KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Elected officials are allowed to move out of their district for an indefinite amount of time as long as they say they're moving temporarily, Chancellor Frank Williams said in Chancery Court on Tuesday.
Loudon County Commissioner Julia Hurley moved out of a house located in her district in 2019 after her election to Loudon County Commission District 2 Seat A. She purchased a new house in District 5 and moved there shortly afterward.
Lawyers arguing on behalf of the State of Tennessee said Hurley's plan was not to return to the house in her district, but instead to sell it.
Their argument centered around a Facebook video in which Hurley said "I'm selling mine and moving to a new one," and testimony from a woman who leased that house in District 2.
That woman told the court on Tuesday that Hurley planned to live in the house located in District 5 and sell the house in her district.
Instead, that woman said Hurley leased her the house for a year, "the plan" was for her to buy the house from Hurley at the end of the lease.
However, in that year, Loudon County Commissioners began asking questions of Hurley, accusing her of making her seat invalid.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation looked into Hurley's move, at the direction of District Attorney General Russell Johnson.
Regardless of whether Hurley intended to sell her house in District 2, Chancellor Williams said Hurley could keep her seat. The Chancellor also said she could have sold the house in her district and moved to another one in District 2.
The court's ruling said it doesn't matter how long she planned to move out of her district, as long as the commissioner said it was temporary. The Chancellor said a preponderance of evidence showed the lawsuit to be moot and dismissed the case.
"The judge applied common sense legal reasoning," said T. Scott Jones, Hurley's lawyer. "He indicated that we had almost even met the burden of clear and convincing evidence, which was a resounding victory for Commissioner Hurley."
DAG Johnson said he thinks the legislature needs to take this issue on and identify a period of time in which leaving their district would lose someone their elected office.