Judge dismisses St. Croix elections board's defamation suit

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ST. CROIX - V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady has dismissed a complaint filed by current and former St. Croix Board of Elections members who filed suit claiming defamation of character against a group of residents in 2012.

Brady also denied the plaintiffs' motion seeking an entry of default and default judgement in the case.

In the order denying the default judgement, Brady said contrary to the plaintiff's allegations that the defendants had not responded to the complaint, the named defendants, who had been served, all filed motions with the court seeking dismissals individually.

Six of the seven members of the last St. Croix Board of Elections filed suit in V.I. Superior Court in May 2012 against members of the V.I. Action Group, fellow board member Adelbert Bryan and others who the board members said were trying to ruin their reputations.

In the 16-page complaint, the plaintiffs charged that the defendants created a scandal and produced and published false, misleading and offensive material about them to recall them as duly elected members of the V.I. Board of Elections.

The plaintiffs in the case are Rupert Ross Jr., Dodson James, Anita Davila, Carmen Golden, Lisa Harris Moorhead and Raymond Williams.

The defendants are listed as Bryan; Shalima Edwards; Mary Moorhead; Patricia Oliver; Bodil Simmonds; Frances McIntosh; David Benjamin; Delores Finch; Marcy Richardson; Colleen Clarke; Epiphane Joseph; Evelyn Bascombe; Lawrence Liburd; Juliet Liburd; Krista Schluderman; Phyllis Nielsen; James Wilson; Delores Chrichlow; Marvin Forbes; and Wendell Parris.

The complaint describes them as being a part of the V.I. Action Group. The complaint also names as defendants former senatorial candidate Michael Springer and St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections member Lawrence Boschulte.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs were seeking monetary and punitive damages from the defendants. The complaint cites the "defendants' defamatory per se statements concerning the plaintiffs as well as the defendants' tortuous interference with the board members' existing professional relations and professional reputations."

The complaint outlined the background of each plaintiff and the role they believe each defendant played in the alleged defamation.

In dismissing the complaint with prejudice, Brady said the plaintiffs must accept almost total personal responsibility for failing to comply with the court orders to take steps necessary to move their case along since filing the action and said they never submitted disclosure and discovery as required by the federal rules of civil proceedings.

"A plaintiff's unwillingness to adhere to a court order is strongly considered when examining whether a case should be dismissed," the order read. "In fact, a court may grant a motion for involuntary dismissal because of the plaintiff's failure to comply with the rules or the court order."

Brady said on numerous occasions the filings from the plaintiffs have been inconsistent, nonresponsive, incomplete and irrelevant, even when examined liberally in recognition that they were acting on their own behalf.

He said some of the defendants were prejudiced because the plaintiff failed to have them served as parties in the case.

"Plaintiffs have demonstrated a history of dilatoriness as evidenced by the fact that more than two years after filing, they have failed to have summonses issued and process served on 13 of the 23 defendants named," the order read.

Brady said he was left to examine various factors and can not conclude that the plaintiffs actions and failure to move the case forward was willful or in bad faith, but it can be inferred that their filing of the complaint was more to create publicity, rather than to legitimately seek the pursuit of a civil tort action.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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