Clipped From The Tennessean
68 T d.y. rfcr-r to lWt TH1 TENNESSIAM LOCAL Attorney by filing By KIRK LOCCINS Stuff Writer ' Circuit Judge Marietta Shipley took herself off Nashville lawyer Robert Phillips Turner Jr.'s bitter divorce case last week, after Turner filed' qualifying papers to run Against her in the August general election. But lawyers representing Turner said ..yesterday after another oman judge was assigned to handle his case that he has decided not to oppose Shipley after all. Turner filed a notice yesterday in Circuit Court, saying he doesnt care whether Shipley or Chancellor Carol McCoy hears the remaining issues in his divorce case, which is now in its eighth year. Turner had filed a petition with the Davidson County Election Commission qualifying him to run against Shipley, as an independent, in the August election. Turner, 52, was considered a long shot in the judicial race, because he has not actively practiced law since 1992 and he has received mental disability payments for most of the time since then. He has remained in good standing, however, with state legal discipline officials. Shipley took herself off Turner's case last week when she learned that Turner had filed papers qualifying himself to run against her. LShipley cited a provision of the state's judicial ethics code: "A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Turner said in a court pleading filed in 1994 that his ex-wife boasted that she would be "immune from adverse rulings" so long as a woman judge handled their divorce case. Turner did not respond to messages that a reporter left Friday and yesterday at his home and his office in Green Hills. His long-running divorce case has been marked by disputes over mon- gets judge off case to run against her ey, child visitation, telephone privileges and religious training. He accused his ex-wife, Ginger Dianne Griggs Vooys, 44, of violating a promise that she would raise their two daughters in the Churches of Christ, rather than in the Baptist faith of her childhood. Ginger Vooys, who married Turner in 1980, took the couple's two children and moved into a domestic violence shelter in April 1991. One week later, she filed a request for separate maintenance (a legal step short of divorce) and got a court order restraining Turner from harassing or threatening her or interfering with her custody of their children. Turner then checked into a South Dakota hospital for treatment of depression and other problems, according to court records. The couple attempted to reconcile, but that did not work, and Turner was treated for work addiction and depression in Arizona in mid-1992. Vooys filed for divorce in September 1992. Three therapists who had dealt with the family wrote a joint letter in October 1992 warning that the couple's family situation "has many of the hallmarks of the murder-suicide syndrome." In April 1993, Turner's attending physician certified that he could no longer work as a trial lawyer because of his obsessive-compulsive personality and his predisposition toward depression. Turner's disability insurance carrier began paying him about $12,000 a month in June 1993, and those payments continued until last May, court records show. When Shipley granted the Turners a divorce in 1994 and gave custody of the children to Vooys, the judge ordered Turner to pay his ex-wife $2,000 a month in child support, plus an additional $1,500 a month to go into an educational trust fund for their children. The judge ordered Turner to pay Vooys $1,500 a month in alimony for two to three years, to help her obtain a graduate degree. Shipley also awarded the couple's home on Nichol Lane, at the edge of Belle Meade, to Vooys, but said that Turner could repurchase it for $185,000. The lawyer accepted that offer and posted $185,000 with court officials while he pursued an appeal of Shipley's rulings in the case. Turner filed an affidavit in 1994 in which he said that his "once successful law practice was in ruins as a result of my former wife's false allegations against me." He said then that he hoped to "rebuild my law practice without the hindrances created by my former wife and her vicious, vindictive spirit" Shipley limited Turner's access to his children after one hearing in 1995, saying that he was trying to "control" their lives through the visitation process. "You know, fathers dont generally write their daughters letters every day," the judge told Turner. A three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed most of Shipley's rulings in the Turner case last March. Turner's disability payments ended last May, prompting him to ask for a reduction in his child support obligations. Saying that he "currently has no income," Turner asked Shipley last fall to refer his continuing disputes with his ex-wife over money and child custody questions to a mediator. He said in a motion filed last December that he "is not currently able to practice law," is "living on borrowed funds" and continues to be treated by a psychiatrist, a hypertension specialist, an internist and a counselor. Metro election officials said that Turner meets the qualifications to run for judge because he is more than 30 years old, a longtime resident of Davidson County and a licensed attorney. ; 1 ; '