"I'm going to enter an order to close the shelter in 10 days," Judge Craig Schwall told a packed courtroom just minutes ago, after two hours of heated arguments by attorneys. Then he called a 20-minute recess and walked back into his chambers even as Task Force lawyer Steve Hall was still calling out his objections.
After years of legal battles and name-calling in the press between the Beatys and seemingly every other organization in town, the judge finally appears unconvinced that the Task Force really has the best interests of the homeless at heart.
"We're the ultimate backstop to saving people's lives," Hall said around the two-hour mark, when he was interrupted by the judge.
"Did you save the lives of Occupy Atlanta when you invited them in? Did you save lives when you took $50,000 salaries?" Schwall asked, referring to the Beatys' paychecks from what appears to be a nonprofit shell corporation bankrolled by the shelter's biggest financial supporter, Coke heir B. Wardlaw (an interesting personality in his own right).
UPDATE — The money quotes are coming fast and furious now that court is back in session:
Judge Schwall: "This is the most acrimonious litigation I've ever seen in my career … and it indicates to me that (the Beatys) can't get along with anybody."
Um, I think he might be on to something there.
Judge Schwall: "I'm not convinced that (the Beatys) have the best interests of the homeless in this city at heart. It's more about power, money, control, revenge and anger."
The judge is now telling the Task Force attorney that he'd like the Beatys to step aside and let the United Way run the shelter.
"Let me ask you," Schwall is saying. "If the United Way has a problem with your client, have you ever thought there might be a problem with them?"
Whoops, here's the final word from the judge: "I'm going to order the Beatys out of the property by noon, Feb. 15, and I'm ordering the shelter be closed by Aug. 31, 2012."
And he's out the door again!
RE-UPDATE: Here's the bottom line from today's fast-paced court hearing. The judge was pissed at the Beatys and their lawyers. Let us now count the ways:
• Because they couldn't come to any kind of agreement with the property owners during a long mediation period.
• Because the Beatys have burned bridges with the neighborhood, city officials, the business community, the United Way and seemingly every other social service provider you can name.
• Because after promising the judge they'd try to work things out with their critics, the Task Force sued Emory University, which operates the former Crawford Long Hospital across Peachtree.
• But mostly, it seems, because the Beatys couldn't resist the media spotlight that came with inviting Occupy Atlanta to take up residence. When Schwall asked, sarcastically I believe, if the Occupiers were homeless, Hall answered, sincerely I believe, that yes, they were homeless! That didn't go over well.
In short, the judge was fed up and ready to wash his hands of the Beatys. Next case!
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