Commissioner candidate involved in out-of-state paternity case

 

Rutherford County Commission candidate Phil Griffin is embroiled in a legal battle with a Mississippi woman over whether he fathered her child and, according to court documents, has skipped five appointments for DNA testing.Two of the court-ordered tests were set up by the Mississippi Department of Human Services in that state and three were to be done in Murfreesboro, documents show. The Mississippi DHS said it would issue no more appointments.A Mississippi judge also allowed Griffins attorney Bill Luckett, now the mayor of Clarksdale, Miss., to drop him as a client because he failed to pay legal fees, would not cooperate with counsel and failed to show up for the five appointments for genetic tests, court documents show.Owner of Griffin Strategies which is handling campaigns for several local candidates, Griffin is running for election to the District 7 County Commission post against Mike Kusch and Moncrief Williams in the Republican primary. The election is Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at precincts countywide.Griffin maintains he is still trying to resolve the issue and accused his former attorney of inadequate representation. He said he received notice for only one of the DNA genetic testing appointments, just one day before it was scheduled, and he was unable to make it.I didnt pay the legal fees because (Luckett) didnt give me notice of those tests, Griffin said.Griffin pointed out that he initiated the process for the genetic testing after his ex-girlfriend accused him of fathering her child. He said he also spent more than $1,000 to start the case.I wouldnt walk out on a child, Griffin said, pointing out he takes care of his son and a nephew. At the same time, Im going to take care of a child thats not mine.Luckett said Friday, however, that Griffin paid him only $500 and that at one point in the process his former client was communicating directly with Mississippi DHS about the tests.Not one time did he express dissatisfaction with our representation, Luckett said.When he owed the law firm some $1,700, according to Luckett, Griffin asked if he could make a partial payment of $500 so the attorney would stay on the case. But Luckett said he declined.Luckett said Griffin was kept fully informed by his office and DHS and that his firm has evidence that DHS notified Griffin three times about testing and that his office notified Griffin two times.Furthermore, Luckett said his office is preparing to file suit against Griffin to obtain the money he owes.A former Mississippi resident, Griffin filed the initial petition for genetic tests Sept. 27, 2011, to determine paternity of the child of Erika Cook, according to court documents. The child was born March 10, 2011.Griffin wanted the court to allow him to advance the costs and require the woman to pay if tests showed he wasnt the childs father, documents show.After Cook didnt answer the initial action, Griffin amended his petition for genetic tests in April 2012, requiring both parties and the child to submit to testing to help the court determine paternity. If testing showed he was the father, he wanted to be awarded legal and physical custody and the woman to pay child support. Alternatively, he wanted equal parenting time, according to documents.The Mississippi Department of Human Services was included in the petition because Cook was receiving state aid. The State Board of Health of Mississippi was brought into the legal matter to change the childs name on the birth certificate to reflect Philip A. Griffin as the father and to change the childs name.Cook missed two hearings on the paternity case in 2012, but after being served with the papers, she filed a counterclaim contending Griffin failed to provide information under oath as required by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. She also said he was not fit to be awarded physical or legal custody and that she was fit to be awarded custody.In the counterclaim, she admitted that Griffin was the childs father and the birth certificate should be amended to reflect his name. But she rejected the idea that the childs last name should be changed to Griffin.Any visitation granted to Griffin should be restricted, she argued, contending Griffin should be ordered to pay child support and back child support, all delivery expenses and past medical bills, medical, dental, orthodontic, optical and pharmaceutical insurance coverage and expenses, life insurance premiums for $100,000 in coverage, educational expenses and extracurricular expenses, including private school tuition and college tuition.Griffin also should be required to pay attorney fees, litigation expenses and court costs, she argued.Griffin then filed a counterclaim to her counterclaim, stating that DNA testing will determine if he is the father. He denied she should be entitled to relief she requested.The court ordered July 20, 2012 that Griffin and the child would submit to DNA paternity testing through the Department of Human Services and that the costs would be paid up front by Griffin.But on March 22, 2013, Luckett requested a court order allowing him to withdraw as Griffins counsel and allow Griffin to retain new counsel or announce his pro se appearance on these grounds:1. Griffin hadnt paid expenses or fees owed to Luckett Tyner Law Firm.2. Despite requests for payment, none were made, and a sizeable balance was due. On May 31, 2013, Luckett asked the court for an order allowing him to withdraw as Griffins counsel for these reasons:1. Failure of Griffin to appear for court-ordered DNA testing, failure to cooperate in litigation, failure to pay expenses and fees.2. The Mississippi Department of Human Services set up five appointments for Griffins DNA test, two in Clarksdale and three in Murfreesboro, and Griffin failed to appear for any of them. DHS said it wouldnt schedule any more.On June 11, 2013, Luckett was allowed by the court to withdraw from representing Griffin, and Griffin was given 20 days to obtain new counsel or enter his appearance pro se with written document.This week, Griffin said he still had not taken the DNA genetic testing because no ones even cooperated on getting the tests scheduled.He called the entire matter politically motivated and argued that documents were given to the media just before Tuesdays Republican primary. Griffin said he ran the campaign of Lucketts opponent in the Clarksdale mayoral race.If tests show he is the father of the Mississippi girl, he would make back payments for support and any other needs.Griffins campaign platform is based on creating open and accessible government and cutting spending while taking care of infrastructure and protecting the salaries and benefits or teachers and emergency responders.

© 2014 The Murfreesboro Post

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