March 13, 2007 — A recent decision by the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has given Sen. Ronald E. Russell hope that a local Supreme Court could still be established on the island of St. Croix.
When contacted Tuesday evening, Russell explained that the court, on March 5, decided to vacate — or "render null and void" — a ruling made last year by the appellate division of the U.S. District Court, which found that Russell, as a single senator, lacked the standing needed to file an individual suit against the government.
Since last July, Russell has filed a series of motions in both Superior and District courts contesting a lawsuit brought against the Legislature by former Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. The suit, for which V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall issued a ruling on Jan. 22, originally challenged the Senate's decision to place the Supreme Court on St. Croix.
Russell has consistently contested Kendall's involvement in the case and has sought to have the suit considered in federal court. In December, Russell requested that the District Court issue an emergency writ of mandamus, or direct order, to have the case transferred. In his motion, Russell wrote that Kendall, in dealing with case, had not "followed rules of procedure" but was "simply doing the bidding of his boss [Turnbull]."
In the request, Russell also explored the possibility that Turnbull did not "act in accordance with the law" when he submitted, last July, the nominations of three Supreme Court justices, and subsequently called the Senate into a special session to vote on the nominees.
The District Court denied the request for a writ of mandamus. Russell appealed the decision, turning it over to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
While the 3rd Circuit ruled that Russell's appeal was "moot," since Kendall has already ruled on the original suit, it also vacated the District Court's decision to deny the request for a writ of mandamus based on Russell's lack of standing. Therefore, Russell will have the opportunity to re-present his argument — this time in the case of Russell vs. deJongh — before the 3rd Circuit in May.
"Im pleased with the decision," Russell said Tuesday. "It gives me some breathing room and another chance to argue the case."
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