St. Croix lawyer appeals judge's dismissal of lawsuit questioning Sen. Alicia Hansen's eligibility as candidate
Published: August 14, 2014
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ST. CROIX - St. Croix attorney Emile Henderson III has appealed a V.I. Superior Court order that dismisses a challenge to Sen. Alicia Hansen's eligibility to run for office in the General Election.
Henderson's appeal to the V.I. Supreme Court contends that Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady committed multiple errors when he dismissed a suit filed by Adelbert Bryan against Hansen and Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes contesting Hansen's eligibility to seek another term.
According to briefs filed by Henderson this week, the Superior Court committed an error when it failed to conduct a statutory construction analysis in interpreting the term "moral turpitude" and failed to conduct a proper analysis in determining the term "willfully" as used in the law.
Henderson claims this tainted the court's finding that Fawkes properly certified Hansen to be eligible to be nominated to the 2014 General Election Ballot, and the court compounded that error by failing to comply with its statutory mandate according to the law.
He said the court also erred in validating Fawkes' decision that Hansen was qualified to be on the ballot.
By issuing an order July 29 dismissing Bryan's motion for injunctive relieve with prejudice, Henderson said Brady set the wheels into motion for the appeal.
Bryan challenged Hansen's eligibility to be on the 2014 General Election ballot on the grounds that she had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.
"There can be no other finding than the Supervisor of Elections' decision to certify Hansen was arbitrary and capricious," his appeal states.
Henderson's appeal outlines a number of reasons for his claims, including that neither Fawkes or the Joint Board of Elections sought fit to put in place rules, regulations or policies to define moral turpitude or determine what crimes would constitute crimes involving moral turpitude.
Fawkes also failed to give a satisfactory reason for her decision and the facts it was based on, and Fawkes failed to conduct a hearing, as required by law, according to Henderson's appeal.
Henderson's claim is that the Superior Court may have the authority along with the Supreme Court to create common law, in the first instance, but it failed to do so when it ignored its duty by deferring to the decision made by Fawkes and the joint board.
"As the highest court in the territory, this court must bring some finality to the issues raised in this appeal and must now exercise its discretion to review this matter afresh," the appeal states.
Henderson asked the Supreme Court not to remand the case back to the Superior Court, saying that would only further delay the election process and impede the smooth operation of the 2014 General Election.
Whatever decision the Supreme Court makes would have a significant and lasting impact on the territory for generations to come, according to Henderson's appeal.
"It is undisputable that Hansen was convicted of three counts of willful failure to file income tax returns - a crime not just against the Virgin Islands government, but a violation of her oath to the people of the Virgin Islands," he wrote in his brief. "Hansen's failure to file her income tax returns and pay her income taxes as due increased the tax burden on other Virgin Islanders and decreased the services that the Virgin Islands government could provide to the people of the Virgin Islands."
Henderson contends that although the crime is a misdemeanor, it involves evil motive, bad purpose and intentional, deliberate conduct, which would then constitute a crime involving moral turpitude.
Henderson asked the Supreme Court to determine the issues of this appeal freshly; determine that the Supreme Court's definition of moral turpitude is the definition of moral turpitude under Virgin Islands law; and determine that the crime Hansen was convicted of is a crime involving moral turpitude, making her therefore ineligible to be a member of the Legislature.
He asked the Supreme Court to reverse Brady's July 29 dismissal order and order him to issue an order to Fawkes to remove Hansen from the 2014 General Election ballot because of Hansen's ineligibility to hold public office.
The Supreme Court justices have scheduled oral arguments in the case for 10 a.m. Aug. 26 at the Almeric Christian Federal Building.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.