By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock declined to let another judge preside over a lawsuit against Tupelo Public School District.
Tupelo attorney David Butts asked Aycock to step aside in presiding over a civil lawsuit by former TPSD choral director Calvin Ellis.
Butts said the judge was too close to a school board trustee and, in private legal practice, had represented the Itawamba County Board of Education.
Thursday, in an 11-page opinion, Aycock declined Butts and Ellis’ request, said their concerns were not sufficient “to lead a reasonable person to question the court’s impartiality.”
Aycock heard arguments May 16 on an Ellis motion to step aside.
Tupelo School Board president Beth Stone, who is listed as a party to Ellis’ lawsuit, is married to a man the judge described as her “distant cousin” but says she doubts her ability to recognize the woman in a lineup.
Ellis’ lawsuit seeks damages from TPSD on claims he was wrongfully fired in 2011.
In March, the school district filed a motion asking Aycock to find in its favor without going to trial.
Ellis was fired after a female student’s mother complained about “a prank” on her daughter’s car during an activity for show choir members supervised by Ellis and his wife.
He is now employed by an Alabama school district.