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Published on May 14, 2024
Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert Fights to Dismiss Removal Petition, Claims Standards Not MetSource: Google Street View

Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert has put up her legal dukes in a fight to keep her office, filing a motion this Monday, May 13th to dismiss a removal petition against her. The 22-page defense, outlined in the motion submitted by her attorney, Darrell O'Neal, insists the charges, ranging from financial reporting mishaps to office closures, fail to reach the high bar of "willful or knowing misconduct" required for ouster.

Halbert's team is swinging back, arguing that it takes significantly more than "simple negligence to constitute willful or knowing misconduct." With no criminal charges in play, they contend the attempt to boot her doesn't cut legal muster. "The question is 'whether the acts or actions complained of were done with such indifference or such an entire want of care as would raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences or the law'... mere mistakes in judgment will not suffice," Halbert's motion, first reported by FOX13 Memphis, reads.

According to a Local Memphis report, Halbert has maintained a stance against resignation, stating at a recent press conference, "There is going to be a corrective action plan," before adding to the sense of a fresh start on the horizon. Her attorney echoed this sentiment, asserting that the ouster standards were not met by the allegations and signaling a belief that the legal threshold for removal had not been reached.

Furthermore, "if all of Plaintiff’s allegations against Defendant are taken as true, and all reasonable inferences are given to Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s Petition fails to state a cause of action against Defendant Halbert because at best, its allegations against Defendant are at best simple negligence, mere mistakes in judgment, and good faith efforts to perform her duties as enjoined to her," as the motion to dismiss states, according to the same Local Memphis article. The defense is leveraging every angle, suggesting that the issue may spiral due to lacking resources and a forensic audit that never materialized—a point Halbert emphasized, lamenting the situation at a recent press conference and reinforcing her commitment to not stepping down.

As Halbert's lawyer, Darrell J. O'Neal pointed out to The Commercial Appeal, such ouster attempts are a rarity in Tennessee and usually tied to criminal activities, a circumstance not evident in Halbert's case. He and Halbert, anticipating the litigation road ahead, reserved further commentary during the press briefing. While grappling with the complexities of her position, Wanda Halbert seems steadfast to press forward, armed with a narrative of due diligence against a nudge to upend her commitment to Shelby County's residents.