City Judge Sherry Paty has recused herself in the case against a local pet store, calling an e-mail she received from Mayor Ron Littlefield an attempt to sway her and an "an improper, unethical and perhaps contemptible disregard for the separation of powers."
Judge Paty's action this morning means the case, which began June 15 when the city raided The Pet Company at Hamilton Place Mall, might have to start "from ground zero," a city attorney said.
Judge Paty already has presided over the case for more than two months and was expected to rule this week on whether The Pet Company had treated its animals cruelly and whether it owed the city more than $40,000 for the care of 84 animals as the case was being litigated in court.
Mayor Littlefield last week wrote an open letter to the media, calling justice in the matter "slow" and suggesting that The Pet Company needed to be put out of business for good.
Judge Paty already had ruled that she had no plans to revoke the store's city permit and would defer to state officials as to whether it would keep it's state-issued license to operate. That matter still is pending in the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
Tennessee's Administrative Office of the Courts is expected to appoint a new judge on the case, Judge Paty said this morning.
See tomorrow's Times Free Press for complete details.