Hearings continue in Hodges Mine landfill suit
by Jason Lowrey
Nov 07, 2013 | 2364 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Area residents’ fight to stop a planned landfill near Hodges Mine Road continued Wednesday morning as Judge Shepherd Howell allowed a 90-day stay leading up to a December hearing. The next hearing — originally scheduled for Dec. 4, but which could move to Dec. 18 — will consider a dismissal motion from defendants Southern States LLC. The dismissal motion focuses on certain actions and some individual defendants rather than the entire lawsuit.

“Let me say this. Of course this is a very complicated case,” said Howell. “It’s a very complicated issue. The old saying the wheels of justice grind slowly is certainly going to apply here. This is an extraordinary case. The six-month discovery rule is just not going to be applicable here. I can assure all counsel because it’s not going to end right away.”

The hearing itself lasted approximately 23 minutes and saw statements from both Southern States’ defense lawyer and the plaintiffs’ representative Genevieve Frazier. Southern States argued the stay was in place from the dismissal filing earlier in October, whereas Frazier pushed to end the stay in an effort to get to the discovery period and begin looking at witnesses.

Attorney Brandon Bowen was on hand as well to represent Bartow County in the proceedings.

“Southern States, and the individual defendants other than the county, argued the stay was in place and they should not have to do a deposition until that motion to dismiss was ruled upon by the judge. That’s what was argued and that’s what the judge just ruled. The statute does mandate that there’s a 90-day stay from the motion to dismiss, which, therefore, he has to enforce that law and the 90-day stay,” he said.

Bowen added the motion to dismiss came about when Frazier added certain individuals to the defendants list. In turn, Southern States and the individuals filed a motion to dismiss that aspect of the lawsuit.

For the county’s part, Bowen said it was staying neutral.

“The county is neutral on these issues. These are issues that really deal just with the plaintiff and the defendants. The county does not really have a say in these issues,” he said. “The new claims by the plaintiff are not against the county.”

Frazier said the motion to dismiss was an attempt to slow the lawsuit and grind down the plaintiff’s efforts.

“We want to go ahead and start taking depositions. ... We originally filed this complaint May 23 and we still haven’t been able to depose the key players in this case. We’re, you know, we haven’t been able to obtain discovery of key witnesses under cross-examination under oath,” she said.

Even though the county is included as a defendant in the lawsuit, Frazier said county officials were cooperating with efforts to stop the landfill.

“Although we’re suing the county because we need an injunction by the county to prevent them from granting — cooperating and granting the permit,” she said. “They’re also being sued by the other defendants because they’ve agreed not to give a permit unless ordered by a judge to do so.”

Area residents began fighting the landfill earlier this year, claiming the area was inappropriate for the planned construction and demolition landfill. Harry Pugliese, who is involved with Stop the Dump Bartow, said sinkholes and underground aquifers made the site too sensitive for any type of landfill.

“I want to move on, get on with the court case. Let’s stop playing around trying to get out of it,” he said. “We’re not trying to get out of it. We want to move on and get this cleaned up. There are so many other sites that are better than this site.”