Suit seeking to stop swearing-in of officials assigned to new judge
Published: January 3, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - A lawsuit seeking to halt the swearing-in of the territory's newest elected officials and to throw out the certified results from the territory's Nov. 6 General Election was assigned to a new judge on Wednesday after the plaintiffs asked for the recusal of Chief District Judge Curtis Gomez.
Gomez on Wednesday reassigned the case to District Judge Raymond Finch "for all further proceedings," according to an entry in the District Court's online records database. The entry is not accompanied by an order or further documentation to explain the reassignment.
The entry came the same day that plaintiffs Lawrence Olive, Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, Norma Pickard-Samuel, Harriet Mercer and Diane Magras filed a motion seeking the recusal of Gomez. All five were unsuccessful in their bids for office in the General Election and are representing themselves in the case.
"I am gratified that Judge Curtis Gomez has recused himself from this election matter," Marsh-Monsanto said. "Although I am satisfied that the judge has recused himself, I feel that it was not necessary for us to force him to do something that he should have had the impartiality and presence of mind to have done himself in the first place."
The plaintiffs' motion lodged a number of complaints about Gomez's involvement in the case based on his actions in this and other cases. Among them was an allegation that Gomez is the brother of Judy Gomez, which, according to the motion, creates a conflict of interest for the judge because Judy Gomez won a seat on the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Education in the 2012 election.
"As presiding judge over this election matter, Judge Curtis Gomez's potential for bias and conflict of interest to preserve his sister's election is real," the motion states.
Judy Gomez also is an assistant attorney general, which the motion argued could be problematic because the V.I. Attorney General's Office is investigating the same 2012 election that is the subject of the petitioners' complaint.
The complainants also take issue with Gomez's Dec. 28 ruling rejecting their request to stop the swearing-in, arguing that "candidates who may not have been legitimately elected will take public office" if the ceremony proceeds as planned.
The complaint makes a number of wide-ranging claims about improprieties in the 2012 election cycle and asks the court to throw out the certified results and require a new election.
Listed as defendants are the Joint Board of Elections; the St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John District Boards of Elections, along with their respective chairpersons, Rupert Ross Jr. and Alecia Wells; and V.I. Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr.
No response to the complaint had been filed as of Wednesday.
Finch scheduled a video-conference hearing in the case on Friday at the federal courthouse on St. Thomas.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.