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In this case, a Vermont voter and candidate in the state’s 2016 presidential primary, challenged whether U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were constitutionally qualified to run for President of the United States. The trial court dismissed the suit on the grounds that appellant lacked standing and the court lacked jurisdiction to assess the qualifications of the Senators to run for president. Appellant appealed both holdings, but the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal for a different reason: the case was now moot. View "Paige v. Vermont" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved an attorney’s fees dispute following a superior court decision upholding Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell’s certification of the “Bristol Bay Forever” ballot initiative. The initiative was approved to be placed on the November 2014 ballot. It required additional legislative approval for “a large-scale metallic sulfide mining operation located within the watershed of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.” Richard Hughes, Alaska Miners Association, and Council of Alaska Producers (Hughes plaintiffs) challenged the certification of the initiative. It was undisputed that this initiative, if passed, would impact the Pebble Project, a potential large-scale mining project in the Bristol Bay region. The initiative’s sponsors, John Holman, Mark Niver, and Christina Salmon (Holman intervenors), intervened on Alaska's side, and the State and intervenors moved for summary judgment to establish the legality of the initiative. The superior court granted the State’s and the Holman intervenors’ motions for summary judgment. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed on the merits. The Holman intervenors then moved for full reasonable attorney’s fees as constitutional claimants under AS 09.60.010. The Hughes plaintiffs opposed, arguing that they themselves were constitutional claimants and that the Holman intervenors were not constitutional claimants because they were intervenor-defendants. The superior court determined that the Holman intervenors were constitutional claimants. It also found that because Pebble Limited Partnership (Pebble) financed at least part of the litigation for the Hughes plaintiffs, Pebble was the real party in interest; the court further found that Pebble did not qualify as a constitutional claimant because it had sufficient economic incentive to bring the action. The court therefore awarded the Holman intervenors full reasonable attorney’s fees. The Hughes plaintiffs appealed. The Supreme Court held that because this case was fundamentally about constitutional limits on the ballot-initiative process and not whether the Pebble Project should go forward, the Hughes plaintiffs did not have sufficient economic incentive to remove them from constitutional-claimant status, and therefore reversed the award of attorney’s fees. View "Alaska Miners Association v. Holman" on Justia Law

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Craig Jones filed a petition for judicial review of the Tunica County Democratic Executive Committee’s (TCDEC) decision that he was not qualified to run in its primary for Tunica County Board of Supervisors, Beat Five position. The trial court found that Jones’ name should be on the primary ballot. TCDEC appealed, but failed to prosecute the appeal and kept Jones’ name off the primary ballot. The trial court then vacated the primary election one day before the general election, which took place and which was won by an independent candidate. Jones then petitioned under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60 for relief from the judgment vacating the primary election, which the trial court granted. Because the trial court lacked authority to enter the second and third orders, as no election contest was ever filed, the Mississippi Supreme Court vacated those orders and held the uncontested election results currently stand. View "Tunica County Democratic Executive Committee v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The legislature has affirmed that a county jailer’s salary shall at least equal the prior year’s salary level in counties that do not operate a jail. Garrard County does not operate a jail. Before the 2010 election of Garrard County’s jailer, the Garrard Fiscal Court voted to fix the amount of the jailer’s salary for the new term at an amount lower than that set for the incumbent jailer. The trial court ruled that the fiscal court had acted properly in reducing the jailer’s pay before the commencement of his term. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that fiscal courts in counties without jails are statutorily prohibited from reducing the pay of their elected jailer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the unambiguous language of Ky. Rev. Stat. 441-243(3) prevents the fiscal court from decreasing the county jailer’s salary in between elected terms of service. View "Garrard County v. Middleton" on Justia Law

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Rodriquez was elected to serve in the Virgin Islands Legislature. After his election, plaintiffs sued, challenging Rodriquez’s qualifications. Plaintiffs had learned that Rodriguez had filed a bankruptcy petition in Tennessee, swearing that he was a resident of Tennessee. Rodriquez removed that suit to federal court and filed his own action against the 32nd Legislature of the Virgin Islands and its president, seeking a ruling that only the Legislature can decide who is qualified to serve in the Legislature. Because of an injunction issued by the Virgin Islands Superior Court, Rodriquez was not sworn in and has not taken a seat in the Legislature. The Governor of the Virgin Islands issued a proclamation calling for a special election to fill the vacancy.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Rodriguez's suit and dismissed an appeal of the removal. Because a judicial determination of whether Rodriquez is qualified to serve as a member of the Virgin Islands 32nd Legislature would infringe on the separation of powers between the Virgin Islands legislative and judicial branches, that action is no longer justiciable. Rodriquez does not having standing to appeal the district court’s removal order because he was a prevailing party. View "Rodriquez v. 32nd Legislature of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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The North Carolina General Assembly redrew state legislative districts in 2011 to account for population changes revealed by the 2010 census. Plaintiffs alleged that 28 majority-black districts in the new plan were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The district court ruled for the plaintiffs in August 2016, declined to require changes before the November 2016 election, but ordered the General Assembly to redraw the map. Three weeks after the November 2016 election, the court set a March 2017 deadline for drawing new districts, ordering that “[t]he term of any legislator elected in 2016” from a district later redrawn would be replaced by new ones, to be chosen in court-ordered special elections in fall, 2017, to serve a one-year term. The court suspended provisions of the North Carolina Constitution requiring prospective legislators to reside within a district for one year before they may be elected to represent it. The Supreme Court granted a stay pending appeal and subsequently vacated the remedial order. Relief in redistricting cases is “‘fashioned in the light of well-known principles of equity.’” The district court “addressed the balance of equities in only the most cursory fashion.” In determining whether or when a special election may be a proper remedy for a racial gerrymander, obvious considerations include the severity and nature of the particular constitutional violation, the extent of the likely disruption to the ordinary processes of governance if early elections are imposed, and the need to act with proper judicial restraint when intruding on state sovereignty. View "North Carolina v. Covington" on Justia Law

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The vacant Morgan Hill parcel was designated, in the general plan, as “Industrial” until the city amended the plan to change its designation to “Commercial.” Its zoning was “ML-Light Industrial” before the amendment. Later, the city council changed the parcel’s zoning to “CG-General Commercial,” which would permit a hotel. The Coalition submitted a referendum petition challenging the rezoning to prevent the development of a hotel. The city adopted a certificate of sufficiency as to the referendum, but later “discontinue[d] processing,” believing that the referendum would enact zoning inconsistent with its general plan. The city recognized that it could, alternatively, change the parcel’s zoning to “Highway Commercial” and be consistent with the plan’s designation. Months later, the city called for a special election to submit the referendum to the voters but also authorized the filing of an action to have it removed from the ballot. The court ordered the referendum removed from the ballot and the rezoning certified as effective. The court of appeals reversed, holding that a referendum petition challenging an ordinance that attempts to make the zoning for a parcel consistent with the parcel’s general plan designation is not invalid if the legislative body remains free to select another consistent zoning should the referendum result in the rejection of the legislative body’s first choice of consistent zoning. View "City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Scott Smith and D. Michael Kopp, both registered electors, appealed the actions of the Ballot Title Setting Board (“Title Board”) regarding the setting of the title and ballot title and submission clause for Proposed Initiative 2017–2018 #4 (“Initiative #4”). Issues for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review were: (1) Initiative #4 contained a single subject; and (2) whether the Supreme Court had authority to review an abstract prepared and submitted to the Title Board as required by section 1-40-105.5, C.R.S. (2016). The Court concluded: (1) the initiative indeed contained a single subject (the limitation of housing growth in Colorado); and (2) section 1-40-107 authorized the Court to review such an abstract. View "In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2017" on Justia Law

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This election contest arose out of the November 4, 2014, general election for the circuit judge seat in Mississippi’s eleventh circuit district, subdistrict 3. Charles Webster received 3,255 votes, whereas Chaka Smith received 2,369 votes. Of the total votes cast, 390 were cast by absentee ballot. Webster received 296 of the absentee ballots and Smith received the remaining 94. After the election had been certified, Smith conducted statutory examinations of the ballot boxes. During the examinations, Smith requested to photocopy or scan the contents of the ballot boxes. The Coahoma, Quitman, and Tunica County circuit clerks denied these requests. Smith filed a petition in the Quitman County Circuit Court seeking both declaratory relief and to contest the election, seeking a declaration on whether he had the right to make copies of election documents before contesting the election. In addition, Smith argued most of the absentee ballots violated Mississippi law and were comingled to the extent that illegal absentee ballots could not be separated from legal ones. Webster successfully moved for summary judgment; the trial court found no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding which candidate received the most votes in the election. Smith appealed. Finding no error in the grant of summary judgment in favor of Webster, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Webster" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in this case were residents of Red Clay who were unable to access the polls during a special election held by Red Clay Consolidated School District in February 2015. In the election, residents were asked to approve an increase in the school-related property taxes paid by owners of non-exempt real estate located within the district. Red Clay prevailed in the special election, but Plaintiffs claimed electoral misconduct. The Court of Chancery declared that Red Clay violated the Elections Clause of the Delaware Constitution but did not award any greater relief because the violations did not warrant invalidating the special election. The court reached this result through a balancing of factors, including the dysfunction in Delaware’s system for funding public schools, which led to Red Clay facing a significant deficit without a favorable vote. View "Young v. Red Clay Consolidated School District" on Justia Law