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Would-Be Constitutional Convention Delegate Asks Judges to Reconsider

Oct. 3, 3007 — The court battle wages on for St. John resident Harry Daniel, whose attorney recently asked a panel of V.I. Superior Court justices to reconsider their decision not to give Daniel a space on the roster of Constitutional Convention delegates.
If the motion is granted, swearing-in ceremonies for elected delegates will once again get pushed back. In addition, the justices' decision — which remanded the case to V.I. Superior Court and dismissed it in its entirety — will be held until another ruling gets handed down. Daniel's attorney, Clive Rivers, argued Wednesday that the justices "overlooked some significant facts" in the case and misapplied the law when they decided that Daniel acted too late in challenging revisions made by board of elections members to the June 12 special-election ballot.
During a meeting in early June, members of the Joint Board of Elections unanimously approved the ballot redesign, which — among other things — split Constitutional Convention candidates running in the St. Thomas-St. John district into two separate columns. Instructions printed at the top of the ballot also instructed voters to select a maximum 11 delegates from St. Thomas and "no more than" two delegates from St. John.
By placing a cap on the number of St. John delegates, the board knowingly violated local law, Rivers has argued on several occasions. Superior Court Judge James S. Carroll III, along with Supreme Court justices Maria Cabret, Rhys S. Hodge and Ive A Swan, have agreed with this statement, saying the board misinterpreted the plain language of the Constitutional Convention statute. It requires a minimum of two candidates from St. John, but gives no maximum number.
However, Cabret and Hodge also said board of elections members would have been able to correct the ballot if Daniel had filed his complaint right away. Instead, Daniel's silence on the matter allowed them to continue with election preparations, they said. The justices also agreed with arguments previously put forth by elections' attorney Tamika Archer, who has said that the legal doctrine of laches — which establishes a statute of limitations on the amount of time an individual has to file a claim — would prohibit Daniel from contesting the results after the election. (See "Case Dismissed: Daniel Out as Constitutional Convention Delegate.")
In his recent motion, Rivers argues that the justices mistakenly assumed that board of elections members would have corrected the ballot had Daniel filed his claim before the June 12 election. Testimony by elections officials during a recent Superior Court hearing shows otherwise, he said, since board members were told that the revised ballot violated local law and made no move to change it.
"The Supervisor of Elections (John Abramson Jr.) testified on direct examination that he told members of the board that the change was illegal," Rivers writes. "Thus, even if this court deemed that Mr. Daniel did notify the Election System that the ballot design violated the law, such failure is immaterial if his challenge would have been an effort in futility."
Rivers adds that the justices did not make a "factual record" to determine the length of Daniel's delay in filing his complaint, the reasons for the delay or how that delay "changed the Election System's position."
"These are all essential elements of laches," Rivers writes. "Absent such a finding, the court may not grant in the affirmative the defense of laches. The court majority seems to have overlooked the plaintiff's complaint and his specific plea. Plaintiff brought suit as a candidate who was denied a seat, and as a voter who was deprived of the choice of selected delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The appellee, Daniel, is a representative of the votes in the district of St. Thomas-St. John, and the majority clearly ignored Mr. Daniel's rights as a voter and as a representative of all elected voters."
No decision has been made yet on the motion, nor has a hearing date been set.
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Oct. 3, 3007 -- The court battle wages on for St. John resident Harry Daniel, whose attorney recently asked a panel of V.I. Superior Court justices to reconsider their decision not to give Daniel a space on the roster of Constitutional Convention delegates.
If the motion is granted, swearing-in ceremonies for elected delegates will once again get pushed back. In addition, the justices' decision -- which remanded the case to V.I. Superior Court and dismissed it in its entirety -- will be held until another ruling gets handed down. Daniel's attorney, Clive Rivers, argued Wednesday that the justices "overlooked some significant facts" in the case and misapplied the law when they decided that Daniel acted too late in challenging revisions made by board of elections members to the June 12 special-election ballot.
During a meeting in early June, members of the Joint Board of Elections unanimously approved the ballot redesign, which -- among other things -- split Constitutional Convention candidates running in the St. Thomas-St. John district into two separate columns. Instructions printed at the top of the ballot also instructed voters to select a maximum 11 delegates from St. Thomas and "no more than" two delegates from St. John.
By placing a cap on the number of St. John delegates, the board knowingly violated local law, Rivers has argued on several occasions. Superior Court Judge James S. Carroll III, along with Supreme Court justices Maria Cabret, Rhys S. Hodge and Ive A Swan, have agreed with this statement, saying the board misinterpreted the plain language of the Constitutional Convention statute. It requires a minimum of two candidates from St. John, but gives no maximum number.
However, Cabret and Hodge also said board of elections members would have been able to correct the ballot if Daniel had filed his complaint right away. Instead, Daniel's silence on the matter allowed them to continue with election preparations, they said. The justices also agreed with arguments previously put forth by elections' attorney Tamika Archer, who has said that the legal doctrine of laches -- which establishes a statute of limitations on the amount of time an individual has to file a claim -- would prohibit Daniel from contesting the results after the election. (See "Case Dismissed: Daniel Out as Constitutional Convention Delegate.")
In his recent motion, Rivers argues that the justices mistakenly assumed that board of elections members would have corrected the ballot had Daniel filed his claim before the June 12 election. Testimony by elections officials during a recent Superior Court hearing shows otherwise, he said, since board members were told that the revised ballot violated local law and made no move to change it.
"The Supervisor of Elections (John Abramson Jr.) testified on direct examination that he told members of the board that the change was illegal," Rivers writes. "Thus, even if this court deemed that Mr. Daniel did notify the Election System that the ballot design violated the law, such failure is immaterial if his challenge would have been an effort in futility."
Rivers adds that the justices did not make a "factual record" to determine the length of Daniel's delay in filing his complaint, the reasons for the delay or how that delay "changed the Election System's position."
"These are all essential elements of laches," Rivers writes. "Absent such a finding, the court may not grant in the affirmative the defense of laches. The court majority seems to have overlooked the plaintiff's complaint and his specific plea. Plaintiff brought suit as a candidate who was denied a seat, and as a voter who was deprived of the choice of selected delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The appellee, Daniel, is a representative of the votes in the district of St. Thomas-St. John, and the majority clearly ignored Mr. Daniel's rights as a voter and as a representative of all elected voters."
No decision has been made yet on the motion, nor has a hearing date been set.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.