DIAMONDHEAD, MS (WLOX) - The case involving the incorporation of Diamondhead will likely pick up where it started, according to one legal expert.
After months of waiting for a decision, both sides in the incorporation battle now face another delay with the death of Judge Kennie Middleton. The chancery court judge from Natchez died of a heart attack last Thursday.
Gulfport attorney Michael Crosby told WLOX News that another judge will first have to be appointed, because local judges recused themselves fearing a conflict of interest.
"Both sides will meet with the new judge and figure out whether the judge should start fresh or just read through the transcripts of testimony from the previous hearing," Crosby said.
Crosby went on to say that since neither side knew which way the judge was leaning, those involved may be willing to pick up where they left off, instead of starting the case over.
Chuck Ingram is a vocal leader of incorporation and was made the interim mayor of Diamondhead. An interim mayor and council were appointed in Diamondhead provided the judge ruled in favor Diamondhead becoming a city. Right now, the group has no authority.
After hearing the news about Judge Middleton, Ingram said, at this point, he's in wait and see mode.
"We don't know at this time," Ingram said. "It's in the courts. That's where it is and that's where it's going to stay."
On the opposing side, people like Tom Leader hope they'll have the opportunity to revisit issues from the previous hearing.
"Hopefully, we'll have the opportunity to present our objection to the legality of the filing, an objection that was never allowed to be entered in the first case," Leader said.
Opponents object to the filing because they claim dues from Diamondhead's Property Owners Association were used in the trial without their permission.
Amid the uncertainty, those involved recognize there is a larger, more immediate issue right now.
"We are very saddened by the passing of Judge Middleton and our sympathy goes out to his family," Ingram said.
Those in favor of incorporation said they will likely meet with their lawyer, Jerry Mills, in the coming week.