was entered, and nothing further was filed until October 16, 2019 – when Balch filed a motion for a status conference because Judge Johnson had not ruled. . .
On December 20, 2019, the Robersons submitted a proposed order, hoping for a decision, but Judge Johnson took no action. As 2019 ended, this case had been under submission for over seven months, but Judge Johnson did not list the case on her Semiannual Report of Matters Under Submission for Six Months or Longer.
Meanwhile, Roberson and his wife/co-plaintiff, Anna, have not been able to conduct any discovery. From the petition:
On December 20, 2019, the Robersons submitted a proposed order, hoping for a decision, but Judge Johnson took no action. As 2019 ended, this case had been under submission for over seven months, but Judge Johnson did not list the case on her Semiannual Report of Matters Under Submission for Six Months or Longer. . . .
As of this filing date, . . . Judge Johnson issued only one order since the hearing on May 29, 2019 – the order denying the Robersons’ motion to recuse her. There is nothing more.
Why would a judge fail to rule on matters before her? That is hard to figure, but she clearly has an "imperative duty" to rule, under the law. From the petition:
Under Alabama law, a delay of more than six months in deciding a matter is presumptively unreasonable. Indeed, every judge must file a report, twice yearly, listing all “matters which have been under submission or advisement for a period of six months or longer.” Ala. Canons Jud. Ethics 3(A)(5). For any “matter or case” listed, “the report shall give ... the reasons for the failure of the judge to decide such matters or cases.” In the last two years, the Court of Civil Appeals has twice ordered judges to rule on matters that had been under submission for six months or less.
Do the Roberson's have a right to action on their motions? There seems to be little doubt about that:
Under the Alabama Constitution, “justice shall be administered without ... delay.” Ala. Const. § 13. The Rules of Civil Procedure secure the right to a “speedy ... determination,” Ala. R. Civ. P. 1(c), and the Canons of Judicial Ethics require a judge to act “promptly.” Ala. Canon Jud. Ethics 3(A)(5).
The Robersons' petition hints that Judge Johnson's inaction is an embarrassment to the justice system:
Judge Johnson has not acted promptly; she has not acted at all. Aside from denying the Robersons’ motion to recuse her, she has not ruled on any motion since May 17, 2019 – when she stayed discovery. This delay is abhorrent to the Alabama Constitution and the administration of justice. The Robersons have a “clear legal right” to a decision in their case, and Judge Johnson has “an imperative duty” to render one.
What a mess has Johnson made of this case? The petition makes it clear:
In summary, almost fourteen months have elapsed since the “first motions” were filed, and Judge Johnson has not ruled on any of those motions. Almost eight months have elapsed since the “second motions” were filed, and again, Judge Johnson has not ruled on any of those motions. The Robersons have a “clear legal right” to a decision from Judge Johnson.
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