CHATTANOOGA, TN — An investigative journalist suing Gov. Bill Lee for fraud over the COVID-19 state of emergency recently sent demands for four of five state supreme court justices to recuse for prejudice and being too involved in the case to fairly hear his appeal.
David Jonathan Tulis, reporter at 96.9 FM and the NoogaRadio Network, sued Lee and a Hamilton County health official in October 2020 for violating T.C.A. § 68-5-104, the key infectious disease law that requires Lee and health officials to make a determination as to the agent of contagion in an outbreak. No determination has been made, and no isolate found for what is known as SARS-CoV-2.
Tulis’ case began in Hamilton County chancery court, where it was lodged 201 days, an action for writ of mandamus and equity relief due action under state law in days’ time. Though respondents admitted fraud, saying they are not obligated to obey the law, that court issued four dismissal orders. The court of appeals in Knoxville rules Tulis cannot sue Lee, whom it says is immune from mandamus, an extraordinary writ that compels errant officials to obey the law. Three judges say he lacks standing.
Chief target of the 20-page disqualification demand is Roger Page, the chief justice who oversaw Tulis’ arrest Nov. 6, 2021, in Franklin, Tenn., where judges were holding a secret conference. Tulis and radio mid-state station bureau chief Christopher Sapp slipped past trooper security. Tulis forced police to carry him out of the conference room, saying he didn’t have strength to cooperate in an illegal arrest and an illicit trespass charge.
Williamson County general sessions judge M.T. Taylor on Dec. 14, 2021, ruled the arrest had no probable cause. The case has been expunged.
“No observer or neutral outsider could believe that Justice Page is able to give a just and fair ruling after he partially, incompetently, and without due diligence,” Tulis says in the filing, “arranges to violate the law *** through agents and oppress a reporter doing his job by right under federal and state constitutions and under the open meetings act, his right to do so settled as a matter of law.”
Also held up as a source of judicial bias: Page’s signature on orders closing the courts, and his holding a seat on the Tennessee code commission in violation of the constitutional ban on a judge holding “any other office of trust or profit under this state” at Tenn. const. Art. 6, sect. 7.
The motion targets former chief justice Jeff Bivins, who led the judicial branch into violating the constitution in not maintaining open courts, and Justices Holly Kirby and Sharon Lee, who signed the emergency orders and who refused to lift the case out of chancery despite the case being one of “unusual or extraordinary” circumstance due emergency top-level treatment, Tulis says.
“These four judges have as big a role in this state-caused disaster — this experiment in fraud and disaster capitalism — as does Lee,” Tulis says. “The people and the state have a right to a fair hearing.”