A judge Tuesday blocked a recall effort against Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, giving the mayor some breathing room while his opponents figure out their next move.
Circuit Judge Jeff Hollingsworth ruled on a number of points and prevented Littlefield's recall from appearing on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Hollingsworth said state law governs the recall process locally and trumps the city's charter, meaning petitioners needed nearly 15,000 valid signatures.
About 9,000 signatures were verified by the Hamilton County Election Commission. The judge also ruled that more than 5,000 of those signatures did not count because they were not dated as required by law.
Recall opponents said the judge's decision came down to a technicality and that they received bad advice from the Hamilton County Election Commission.
Hollingsworth reminded people in the hearing that he was merely settling legal questions raised by Littlefield's suit.
"This is not about whether or not citizens have the right to recall elected officials," Hollingsworth said. "They do. That is clear under the law. This is also not about whether there are grounds to recall Mayor Littlefield. That's not for me to decide."
Hollingsworth found the city of Chattanooga did not change the number of signatures required for a recall after 1997, as required by state law; that means state law became the final word on the number of signatures needed.