Legal challenge to English Only election not linked to formal opposition

Local attorney filed suit in Chancery Court

A Nashville attorney has filed a suit in Davidson County Chancery Court challenging the constitutionality of the English Only referendum and seeking to prevent a special election from being held on Jan. 22.

The suit was filed Wednesday by Nashville attorney David Randolph Smith on behalf of a legal El Salvadoran immigrant. (Click here to view the document.)

Smith pointed to the fact Mayor Karl Dean has already opposed the proposal to make English the official language of Metro and to say an individual has no right to services in any other language. The English Only initiative has been amended to make an exception for health and safety.

Smith also made mention of the memorializing resolution passed by Metro Council, which encouraged voters to oppose English Only.

Smith referenced a legal memo written by Metro Director of Law Sue Cain in 2007 regarding a similar resolution before Metro Council introduced by Councilman Eric Crafton. Cain’s memo said that resolution, ultimately vetoed by then-Mayor Bill Purcell, was likely to be found unconstitutional.

“The question is, under what circumstances can you enjoin an election?” Smith asked. “My answer is under exceptional circumstances and these are exceptional circumstances.”

Smith said the proposal violates an individual’s right to free speech and to petition the government. The suit says voters have no right to amend the Metro charter in such a way.

Attorney Gregg Ramos, one of the leaders of a coalition called Nashville for Everyone, which opposes English Only, said his group had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

Ramos said organizing efforts against English Only were “going well.”