2010-08-04 / Front Page

Judge stands firm on Julia Phillips eviction

By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer

“It makes no difference to me if Julia Phillips has been charged with murder, or jaywalking, or hasn't been charged with anything.”  — Josh Queen Cherokee County      Probate Judge “It makes no difference to me if Julia Phillips has been charged with murder, or jaywalking, or hasn't been charged with anything.” — Josh Queen Cherokee County Probate Judge For a second time, a judge ruled Monday that a Gaffney woman awaiting trial on a murder charge in York County should be evicted from her Overbrook Drive home.

With an appeal expected, however, it’s doubtful that Julia Phillips will be going anywhere for the time being.

Cherokee County Probate Court Judge Josh Queen had granted a temporary injunction in June, giving Phillips 10 days to vacate a home at 701 Overbrook Drive owned by the legal trust of her late husband, Edward Bryant Phillips.

Bryant Phillips’ last will and testament gave Julia Phillips the right to live in the home until she died or remarried, but trustees of the estate are seeking her removal from the property, arguing that the home is not being maintained properly and that Bryant Phillips could not have foreseen the circumstances that unfolded since his death — including Julia Phillips’ arrest on the murder charge.

Julia Phillips’ lawyer, Charles Marchbanks Jr., asked Queen to reconsider his June ruling and on Monday argued once again that Phillips should be allowed to remain in the Overbrook Drive home.

During his presentation, Marchbanks asked the judge to “step back” from the sensationalism in the case and to “strip away the made-for-TV moments,” arguing that the estate had not proven anything to warrant an injunction, which he called a “drastic measure.”

Queen, who had initially ruled that the estate would be irreparably harmed if an injunction wasn’t granted, responded to Marchbanks on Monday that his ruling was based solely on the facts and testimony that were placed before him during the injunction hearing. The judge further noted that nothing was presented before him to refute that testimony.

“It makes no difference to me if Julia Phillips has been charged with murder, or jaywalking, or hasn’t been charged with anything,” he said in denying Marchbanks’ request for reconsideration. “Mr. Marchbanks, I understand wherever you go from here, of course.”

While Marchbanks declined immediate comment after the hearing, saying he needed to talk with his clients, the estate’s attorney, David Massey, said he expected Marchbanks to appeal Queen’s ruling to the Circuit Court.

“They have a right to appeal,” he said. “If they exercise that right, we’ll have to deal with it.”

Any appeal will halt the Probate Court proceedings, as well as Queen’s June decision on the temporary injunction to have Julia Phillips removed from the home.

Julia Phillips is charged in York County with murder in connection with the Feb. 4 strangulation death of her longtime boyfriend, prominent York County lawyer Melvin Roberts.

As part of her bond on the York County murder charge, Phillips is under home confinement with electronic monitoring at the Overbrook Drive home. Even without an appeal, a change of address has to be approved by the Circuit Court judge who set bond in the murder case before Queen’s ruling in the Probate Court matter is enforceable.

The estate of Bryant Phillips is represented by his daughters, Angela Shaheen and Lori Gaffney, who not only sought the eviction of their step-mother but also the eviction of Julia Phillips’ son, Hunter Stephens.

In addition to claiming that the home hasn’t been maintained, they have argued that they have been denied access to the property and that their father never gave Hunter Stephens permission to live there. Also, they argued that Julia Phillips abandoned the home by living with Melvin Roberts in York.

In written responses, Marchbanks has argued on Julia Phillips’ behalf that her late husband’s last will and testament gave her the right to live in the Overbrook Drive home and that Julia Phillips had the right to invite anyone she wanted into the home.

Neither Julia Phillips nor her son attended Monday’s court proceedings.

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