Judicial Candidate Says Opponent Not a Local

     KINGSTON, Tenn. (CN) – The prevailing candidate in a recent circuit court election in East Tennessee did not live in the district long enough to qualify for the office, according to a chancery court complaint.
     Kingston attorney Tom McFarland sued Michael Pemberton, the victor in race, the Roane County Election Commission, and Tennessee Elections Coordinator Mark Goins in Roane County Chancery Court.
     In his lawsuit, McFarland who lost to Pemberton in a race to be 9th District Circuit Court judge, was not a resident of that district for at least a year before the election.
     In order to qualify for the position, he says Pemberton had to be a legal resident of the district – which covers Loudon, Roane, Meigs and Morgan counties – by Aug. 7, 2013. McFarland claims that while Pemberton bought a second home in Roane County in January 2013, his primary residence was in Knox County.
     “Plaintiff alleges that at the time of defendant Pemberton’s purchase of the Roane County property, defendant Pemberton did not intend to make the Roane County property his fixed habitation and/or primary residence,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff alleges that as of the qualification date, upon information and belief, the place of licensing or registration of Pemberton’s personal property was not the Roane County property.”
     McFarland says Pemberton changed his voter registration from Knox County to Roane County in November 2013, more than 100 days after the Aug. 7, 2013 qualification date.
     “Defendant Pemberton did not meet the residency requirements set forth in the Tennessee Constitution that must have been met as of the qualification date,” according to the complaint. “As a result, defendant Pemberton was disqualified from holding the office of Circuit Court Judge for the Ninth Judicial District.”
     Pemberton’s campaign website says he lives in Roane County.
     “I grew up in Roane County and, with the exception of a very short period of time, it has always been my home,” reads his website. “While I have always maintained an apartment, condo or house in Knoxville, due to the long hours I work, I have, with the exception of a very short period of time ending in January 2013, maintained my home in Rockwood, Roane County, Tennessee.”
     Pemberton beat McFarland by just 340 votes last month. McFarland is asking the court to declare the election void.
     He is represented by Matthew Pietsch of Taylor, Pigue, Marchetti & Blair in Nashville.

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