CLAY COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — The defense team representing Jeffrey C. Lyde, the currently suspended sheriff of Clay County with a pending case to remove him from office entirely, has filed a motion requesting to vacate his temporary suspension and dismiss the case altogether.
Lyde was placed on temporary suspension while the petition to remove him from office proceeded in February 2023 by Judge Lee Gabriel. During his temporary suspension, Sidney “Kirk” Horton was chosen to be the interim sheriff of Clay County.
Since Lyde took office in 2021, he’s been indicted on seven charges, including five counts of official oppression and two counts of tampering with evidence.
The motion by the defense to vacate Lyde’s temporary suspension and dismiss the case was filed on Thursday, May 18, 2023, and represents the first major development in the removal case since Lyde was placed on temporary suspension in February 2023.
Grounds for the defense’s motion
According to the motion, filed on Thursday, May 18, 2023, with the Clay County District Clerk by Lyde’s defense attorney Randall Moore, the basis for vacating the order and dismissing the case is a failure by the prosecution to strictly comply with the provisions of Chapter 87 Texas Local Government Code regarding the removal of elected officials from office.
The defense alleges in the motion that “The Court never had subject matter jurisdiction due to multiple defects in the form of the Petition to Remove, in the filing of the Petition to Remove, and in the citation of the Petition to Remove.”
The motion said that by law, procedures in a removal hearing must be strictly followed and where the law doesn’t provide remedies for failing to do so, there are none.
The defense’s motion alleges that unless a section of the law lists what should be done in a situation where a statute or law is not followed by the letter of the law, the order and case should be dismissed.
Defects in the petition to remove Lyde
Lyde’s defense team then alleges in the motion a handful of “defects” in the petition to remove Lyde that don’t strictly adhere to Chapter 87, including:
- The petition was not styled properly
- The petitioner filed the petition with the District Clerk and not the District Judge
- District Judge was never petitioned for and never signed or issued an order of citation as required
- District Judge never “required the Petitioners to post security for costs in the manner provided for in other cases”
Citing records from Clay County, the motion then alleges that based on these criteria, the petition to remove Lyde was technically not filed correctly and that the court may not take action until the order of citation signed by the judge is granted and entered into court minutes.
Improper verification of petition to remove Lyde
The motion then cites improper verification as grounds for the order suspending Lyde to be vacated and the case to remove him from office to be dismissed.
According to the motion, an amended petition for removal was filed on February 6, 2023, and though it is signed by both Petitioner Frank Douthitt and 97th District Attorney Casey Hall, neither of them verified the petition.
The motion said that failing to comply with the verification requirements in Chapter 87 violates the strict compliance mandate, and as a result, the court never had jurisdiction to take any action in the matter.
The defense team for Lyde then alleges in the motion that several other motions filed by the prosecution were not properly verified.
According to allegations made in the motion, since an amended petition vacates the original petition, and the amended petition was not properly verified “at or before the filing”, it is then void.
Improper participation of Attorney Frank Douthitt
According to the motion filed by Lyde’s defense attorney, the order to temporarily suspend Lyde is void because Petitioner Frank Douthitt “was allowed to participate as an attorney in the removal proceedings “when he had no standing to do so”.
Moore said in the motion that the Texas court case Johnson v. Mooney from 1922 holds that a removal petition can only be brought by the State of Texas.
Moore also cited the Texas court case Garcia v. Laughlin from 1955, which states that “Individual citizens have no private interest distinguishable from the public as a whole and have no right to maintain an ouster suit without being joined by a proper state official.”
The motion alleges that since Douthit was both named in the petition and allowed to actively participate in the temporary suspension hearing, despite objections made by the defense, additional defects were injected into the case and compliance with existing statutes did not occur.
According to the motion, Douthitt had no private cause of action and therefore lacked standing to participate in the hearing.
The motion stated that since “Douthitt had no standing to participate as an attorney, the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the motion on the temporary suspension, which voids the order resulting from the hearing.”
Improper evidence admitted during hearing
The motion continued, stating that the State, represented by Hall, was allowed to introduce evidence on matters not specifically contained in the pleadings “over multiple objections to same by Respondent’s counsel.”
The motion alleged that “the court relied upon vague pleading in allowing the State and Douthitt to introduce evidence not specifically pled,” and that by allowing this to happen, the Court denied Lyde the right of notice of the charges against him.
According to the motion, this violated Lyde’s right to strict pleadings under Chapter 87 and thereby voids the order.
The motion concludes by stating “the Court lacked and still lacks jurisdiction to take any action”, and therefore all actions taken thus far in the petition to remove Lyde from office are void.
As of the publication of this story, no hearings are currently set in the case to remove Lyde from office.
This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates on the case to remove Jeff Lyde as the Sheriff of Clay County as more information becomes available.