Government files motion to dismiss elections suit
Published: January 21, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. government filed a strongly worded 23-page motion Friday that it hopes will be the knockout punch in a lawsuit about the validity of the territory's 2012 elections.
A little more than a month ago, senatorial candidate Lawrence Olive, Senate At-large candidate Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, Delegate to Congress candidate Norma Pickard-Samuel and Board of Elections candidates Harriet Mercer and Diane Magras jointly filed a lawsuit asking the District Court for a temporary restraining order to halt the swearing-in of the territory's newly elected candidates. Their complaint was based on allegations of widespread irregularities in the V.I. Election System in 2012 and earlier. The request has been denied twice, and all of the successful candidates have been sworn-in to office.
But the lawsuit also is asking the court, on similar grounds, to throw out the certified results from the 2012 election and order a new election on paper ballots.
Assistant Attorneys General Ariel Smith-Francois and Tamika Archer, who are defending elections officials in the lawsuit, used Judge Raymond Finch's denial of the restraining order as the jumping-off point for their latest motion to dismiss the lawsuit last week.
"Given the Court's recent orders denying Plaintiff's Motion for the TRO, Preliminary Injunction and Motion for Reconsideration in which all issues and allegations of the Amended Complaint and associated evidence were fully vetted, dismissal of the Amended Complaint is appropriate for this reason and additional reasons presented herein," the motion states.
Smith-Francois and Archer go on to contend that the plaintiffs either lack the necessary legal standing to advance their lawsuit or fail to properly state a claim under local election laws or federal standards, including the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Help America Vote Act.
"The various allegations raised throughout the Amended Complaint do not reflect how Plaintiffs' fundamental voting rights have been compromised or diluted, therefore they have suffered no recognizable injury," the motion states.
The motion later characterizes the plaintiffs' allegations as "conjectural" and points to case law prohibiting citizens from using the District Court "as a forum in which to air his generalized grievances about the conduct of government or the allocation of power."
"Plaintiffs cannot articulate any actual or particularized injury because they have suffered none," the motion states.
The motion also addresses the Constitutional issues at stake in the case, including the plaintiffs' equal protection and due process rights, which Finch, so far, has left open for argument from both sides.
The defense motion argues that the unequal application of a local statute, without some evidence of "intentional or purposeful discrimination," does not constitute an equal protection violation. It also argues the candidates fail to state a due process claim, in part, because "there is no fundamental right for a candidate to be elected to a particular office or seat."
Lastly the motion argues for dismissal on the grounds that the plaintiffs allowed an unnecessary delay to occur between becoming aware of the alleged violations and the filing of the lawsuit.
"Plaintiffs seek to cause irreparable harm to the public by waiting until this late hour to lodge their Complaints and then demand that election results be thrown out and that the Court order a new election funded out of the public coffers," the motion states.
No hearing on the motion had been scheduled as of Friday night.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.