Judge sets 3-week deadline for Board of Elections members to respond to motions in their libel suit
Published: September 18, 2013
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ST. CROIX - V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady has given current and former St. Croix Board of Elections members who filed suit against a group of residents three weeks to respond to a number of outstanding motions in the case filed last year.
During a status conference Monday, Brady said that the plaintiffs - Rupert Ross Jr., Dodson James, Anita Davila, Carmen Golden, Lisa Harris Moorhead and Raymond Williams - must respond to the court in writing by Oct. 7 why their complaint should not be dismissed for lack of process, service process and prosecution.
Brady said he also expects a response from the plaintiffs why the request for dismissal submitted by defendants Mary Moorhead, Patricia Oliver and Shalima Edwards should not be deemed conceded by them because they had not responded.
Six of the seven members of the last St. Croix Board of Elections filed suit in V.I. Superior Court last May against members of the V.I. Action Group, fellow board member Adelbert Bryan and others who the board members say are trying to ruin their reputations.
In the 16-page complaint, the plaintiffs charge 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 defendants are listed as Bryan, Edwards, Mary Moorhead, 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 Election member Lawrence Boschulte.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs are 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 outlines the background of each plaintiff and the role they believe each defendant played in the alleged defamation.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to enter a judgement in their favor for compensatory, general and special damages in an amount to be determined at trial, plus attorney fees and court costs.
The plaintiffs specifically seek punitive damages against the defendants and any other relief as the court deems just and equitable.
In a related suit, a complaint filed by V.I. Action Group in District Court against the board members was dismissed. The group filed a complaint contesting V.I. Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr.'s interpretation of the Revised Organic Act of 1954 regarding signature thresholds for recall petitions.
Last May, the board passed a resolution to transfer about $8,000 from its Travel Fund into its Professional Services Fund, which already had about $4,000.
The board then authorized the use of the $12,000 in the Professional Services Fund to be used to retain the McChain Miller Nissman Legal Group to represent the board members in the District Court case and to pay all legal service charges, court costs and fees.
Ross has said the board members acted as individuals, using their own out-of-pocket money to hire the law firm to represent them in the Superior Court case.
During the hearing Monday, Brady held attorney Scott McChain in contempt of court for not showing up for an Aug. 6 hearing, after he said he had been duly advised to do so at a May hearing. McChain had apologized to the court, saying it was a matter of poor communication between himself and his clients, who since have been granted a motion for substitution of counsel and want to represent themselves for the balance of the case.
Brady fined McChain $250, which the judge said will be donated to the Queen Louise Home for Children.
In his order, Brady said he expects the parties to consider the nature and basis of the claims and the defense and the possibility for promptly settling or otherwise resolving the case by Oct. 7.
Brady said he also expects the parties to make the disclosures or make specific arrangements for the disclosures, required by the federal rules of civil procedures and resolve any issues relating to the preservation of discoverable information and develop a proposed discovery plan by Oct. 21.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.