Judge Tain Kell issued a recusal order late Tuesday afternoon, explaining that he wanted to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
“Our legal system is based on the principle an independent, fair and competent judiciary will interpret and apply the laws that govern us,” reads the recusal order. “The role of the judiciary is central to American concepts of justice and the rule of law.”
Kell is a board member of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. Chamber Vice President Brooks Mathis helped lead the group’s efforts to draw the baseball franchise to Cobb. The bond hearing is set for July 7, with Judge Robert Leonard presiding in place of Kell.
“While the court is unaware of any party to this action having moved the undersigned judge to recuse himself, the court believes that it is of utmost importance that any hint of impropriety or partiality with respect to the judicial officer who hears the case be taken into consideration,” the order reads.
Kell initially declared the possible conflict of interest June 24. The order also mentions the court’s duty to instill public confidence in the judicial system.
Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds said Kell is simply showing an abundance of caution.
“I don’t think there was anything improper about his honor hearing the case,” he said.
Reynolds said Kell is trying to make sure it doesn’t appear he has a conflict in the case.
“I think (Judge Kell) felt as if the court has an obligation to avoid not only actual impropriety, but the appearance of it,” Reynolds said. “Based on what he considered to be something that may arguably appear to be improper, he felt the best course of action was to recuse himself.”
The process by which bonds are validated in Georgia involves a required lawsuit.
“The Legislature has decided there has to be a party to file suit against the entity seeking the bond validation, and that process allows anyone with any interest in the subject to weigh in,” Reynolds said.
The public will get the chance to file documents in the suit before it’s decided, at which point Reynolds said the DA’s office won’t be involved any more.
Reynolds said previously the state probably wrote the law to keep the bond process uniform among all ofGeorgia’s court circuits.
Kevin Moore, of Moore Ingram Johnson and Steele, is representing the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority, the agency that will issue the bonds to finance the stadium’s construction.
Under Georgia law, Reynolds is bringing suit against the Exhibit Hall Authority on behalf of the state.
Reynolds said he’s confident in Leonard’s abilities.
“He’s a fine judge,” Reynolds said. “He’s a bright, intelligent young man.”