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Annexation objectors will continue appeal

Objectors to the city’s annexation of 14.4 square miles ofcounty land met Tuesday night to hear an explanation of the appealsprocess and to determine whether to push forward with their plansto oppose the city’s action.

Objectors voted unanimously to continue with their plan toappeal the annexation.

Approximately 40 people attended the meeting to hear T. JacksonLyons, a Jackson attorney specializing in appeals cases. Lyons didnot discuss strategy at the meeting, but he did explain the appealsprocess. Lyons donated his time for the meeting.

“He won’t be able to answer questions about us specifically,because he hasn’t studied our case yet. We haven’t hired him yet,”said Sandra Gerald, who is spearheading the objectors’ efforts.

Gerald is among more than 200 objectors who challenged thecity’s ability to meet annexation obligations during a trial lastyear and earlier this year. Following the trial, a specialchancellor awarded Brookhaven the authority to annex 14.4 squaremiles of territory.

The city had sought a 16.6 square-mile area, but portions westof Interstate 55 and a private landowner’s property in thenortheast corner were excluded. The 14.4 square-mile approvedannexation area would almost triple the city’s current 7.3 squaremiles to 21.7 square miles.

A court order on the approved annexation is circulating amongattorneys and the judge for their signatures. Once the order isreturned to the Lincoln County Chancery Clerk’s Office, theannexation will take effect within 10 days and objectors will have30 days to file an appeal.

Lyons recommended objectors not wait the full 30 days to file anappeal, as they planned, because statutes favored a quick response.Within the first 10 days, he said, objectors can file an appealwith a $500 bond that would “act as a stay, and the judgment cannotbe enforced until the final judgment.”

Once outside the 10-day window, Lyons said, it is much moredifficult – and expensive – to obtain a stay because the city wouldhave begun to provide services as required by law.

According to Lyons, annexation cases are directed to the stateSupreme Court, where staff members review the case and recommendthat either the Supreme Court keep it or divert it to the Court ofAppeals.

“I’m not aware of any annexation case in the 12 years since theycreated the Court of Appeals that has left the Supreme Court,” hesaid. “They seem to feel annexation is sufficiently important thatit requires the judgment of the state’s highest court.”

He also warned objectors about raising their hopes of having theannexation overturned.

“Appellate courts aren’t there to give you a second chance.Sorry. They are there to correct errors in fact,” he said.

Lyons added, however, that it is within the court’s authority tooverturn a lower court’s decision, provided there is sufficientdiscrepancies in the ruling.

Before making their final decision, Lyons recommended the grouphire an appellate lawyer to review the case and make arecommendation on whether there are sufficient grounds for anappeal.

He also cautioned those in attendance to be aware thattwo-thirds to three-quarters of appellate civil cases are generallyupheld by the Supreme Court. He also said the court rarelycompletely overturns a lower court’s ruling.

Gerald reassured the attendees that they do appear to have acase.

“There are a couple of things in a couple of areas that I havediscussed with some people, and we feel like we do have some thingsto argue,” she said. “We do have an appeal.”

When questioned about the costs of an appeal, Lyons said hecould not answer that clearly. Certain costs, such as the courttranscripts, can be set and planned for, but other costs, such aslawyer’s fees, could not be accurately estimated because they arebased on time.

He indicated, however, that the objectors appeared to be workingon a reasonable cost assumption. Objectors are trying to raise$20,000-$25,000 for their appeal.

“My understanding is that you are working from a pretty clearestimate of the cost provided by the court reporter,” he said,adding that the court reporter should be aware of the set costsinvolved in the case.

Gerald said the objectors do have enough money raised to beginthe appeal process and get it filed within the first 10 days afterthe final ruling. However, she urged them to continue theirfund-raising efforts.

Part of those efforts, she said, could be to volunteer for afish fry fund-raiser scheduled for Aug. 12. Those who cannot affordto contribute monetarily could help by offering their services forticket sales or to work the booth that day, she said.

Objectors have also obtained a post office box to receivedonations. People willing to mail in contributions should send acheck to Citizens Against Annexation, P.O. Box 3662, Brookhaven MS,39603.