Our Firm Defeats Sheriff and District Attorney’s Attempt to Remove Our Client’s Hemp Lawsuit to Federal Court

As reported by Law360, our firm has filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff and District Attorney in Columbus, Georgia on behalf of a small business whose stores were illegally raided, and its employees unlawfully arrested, based on law enforcement’s mistaken belief that the stores were selling marijuana rather than hemp products. The case is currently scheduled for an Emergency Injunction Hearing, where we will ask the judge to issue an injunction prohibiting the Sheriff and DA from conducting further raids of our company’s stores.

Predictably, the Sheriff and DA did not like getting sued, and they have vigorously tried to get our case dismissed or otherwise avoid testifying at a hearing, where they risk a judge finding that their conduct was unlawful. Late last year, they filed a motion to dismiss, which the judge has declined to grant.

In a last ditch effort to avoid having to produce their records and testify at the hearing, the Sheriff and DA recently tried to remove the lawsuit to federal court, where they planned on asking the new judge to dismiss the case. They argued that there was federal jurisdiction over the case after the Sheriff referred the case for a federal investigation and tried to claim that this made him a federal officer.

Our firm almost immediately filed a Motion to Remand, asking the judge to send the case back to state court, in front of the original judge, because neither the Sheriff or DA were federal officers, and there was no issue of federal law in this case. Our lawsuit is about whether hemp products are legal under Georgia law (they are). 

As quoted in Law360’s article covering the case:

We believe that the defendants’ removal in this case was improper, as well as untimely,” Thomas D.Church of The Church Law Firm LLC, representing Smokedoctor, told Law360 on Friday. “And whether intentional or not, it hurts our client, who hasn’t been able to reopen without fear of further raids.The removal statutes don’t authorize removal of a case dealing exclusively with state law just because a state case may impact a federal investigation. Our criminal justice system is also a federalist one, where the state and federal governments are separate sovereigns with their own prerogatives.”

Our firm succeeded in getting the case back to state court, as a federal judge recently found that the Sheriff and DA’s attempt to remove the case to federal court was improper. The Honorable Clay Land, the federal judge in Columbus, agreed with almost all of our arguments, and in fact repeated several of them in its order remanding the case to state court. As stated in his order: “The existence of a parallel federal investigation that involves possible violations of federal criminal law, not state law, does not convert an otherwise pure state law cause of action into a federal one.”

Law360 again reached out to our firm for comment in another article they posted about the case:

Smokedoctor’s counsel Tom Church, in an email to Law360 on Wednesday, said Countryman andJackson wanted the case in federal court so they could get another chance at dismissing the matter after a state court rejected an earlier attempt.

The Tuesday ruling “clears the way for us to finally have our hearing for an emergency injunction,where we are going to call the sheriff and other witnesses to testify under oath about their conduct in this case,” Church said. “The defendants have done everything so far in this case to avoid having to testify, and they won’t be able to avoid that now.

To our knowledge, no other law firm in Georgia has as much as experience as The Church Law Firm in representing small business owners of hemp stores against overreaching government officials. Our firm has obtained multiple injunctions against sheriffs and district attorneys who target businesses based on their misinterpretation of Georgia’s hemp laws.

If you or your business have been raided or contacted by law enforcement regarding your sale of hemp products, contact our firm. We’re ready to fight for you.


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