Senate wants legal counsel to decide Hansen's future
Published: August 30, 2014
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ST. CROIX - Instead of taking steps to remove Sen. Alicia Hansen from the Senate in the wake of the V.I. Supreme Court's ruling she is unfit to run for office under the V.I. Code, the 30th Legislature has requested an opinion from its legal counsel to determine whether it will be required to take any action regarding Hansen's Senate seat.
The V.I. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hansen is prohibited from running for office in the November General Election based on the V.I. Code's "moral turpitude" clause.
The panel of justices - Maria Cabret, Ive Swan and Chief Justice Rhys Hodge - heard oral arguments Tuesday in the case filed by Adelbert Bryan, who appealed V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady's order that dismissed a challenge to Hansen's eligibility to run for office in the Nov. 4 election.
However, the high court did not address how their opinion should affect Hansen's current position in the Legislature that ends at the end of the year.
Senate Vice President Sammuel Sanes said Friday that since the high court opinion was made public Thursday, the senators have had discussion on whether the ruling would affect Hansen's current standing in the Legislature.
He said the members of the body had agreed that they should seek a legal opinion on what effect the ruling has on the body - if any.
"We did not immediately know what the ramifications were and if there was a situation that existed that would force us to take any action," Sanes said. "So we contacted legal counsel and we are waiting to hear from them."
He said once the body receives information from the legal counsel, they will know whether they need to take any action.
Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone did not return phone calls to The Daily News on Friday, and Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said Gov. John deJongh Jr. will have no further comment on the matter.
St. Croix attorney Emile Henderson III, who represented Bryan in the case, argued that Brady committed multiple errors when he dismissed the suit filed by Bryan against Hansen and V.I. Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes contesting Hansen's eligibility. Bryan claimed Hansen was ineligible to run for office as a St. Croix District senator because of a previous conviction on a crime involving moral turpitude for failure to file income taxes.
The justices took just one full day before issuing the opinion determining that they have jurisdiction over the matter. They also ruled that because fraud is "inextricably woven into the term willfully" as used in the section of the law that refers to the definition of a crime involving moral turpitude, they have concluded that Hansen was convicted of "crimes involving moral turpitude."
In its ruling, the high court reversed Brady's order, and directed the lower court to, on remand, grant Bryan's petition and set aside Fawkes' decision to place Hansen on the General Election ballot as a candidate for membership to the 31st Legislature.
On hearing of the ruling, Hansen's attorney, Lee Rohn, said she and Hansen disagreed with the decision, which deprives the citizens of St. Croix of the representation of their most popular, highest vote-getting senator, who has served the community for more than 20 years.
Rohn said she will file a petition for judicial review with the U.S. Supreme Court because they feel the V.I. Supreme Court failed to exercise judicial restraint in the matter.
Rohn called on Gov. John deJongh Jr. to immediately pardon Hansen and allow the people of the Virgin Islands to have the representative they have chosen.
Greaux told The Daily News on Thursday that neither Rohn nor Hansen had contacted deJongh to request a pardon.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.