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Judge: Order on Northway stands

POSTED: August 29, 2011 7:09 p.m.

An Ogeechee Judicial Circuit judge has ruled again that Jeff Northway cannot re-take his seat as mayor of Springfield.

Judge William Woodrum issued his order Monday afternoon, ruling on an injunction sought by council members Troy Allen, Jeff Ambrose, Charles Hinely and Butch Kieffer. Judge Woodrum agreed with Northway that an injunction was not appropriate and dismissed the petition for temporary and permanent injunction.

However, the judge determined the order he filed Aug. 1 in favor of the council members seeking Northway’s removal from office is self-executing and Northway’s appeal of the decision does not supersede the order.

“As the order removed the respondent from office, pending appeal, he is prohibited from participating as mayor in matters pertaining to the city of Springfield,” Judge Woodrum wrote.

The judge added the city cannot bar Northway from taking part in city council meetings as a private citizen and he also prohibited the city from holding a special election to fill the vacant seat until a final determination is made on Northway’s appeal.

Judge Woodrum made his initial ruling following a three-day trial in early July. Northway filed an appeal Aug. 4, and council members sought an injunction stopping Northway from acting as mayor, pending his appeal. Council members argued that in removing Northway as mayor, the court already had found that Northway was acting against the city’s best interest.“In the present matter, however, the petitioners are not seeking the Court to modify or alter the August 1, 2011, order,” Judge Woodrum wrote. “The order found proper grounds upon which to remove (Northway) from office and the Court finds that the same was self-executing upon being filed with the Effingham County Clerk of Court. … A judgment removing one from office has been held to be self-executing.”

A self-executing judgment, Judge Woodrum continued, requires no affirmative action from the court or action under process issued by the court. Judge Woodrum said state law is silent on the effect of supersedeas — an order from a higher court commanding a lower court to suspend a proceeding — on a self-executing judgment, “other jurisdictions hold that when a judgment removing an elected official from office is rendered, the result is the removal of the then tenant office, and the party thus ousted is divested of all official authority so long as the judgment remains in force.”

Northway, upon advice from his attorney, resumed his seat as mayor for the Aug. 9 Springfield City Council meeting.

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