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Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 11:34am

Judge's Relations Keeps Case Alive

Updated: 4 years ago.
Savannah's Ellis Square was renovated over several years ending in 2008. An unsightly above-ground parking garage was replaced with underground parking and a public square at street level. Its construction landed the City of Savannah and its contractors in court. (photo Ken Lund)

A former judge's alleged misconduct opens the door to a new trial in a case with millions of dollars on the line for Savannah taxpayers.

The state Supreme Court ruled this week, a judge should have removed himself from the case.

Coweta Chief Judge William Lee resigned in early May amid a state ethics probe into his impartiality.

Last year, he heard a case involving a Savannah parking garage.

The jury ruled that the city owed garage contractors $17 million.

City spokesman Bret Bell says, the ruling stripped an unexpected chunk of change from the city's budget.

"The argument that we made at the very beginning, which is that the trial judge in Troup County should have recused himself, was borne out in the end," Bell says. "This certainly isn't the end of the matter and the legal process really has to play itself out."

The state Supreme Court found, Lee had a relationship with a lawyer for one of the parties in the case.

Lee is one of 10 state judges who have stepped down amid ethics investigations since 2010.

The following time-lapser video tracks the parking garage's construction: