Lawsuit filed against Dyer County Chancery Court Clerk, others

DYERSBURG, Tenn. — The chancery court clerk for Dyer County is facing a lawsuit after being accused of violating a parent’s constitutional rights.

It stems from when the plaintiff, Raymond Cass Ballard, took the mother of his child to court for violating their parenting plan in 2014.

“Nothing about this case makes sense," said Kathie Dowding, Ballard's partner.

For years now, Dowding’s been perplexed by the outcomes of Ballard’s custody battles.

“I have friends in the legal community that have read this and say, 'What’s going on? Something’s going on.'”

Ballard's ex-wife was accused of registering their son in a new school, getting him baptized and taking him out of the state -- all without telling him.

There were also medical bills not being paid, according to court documents.

“It’s about the mother violating the order and we went to court saying, 'Hey, help us; stop this,'” said Dowding.

Ballard’s also been trying to become the primary residential parent.

A judge found the mother guilty on 13 criminal contempt charges in 2016 and fined her five dollars for each one.

Ballard didn’t feel that was fair, as other parents in Tennessee have had penalties as extreme as jail time in similar cases.

“I just felt like I wanted to be treated like everybody else has and this is absolutely the opposite of the way 4 to 5 cases that have been done, that we know, of nationwide," said Ballard.

They were especially shocked by the judge’s punishment on the baptism.

Although the judge acknowledged Ballard didn’t know his son was baptized until two years after it happened, he said Ballard didn’t establish beyond a reasonable doubt the 3-year-old didn’t make the decision on his own.

“You can’t take it back. Once it’s done, it’s done for life," said Ballard.

He said it’s a clear violation of their parenting plan.

Ballard’s attorney appealed the ruling and was denied for filing it too late.

It turns out the notices of appeal brought to the court clerk, Steve Walker, weren’t stamped when they were received.

Instead, one was stamped two days later and the other over a week later.

There was no reason given as to why they weren’t stamped right away, making them think it was intentional.

“It’s mind-bending," said Dowding.

Which is why Ballard filed the lawsuit.

He thinks Walker and other court employees deliberately and maliciously jeopardized his chance to get full custody of his son.

“You couldn’t ask for a greater kid. You can’t, he’s wonderful.”

They say other aspects of the court proceedings are being investigated by the Board of Professional Responsibility as well.

The board can’t confirm that unless there are formal charges or discipline in place.

Ballard thinks the lawsuit will reveal more acts of sabotage done by others in the case. It's something he’s confident happened but still isn’t sure why.

We reached out to the court clerk and original judge who oversaw the case.

The clerk, Steve Walker, said he’d be back in touch with us, but we haven’t heard from him.

The judge never responded to our request.

We also went to the listed address for the mother involved and left our contact information, but have not heard back.

Since Ballard's appeal was stamped late, the state law was changed so you have to directly file your appeal with the court of appeals rather than the county court.

He believes this was due to the mistakes made in his case.