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VI Supreme Court Decision - Says Original Election was Wrongful but Allows Runoff to Proceed

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CarlHartmann
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The Court's Own Synopsis of the case -- Full decision is here

.VI Supreme Court Mapp Decision

I will make only one editorial observation -- I mentioned before that the Hansen decision was rooted more in the authority of this Court and its desire to set "firm" rules for the USVI. Well, I think you can say there is a new Sheriff in town. No more making things up as you go along. (In the full decision they state the general election was wrongfully tainted -- but will allow BOE to proceed with the runoff.)

November 14, 2014

S. Ct. Civ. No. 2014-0073

Kenneth Mapp and Janelle Sarauw, Caroline Fawkes, in her Official Capacity as Supervisor of Elections, Arturo Watlington, in his Official Capacity as the Chairman of the St. Thomas District Board of Elections and Secretary of the Joint Board, Adelbert “Bert” Bryan, in his Official Capacity as Chairman of the St. Croix District Board of Elections, and Alicia Wells, in her Official Capacity as the Chairperson of the Joint Board of Elections,

The Superior Court’s November 1, 2014 oral order holding that Virgin Islands voters do not have a right to feed their completed ballots into the DS200 vote tabulation machine is reversed. The Superior Court’s order had denied the injunctive and declaratory relief against elections officials sought by Kenneth Mapp and Janelle Sarauw. Mapp and Sarauw filed suit after the Joint Board of Elections decided that during the November 4, 2014 general election, voters would not submit their completed ballots directly into the DS200—which would have then informed the voter if they had overvoted by selecting too many candidates for a given office, or undervoted by selecting too few and allowed the voter to correct any errors—but instead would place their ballots in a storage bin for elections officials to assort and submit to the DS200 later. The Joint Board did this because of a fear that the machine would miscount those ballots where a voter cast a “straight-ticket ballot” by marking a party symbol—which has the effect of casting a vote for every candidate of that party in each race—but went on to also mark individual candidates of a different party, thus appearing to cast more votes for a particular office than is allowed. Because there will be a run-off election for Governor on November 18, 2014, the fact that the general election has already occurred does not render this case moot. Nor does the Joint Board’s statement through counsel that it has decided to allow voters to submit their ballots directly to the DS200 in the run-off election, since the Joint Board maintains that its previous decision did not violate the law and it could change its decision again at any time before the election. And while the Superior Court held that no provision of the Virgin Islands Code grants voters the right to submit their ballots directly to the DS200, the federal Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”)—which Congress expressly made applicable to the Virgin Islands—mandates that the Territory’s voting system “provide the voter with the opportunity to correct the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted.” 52 U.S.C. § 21081(A)(iii)(III). HAVA has also been implemented by the Virgin Islands Legislature, which provided in Act No. 7334 that voting machines and equipment must comply with HAVA, thus providing Mapp and Sarauw the right to seek a judicial remedy in Virgin Islands courts for the denial of their federal statutory right to submit their ballots directly to the DS200, as it is presumed that the Legislature will not create a right without a remedy. Furthermore, even if the Joint Board’s concern that the DS200 would miscount straight-ticket ballots proves correct, there has been no explanation of why it was necessary to prevent all voters who cast ballots on November 4, 2014—totaling more than 25,000—from exercising their rights under federal law for the sole purpose of making it easier to count the less than 150 straight-ticket ballots that were cast when elections officials could have simply allowed voters to submit their ballots to the DS200 and then performed a hand count of the straight-ticket ballots if necessary.

Therefore, because HAVA gives voters the right to feed their ballots into the DS200 in order to alert them of an overvote or undervote, the Superior Court’s November 1, 2014 oral order is reversed and the case is remanded to the Superior Court to enter judgment in favor of Mapp and Sarauw.

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Topic starter Posted : November 14, 2014 7:52 pm
longhorn
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The Supreme Court is highly political and now they are trying to get reappointmed if Mapp wins.

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Posted : November 14, 2014 7:55 pm
CarlHartmann
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Hardly......The opinion is well-reasoned and detailed -- and the motion was joined in by both campaigns.

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Topic starter Posted : November 14, 2014 7:58 pm
longhorn
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which then bolsters the point. their first 10 year terms are up in 2016 and either mapp or christensen has to renominate them (which would then become a lifetime appointment) or nominate a new set... if this court were to disagree with a request from the new governor, in the same "nonjudicious manner" that it did with the chucky hansen case, then its not hard to determine how the decision to reappoint or not will be. donohue and andrews are prime examples.

wilma lewis called the supreme court's chucky 2 decision non judicious in how they misinterpreted the facts in her order and misconstrued the law.

its legal reasoning, there is soo much existing caselaw that a court can justify anything. look at how gomez justified dismissing the ottley case and it would've probably withstood third circuit muster...

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Posted : November 14, 2014 8:52 pm
CarlHartmann
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Perhaps it would help if you read through the thread on the earlier part of this case. This cannot be an attempt to curry favor with one candidate or the other. It is a fairly straight-line decision under the new voting rights act that protects all of our right to a fair vote -- again, I note that although Ken brought the case, Donna moved to intervene to support his position -- one that is good for everyone now and in the future.

It isn't always useful to read everything that courts do through the lens of conspiracy theory.

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Topic starter Posted : November 14, 2014 9:17 pm
longhorn
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a federal judge, appointed by the president of the united states of america opined about the actions and recent rulings of this virgin islands supreme court. she was concerned about the tone, challenged the supreme court's findings of fact and conclusions of law... in that is not conspirational, that is factual and it is recent.

irrespective of the decision, which i have read, the court is extremely political. re-read cabret's dissent in chucky ii. also look at the posture of the case, had mapp not garnered the amount of votes that he did, the case would've been rendered moot and dismissed. because before election day, the court denied the motion to expedite and after, it proceeded to act fast.

the joint board agreed to use the machines, the issue was moot, but the court curried favor by sticking the spear in it.

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Posted : November 14, 2014 9:40 pm
CarlHartmann
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Look...I don't want to try to change your mind. But at least consider this as a possibility.

There is nothing magic about a federal judge under Federalism. There is a state (or Territorial) system and a federal one -- neither is better or more right. When the real U.S. Congress and the U.S. President (relatively recently) enacted the amendment to the Organic Act that created a VI Supreme Court and vested it with powers (under the same Article IV of the Constitution that the "federal court" exists under) it decided to initiate a separation of the federal and territorial courts. It also gave ultimate authority over the territorial laws to the VI Supreme Court.

If a federal judge in Kansas had stepped on the toes of the Kansas Supreme Court on a local election matter, that state supreme court would have done the same thing. That is why I likened the Hansen case to Marbury v. Madison. It was more about "get out of my jurisdictional prerogative" than it was about a single local candidate. And the federal court here -- used to being the supreme law of this land -- obviously did not like getting whacked. It happens all of the time in the real world.

Moving to this decision...the issue presented certainly was not moot. We have many, many more elections to go. The point is that the BoE should not make up procedures and run things like a little Ma and Pa store. The VI Legislature in its (endless) wisdom said you vote with voting machines and you use the standards set out in the new federal voting rights act. Period. The VI Supreme Court enforced the law not only for this election, but for all future elections. [BTW, in areas large and small it has spent a great deal of time trying to sort out local law and establish clear legal precedent....a recent decision called Banks has everyone a-twitter trying to do so in regard to the common law. This is not limited to the election laws by any means.]

I just don't think it is helpful for every decision made to be viewed with cynicism and denigration of the institutions. A great deal of the time courts are actually about the law. I hope that folks here got a better idea of what was happening behind the scenes in what was an important discussion about an important point -- one engaged in by both campaigns. Folks pointed to these procedures being made up and said "there is something funny going on here." That is the point. People (rightfully) do not trust elections and institutions if it looks like we just make stuff up whenever we wish. Everyone complains that the VI does not do things like they are done in the real world. But here you are: Both candidates finally agree on the territorial adoption and enforcement of a federal voting rights act standard.....the Supreme Court upholds those principles and the USVI ends up doing what every other State would do -- all by the book. Yet even that is criticized.

That being said, you are welcome to your views.

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Topic starter Posted : November 14, 2014 10:17 pm
longhorn
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the virgin islands isn't a state so marbury v madison doesn't apply. the vi supreme court attempted to usurp the authority of the district court. the revised organic act is the defacto constitution in the virgin islands and its a federal document. congress could however, vest jurisdiction under the roa to the local courts but has not done so...

the magic of a federal judge under federalism is that federal law reigns supreme under the supremacy clause. as to this case -- the issue was moot, the boe conceded, but instead, the supreme court an article iv court, is now interpreting federal law which is completely out of its league.

those actions were like an audition, for the future casting director...

think about this: with or without the order, the machines were to be used to count, anyway.

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Posted : November 14, 2014 11:15 pm
CarlHartmann
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You see? That is what I was trying to explain -- if you believe what you say about the court system here -- of course you would read these decisions the way you do. They would take on all sorts of dire political undertones.

But try this. Just go with it and ASSUME for a second I know what I'm talking about.

Marbury was about the ability of federal courts to be the ultimate arbiters of federal law -- the division of powers between the branches of the federal government. It dealt with Article III courts -- I was using that as an example of when a court system declares its own powers and announces its jurisdictional supremacy over another body. That is what the Hansen decision really was for this Supreme Court. The federal court got into local election law where it could only go (as it said in the decision) if it was guessing at what the VI Supreme Court would do.

Both the "federal court" here, the VI legislature and courts are all created by Congress under Article IV of the US Constitution. There is no Article III federal court here. We call it the "District Court" and there are even laws that say that in most ways it is to be treated as though it were one -- but is just is not an Article III federal district court. It is just a territorial court, like the VI Supreme Court, created by Congress under Article IV -- the Territorial Clause.

In addition, Congress and the President did cede the ultimate power over Territorial laws to the VI Supreme Court. To be clear: The District Court only has original jurisdiction to hear "federal questions (US federal law) and local VI law matters for certain tax matters and specialty items (and in diversity cases) -- and must apply local law (i.e. what the VI Supreme Court says) when it hears what would otherwise be a VI case because of diversity of citizenship. In that case it simply acts like a VI court subject to the precedent from the VI Supreme Court. (You are correct in a sense...if the violation was a violation of the Organic Act, it would be a federal question.... but almost everything regarding the operations of the VI government, including elections, was put into the hands of the local legislature by the Organic Act. So when the election laws were created by the VI legislature and the BoE was created, almost no actual, residual authority over that system remained....Thus, MOST elections issues (unless it is a direct violation of the Organic Act in setting up those local laws -- is now local law.)

As I mentioned, Google 'Estate Thomas Mall' to see the beginning of that in the 90's -- and below is a brief history as to why the VI Supreme Court is the truly the final and supreme decider of VI. Laws (not federal laws) in the VI -- which includes (under endless decisions) the local election laws.

We cannot ignore that, at the time both section 4 of title 1 and its predecessor in the 1921 Codes were initially enacted, the Virgin Islands lacked a fully developed local judiciary, with the District Court—a federal court established by Congress rather than the Legislature and consisting of judges selected by the President of the United States rather than the Governor of the Virgin Islands—possessing jurisdiction over most civil actions, and local courts only exercising jurisdiction over only relatively minor civil claims.6 Thus, at the time the Legislature enacted section 4, the most significant Virgin Islands judicial decisions were being rendered by the District Court, which—although hearing cases that in other jurisdictions would ordinarily be heard by a local court—was “essentially a federal creature” that “was created by federal law” and consisted of “federal judges” appointed by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate. BA Props. Inc. v. Gov't of the V.I., 299 F.3d 207, 212 (3d Cir.2002).

Moreover, even though the Virgin Islands local judiciary continued to expand and receive greater jurisdiction over local matters in the decades that followed, all decisions rendered by the Superior Court and its predecessor courts continued to be reviewed on appeal by the District Court, which made it “very difficult to attain” the goal of establishing “an indigenous Virgin Islands jurisprudence” given that local judges lacked the ability to issue decisions that would constitute binding precedent in the territory. Id. *5

A pivotal change occurred, however, when Congress subsequently amended the Revised Organic Act of 1954 to authorize creation of a local appellate court. 48 U.S.C. § 1613a. When the Legislature established this Court in 2004, it reposed in this Court “the supreme judicial power of the Territory.” 4 V.I.C. § 21. This includes the power to both interpret local law and modify the common law. See, e.g., Ford v. Norris, 364 F.3d 916, 919 (8th Cir.2004) (“The Arkansas Supreme Court is the final authority on the interpretation of Arkansas law. As the supreme judicial authority of the state, it decides what state law is....”); Virmani v. Presbyterian Health Services, 515 S.E.2d 675, 691 (N.C.1999) (“[A]s the common law originally was, and largely continues to be, a body of law discovered and announced in court decisions, this Court, as the court of last resort in North Carolina, may modify the common law of North Carolina....”). Significantly, section 21 of title 4 represents both the first time that a local court created by the Legislature—as opposed to Congress—was invested with “supreme judicial power,” as well as the first time that a local appellate court consisting entirely of local judges appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Legislature would review on direct appeal decisions issued by a local trial court.

Banks v. Int'l Rental & Leasing Corp., 55 V.I. 967, 2011 WL 6299025, at *4-5 (V.I. Dec. 15, 2011)

The Supremacy Clause mediates conflicts between the passage of local laws and federal ones on issues delineated as "federal" by the Constitution. Trust me......the VI Supreme Court is the total, final and only supreme court on local law here. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules otherwise.

I'm sorry if I sound pedantic and like some sort of old law professor...I know it is annoying. But it is important. People should not be looking at these court decisions like they are some sort of random set of political acts by judges who are either corrupt or out of the main line of thinking....it just isn't the case. Hansen was a more or less common dispute between two courts who are thinking about their own turf.

And returning to this decision...it was a good one...decided for good reasons that we should be proud of, and that both candidates agree on -- it upholds and continues important rights.

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Topic starter Posted : November 15, 2014 12:49 am
MissJustice
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Longhorn, give it up. Act 7334 of the VI code, is a local adoption of the HAVA Act. Therefore the VI Court does have jurisdiction.

Mr. Hartmann, your words are well said. Well said.

A victory for voters today. A victory for all the victims of corrupt and incompetent courts.

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Posted : November 15, 2014 12:49 am
ms411
(@ms411)
Expert

Thanks for keeping us informed and with real facts and citations! Rare these days.

Is there a possibility that the general election can be invalidated since it was "wrongful" and violated federal law?

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Posted : November 15, 2014 5:14 am
longhorn
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the district court was created by the revised organic act to resolve federal disputes, which also necessarily includes disputes arising from an interpretation of the de facto virgin islands constitution -> the revised organic act. the revised organic act confers upon the people of the virgin islands the power to create their own courts to resolve disputes arising from local law. the virgin islands legislature therefore created the virgin islands supreme court to fill that role. the power derived from the supreme court was from a legislative act as opposed to a structural constitutional creation - akin to the separation of powers, which is what differentiates these recent decisions from the marbury v madison decision you cited.

after its creation, the virgin islands supreme court instead granted itself structural separation of powers like powers, which cannot be so, since it is a legislative as opposed to a constitutional creature.

in the end, nothing in the virgin islands code allows the virgin islands supreme court the power to interpret federal law, which is why it danced around and misinterpreted Act. No. 7334, section 3.

Its one thing msjustice to agree with the result and another to agree with the process. in marbury v madison the us supreme court delivered the result, while secretly outlining its supreme powers...

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Posted : November 15, 2014 10:58 am
CarlHartmann
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Longhorn....The great thing here is that we are having an actual, fact-based discussion about the structure of the courts -- and how that structure has affected the decisions.....rather than guessing at some sort of hypothetical plots and intrigues.

So lets agree that we agree first on your predicate argument -- that:

"the revised organic act [recently as amended] confers upon the people of the virgin islands the power to create their own courts to resolve disputes arising from local law. the virgin islands legislature therefore created the virgin islands supreme court to fill that role."

Exactly. The result of that is that the VI Supreme Court is the final decider of all local law.

So on to the second step -- although this one is not really critical, it still should be addressed:

"after its creation, the virgin islands supreme court instead granted itself structural separation of powers like powers, which cannot be so, since it is a legislative as opposed to a constitutional creature."

Actually, what happened was that a long and very intellectually rigorous process was built into to the law that created VI Supreme. It involved a long supervision and training period for the Justices and the Court -- overseen by the Third Circuit. The 3rd Cir, "taught" the VI Supreme Court how to run a court, run the Clerk's office, write decisions and be a real, live supreme court. Decisions were reviewed and discussed. And when that had gone on for years, the 3rd Circuit certified that the VI Supreme Court's Justices, staff and operations were truly "ready" for the moment of separation. (This is the same 3rd Circuit Court that oversees and reviews the district court.)

So (several years earlier than expected based on the abilities shown in the 3rd Circuit's reviews) after years of this training and supervision, the Third Circuit certified the readiness of the VI Supreme Court to no longer be subject to Third Circuit final review. The law, the process and the efforts of the Justices and court personnel (who are, by the way as good at this as any of the state appellate courts that I've seen) went off on their own to hear and decide VI law independent of any higher authority. It was a proud day for the VI and for the Courts. (In addition to litigating in many states, I interned at the US Supreme Court and then clerked on a state appellate court back in the time when dinosaurs walked the Earth, so I can say this with some level of certainty.)

So...on to the third point. You say:

"in the end, nothing in the virgin islands code allows the virgin islands supreme court the power to interpret federal law, which is why it danced around and misinterpreted Act. No. 7334, section 3"

Act No. 7334 of what????? Whose Act 7334?

When you file a lawsuit based on local law, it can be brought in federal court if it is a tax matter or if a citizen of one state (or territory) sues a citizen of another for more than $75,000. The latter is called "diversity jurisdiction" and is intended to prevent a person getting a "home-court" advantage in his or her own state court. BUT...in that case, the federal court is just acting as a part of the state system and has to follow local precedent. SO...if the district court here hears a local law issue (such as an election issue) it acts as a sort of local court and has to listen to the VI Supreme Court. The flip of this is that if it is hearing a federal statute...it and the 3rd Circuit are the final deciders.

The other side of that coin is that you can file any case in a local court -- either under federal law or local law....as long as you can serve them personally in the state (personal jurisdiction), the object of the suit is in the state (in rem jurisdiction) or a tort or other act is committed in the state (long-arm jurisdiction). So...you can also bring federal claims in state courts. In that case, the state court is bound by federal precedent! (The one twist on this is that if it could be heard in the federal court because it is federal law, the defendant can 'remove' it automatically back out to federal court.)

The ultimate question in either of those cases is not necessarily WHERE the case is brought, but rather this: Which law does the Court have to follow -- is it a federal question or a question of local law?

So there were two issues in the Hansen case: (1) where was the case originally brought (local court) and (2) was the law that was being interpreted local or federal (local).

I know......you want to say that because it was a law created by the VI Legislature pursuant to the Organic Act -- it is federal. But not so ! Once the Organic Act cedes authority to the local legislature, all of the Acts that the legislature passes thereafter are local law. Like the BoE and the elections laws ! The federal court only has a federal question if the local law is ITSELF a violation of the Organic Act.

So, in Hansen, when the case was pending on reconsideration before the local courts on a local law issue and the District Court jumped in -- there was BOUND to be trouble having nothing at all to do with Ms. Hansen. As I said, when I was a clerk in New Mexico we saw that problem a lot. It is sort of what courts do in the background where the public never really sees things. "Get off of my turf." The District Court called foul not because of political intrigues or payola -- but because it was not convinced that the case was still pending in the local courts and, generally, I can assure you that federal judges do not like getting spoken to like that -- even if it is a young court asserting its new prerogatives....particularly where the district court was the boss up until just recently.

All of which set the stage for what happened here. The new Sheriff...the (highly) trained and newly freed VI Supreme Court has been issuing decisions (even a couple somewhat critical of its old mentor the 3rd Circuit) for a couple of years -- asserting ITS authority over local laws. Along came this case which IS a matter of local law. (Although the federal voting law was used as a standard, the Court found that because the VI Legislature said so, the BoE was bound to "standards" set forth in a Federal Law. It DID NOT apply the federal law to a federal question -- only stated that the VI Legislature had specifically stated that it was incorporating those standards into VI law -- and as the arbiters of VI law, they were stating the election was done wrong. (The side discussion in the decision about whether the federal court could hear an individual's case for a violation of the federal law pursuant to the CIVIL RIGHTS ACTS, 42 USC 1983, was left open ! Maybe we will find out in the next election !)

But the subtext is really this: (1) WE are the court of final resort on local law...stop making stuff up when situations arise, and stop trying to go around us to get another decision from another court; and (2) The VI HAS to run like a real court system -- we cannot have people thinking you can do or decide things willy nilly. As I said, they have handed down a series of decision trying to make and clarify local law -- and give everyone a sense that we are a real jurisdiction with solid legal fundamentals.

Do courts get swayed by facts or outside pressures -- certainly, judges are human. But I swear to you....these Justices (and our whole legal system) are trying hard to do the right thing here. Many of the Superior Court Judges are great people who took drastic pay cuts to carry impossible loads. The staffs work endlessly. The caseload is heartbreaking and relentless. The Legislature does not give the Courts the funds for even the basics and (as I said) most lawyers either give their time or are assigned cases at a very reduced rate just to keep things ticking.

Sure, you see the occasional political case, and there have been bad, stupid and ineffectual judges -- but there is a deluge of difficult and horrible family matters. Criminal cases that are crushing. And this is not restricted to the USVI. I am also a member of the DC Bar.....it has a huge population that lives in or near poverty and goes through the same stuff.

So, this is all I ask. Take a moment to think about what you are saying when you make comments about corrupt judges and bad motivations for decisions. Many, many, many times there are issues in play that you can't see. And please do what you've done here over the past few days -- involve yourself in a discussion where facts are presented and discussed like we have. The decisions are on the court's website -- read them...DO NOT believe what the newspapers or bloggers tell you they said.

Gotta go today...my wife thinks I'm playing video games, But again -- we got both parties to agree on a good thing, the courts eventually enforced it and the voters rights have been strengthened not only now, but most importantly, for all the future elections. YAY USVI !!

Carl

ps. This question was asked:

Thanks for keeping us informed and with real facts and citations! Rare these days.

Is there a possibility that the general election can be invalidated since it was "wrongful" and violated federal law?

Nope. Once the election proceeded under the prior refusal to intervene and the election went forward, that was that. Courts will almost NEVER invalidate an election that has gone forward as it represents the will of the electorate. That is why you see such furious activity in the courts just before elections.

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Topic starter Posted : November 15, 2014 2:11 pm
longhorn
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@carlhartmann: judges who are politically influenced is not unusual. on the mainland, in some states judges run for judicial office. that way they answer to the voters. the difference, of course is that federal judges are appointed for life unless removed, which is not based on ideology but for misconduct. for this court, to pander to their eventual nominator, i don't think that says anything bad about them, it just calls out their decision.

the various circuits and the united states supreme court all abstain from acting on matters that have the tendency of voter suppression. the eligibility of a candidate to hold office is one of those such occurrences. in the hansen 2, the court ordered her off of the ballot even after voting had started, which is highly unusual.

bert bryan brought his action pursuant to local law, which is what conferred jurisdiction upon the court to determine whether under section 411 and/or 412 he could run. the revised organic act however, makes a candidate ineligible to hold office if that candidate is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, etc. therefore, because we both agree that the district court interprets the roa, then the supreme court's interpretation of the term is not controlling. i believe they defined it under the roa, which is not binding upon a legislative candidate.

that said chief judge lewis did the vi supreme court a favor in not specifically defining the parameters of the supreme court, which would have the tendency of causing extreme confusionas to some of the supreme courts prior decisions, since they have clearly overstepped their boundaries. this is not a state, the court is a creation of the legislature as opposed to the constitution, separation of powers, etc.

the VI needs to run like a real court system, but before that, the vi needs a constitution that defines the parameters of the various courts... if not, the legislature controls the parameters of the supreme court and can limit its powers.

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Posted : November 15, 2014 4:09 pm
MissJustice
(@MissJustice)
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And Brady and Wilma Lewis should be put off the bench

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Posted : November 15, 2014 8:23 pm
stxisbest
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Advanced Member

oops landed on a facebook page. wait, no but it should be.

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Posted : November 15, 2014 10:52 pm
CarlHartmann
(@CarlHartmann)
Advanced Member

Wow? Really?

You mean you registered here 7 days ago to provide that sort of valuable contribution to the discussions ???

Sorry, I know 62 posts in 7 years on this forum is a lot -- but pardon me....I kind of think the subject is important while we are going through an election and all.

Because it bothered you enough to provide the insight, I will be far more careful. Will go back to discussing DISH TV with SkysTheLimit which is my favorite topic anyway.

Carl

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Topic starter Posted : November 16, 2014 12:48 am
ms411
(@ms411)
Expert

Please continue to update and educate, Carl. The election is very important, and we need researched, documented information.

Thank you for all that you do.

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Posted : November 16, 2014 1:18 am
CarlHartmann
(@CarlHartmann)
Advanced Member

that said chief judge lewis did the vi supreme court a favor in not specifically defining the parameters of the supreme court, which would have the tendency of causing extreme confusionas to some of the supreme courts prior decisions, since they have clearly overstepped their boundaries. this is not a state, the court is a creation of the legislature as opposed to the constitution, separation of powers, etc.

Longhorn.....if you won't believe me, please read what the Third Circuit said about the Vi Supreme Court v. the District Court. It was not Judge Lewis' place to do the VI Courts "a favor" by interpreting their power. The VI Courts HAVE the power. This is the 3rd Circuit's decision in Edwards v. HOVENSA, LLC, 497 F.3d 355, 358-59 (3d Cir. 2007)

A brief analysis of the jurisdiction of the District Court of the Virgin Islands is necessary to put the issue before us in perspective.

In our opinion in Carty v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 679 F.2d 1051 (3d Cir.1982), where we considered in some detail the basis on which the District Court of the Virgin Islands had jurisdiction over the matter at issue there, we analyzed that court's jurisdiction “in light of historical perspective and the applicable authorities[.]” Id. at 1053. After reviewing the origin of the United States' dominion over the Virgin Islands and the establishment of its courts, in particular the 1936 Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, we concluded that “when Congress acted to establish the District Court of the Virgin Islands, it established it as a court of original and general jurisdiction.” Id. at 1055.1

Thereafter, Congress amended the Revised Organic Act in 1984, 48 U.S.C. § 1611 et seq., and “established the framework for a dual system of local and federal judicial review in the Virgin Islands.” Parrott v. Gov't of the V.I., 230 F.3d 615, 619 (3d Cir.2000). Under the 1954 Revised Organic Act, 48 U.S.C. § 1612, the District Court of the Virgin Islands had “jurisdiction over federal questions, regardless of the amount in controversy, and general original jurisdiction over questions of local law, subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the local courts over civil actions where the amount in controversy was less than $500.” Moravian Sch. Advisory Bd. v. Rawlins, 70 F.3d 270, 272 (3d Cir.1995). As we explained in Parrott, “by virtue of [the 1984] amendments, the District Court now possesses the jurisdiction of a ‘District Court of the United States.’ 48 U.S.C. § 1612(a).” 230 F.3d at 619.Significantly, in Parrott we noted that under the statute,

The Virgin Islands Legislature was now able, however, to divest the District Court of original jurisdiction for local matters by vesting that jurisdiction in territorial courts established by local law for all causes for which “any court established by the Constitution and laws of the United States does not have exclusive jurisdiction.”Id. We made explicit that “[t]o the extent that that divestiture power is exercised by the legislature, the District Court loses jurisdiction to the Territorial Court over local matters. See 48 U.S.C. § 1612(b)[.]” Id.1

The Virgin Islands statute enacted September 5, 1990, provided that:effective October 1, 1991, the Superior Court shall have original jurisdiction in all civil actions regardless of the amount in controversy; to supervise and administer estates and fiduciary relations; to appoint and supervise guardians and trustees; to hear and determine juvenile, divorce, annulment and separation proceedings; to grant adoptions and changes of name; to establish paternity; to legitimize children and to make orders and decrees pertaining to the support of relations.4 V.I.C. § 76(a).As we stated in Parrott, “ § 1613 of the Revised Organic Act acts in combination with § 76(a) of the V.I.Code to effectively repeal any grant of concurrent jurisdiction to the District Court over local actions once the Virgin Islands legislature has *359 vested jurisdiction over local civil actions in the Territorial Court.” 230 F.3d at 620 (citing Brow v. Farrelly, 994 F.2d 1027, 1035–36 (3d Cir.1993) (recognizing implicit repeal in 4 V.I.Code § 32)).

It follows that Edwards errs when he argues that the District Court of the Virgin Islands still remains vested with the “judicial power of the territory.” He cites a pre–1984 case of this court for the proposition that the District Court of the Virgin Islands sits “essentially as a local court,” not a federal court interpreting local law, V.I. Dep't of Conservation & Cultural Affairs v. V.I. Paving, Inc., 714 F.2d 283, 285–86 (3d Cir.1983), but that opinion preceded the restructure of the courts of the Virgin Islands.

Thus, we reiterate that which we previously made clear in Parrott: the 1991 Virgin Islands statute divested the District Court “of original jurisdiction over purely local civil matters.” Parrott, 230 F.3d at 620. In addition, the District Court has been divested of its appellate jurisdiction.2

We recognize that it is not easy for the District Court, which has contributed generously and productively to the local law of the Virgin Islands, to accept its divestiture but that follows inexorably from the statutes and is confirmed by the legislative history. In 1991, the Virgin Islands legislature exercised the authority granted it under 48 U.S.C. § 1612(b) to divest the District Court of original jurisdiction over any cause over which local law has vested jurisdiction in the local courts. See 30 Cong. Rec. 23783, 23789 (1984) (statement of Sen. Weicker) (“At any time, ... by vesting jurisdiction in the local courts, the local law will have the effect of divesting the district court of jurisdiction.”).

We therefore take this opportunity to reject any statements to the contrary in District Court opinions. See, e.g., Spink v. Gen. Accident Ins. Co. of Puerto Rico, Ltd., 36 F.Supp.2d 689, 691 (D.V.I.1999) (“This court need not predict local law ... because it is vested with the authority to decide novel questions as a LOCAL trial court.”).

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Topic starter Posted : November 16, 2014 8:53 pm
longhorn
(@longhorn)
Advanced Member

there is no dispute that the local courts interpret local law, as a state court interprets state law. The difference is, however, that the VI is not a state and has no constitution. the supreme court is a creature of the legislature.

a few years ago, chucky threatened to legislatively dissolve the hospital board if two of its members didnt resign. Here, because its a legislative creation the same can apply. Its not constitutional, its legislative.

that aside, the question as to whether chucky was eligible within the meaning of the ROA is a determination to be made by the district court, the roa is a federal document and its interpretation belongs to the federal court. now, the same applies to HAVA. the court interpreted a local statute that did not incorporate the provisions of HAVA that the Court relied on, yet they decided the matter anyway.

my original point is that court's are inclined to be politically persuaded in the vi and my chief position is that thats what it appears to be to me, with regard to this most recent decision.

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Posted : November 16, 2014 10:20 pm
CarlHartmann
(@CarlHartmann)
Advanced Member

there is no dispute that the local courts interpret local law, as a state court interprets state law. The difference is, however, that the VI is not a state and has no constitution. the supreme court is a creature of the legislature.

a few years ago, chucky threatened to legislatively dissolve the hospital board if two of its members didnt resign. Here, because its a legislative creation the same can apply. Its not constitutional, its legislative.

[snip]

my original point is that court's are inclined to be politically persuaded in the vi and my chief position is that thats what it appears to be to me, with regard to this most recent decision
.

You've got me there. The VI courts are VI courts....just like the courts of Texas or Vermont. Not the Governor....but the Legislature PLUS the Governor could try to "go back" to not having any Supreme Court at all I suppose. I guess it depends on whether you think the VI could survive the Congressional response and somehow force the Third Circuit to resume supervision. But it seems we are miles from where we started, and if both Ken and Donna had such an elaborate and intricate joint plan to agree to this suit as artifice to use that attenuated a threat to force compliance or rid the VI of any appellate court -- perhaps they are so clever that one of them really should be Governor.

that aside, the question as to whether chucky was eligible within the meaning of the ROA is a determination to be made by the district court, the roa is a federal document and its interpretation belongs to the federal court. now, the same applies to HAVA. the court interpreted a local statute that did not incorporate the provisions of HAVA that the Court relied on, yet they decided the matter anyway.

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree (after a great discussion of the issue !) I think her eligibility under VI statutes passed pursuant to the Rev. Organic Act are local issues (just like the VI Legislature's use of HAVA as a "standard" for what has to exist regarding voting rather than actually applying HAVA to the VI as HAVA-per se) and something decided for the moment -- but always open to further litigation I suppose.

The outcome of our extended discussion being that if two (obviously) smart folks like us could have this sort of close, complex discussion about the interpretation of the federal v. local law -- and how the unique Article IV jurisdiction of the VI courts and the division of courts in a Federal system fit into that -- it is just possible that Judges like Brady and Lewis, and the three Justices are really just doing their best to decide cases based on difficult laws and interests of the respective courts -- and not always on intrigue and craven self-interest. I think they are hard working, committed judges; and hope you will at least consider that POSSBILITY when next any of them rule.

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Topic starter Posted : November 17, 2014 2:15 am
longhorn
(@longhorn)
Advanced Member

Same here thanks for the great discussion. I admire Lewis and Brady, as well. I like the effort by the VI Supreme Court to create purely local law, however, I know that at times decisions can be influenced by various factors. I am also concerned by the Court's tone. I also think if the Court didn't act in Chucky II, then Chucky could have somehow blocked a renomination of the justices in 2016. I also think that if Donna gets in, then based on her relationship with Lewis, at least Hodge and Swan will not be re-nominated.

The foundation, I think for a greater Court even without Hodge, I think has already been laid, in their decisions as to the Authority of the Supreme Court.

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Posted : November 17, 2014 2:43 am
rzombo
(@rzombo)
Active Member

it is just possible that Judges like Brady and Lewis, and the three Justices are really just doing their best to decide cases based on difficult laws and interests of the respective courts -- and not always on intrigue and craven self-interest. I think they are hard working, committed judges; and hope you will at least consider that POSSBILITY when next any of them rule.

Wait a minute. I thought, based on reading this message board, that when a judge or justice makes a decision on a complicated legal issue in an election case that benefits a candidate I dislike, or is detrimental to a candidate I like, the decision inherently reflects the judge or justice's personal opinion about the candidate, not their professional opinion of the legal issue, and the judge or justice is corrupt. You just blew my mind. Now what am I going to do with this tin foil hat?

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Posted : November 17, 2014 4:12 pm
IslandHops
(@IslandHops)
Trusted Member

.... Now what am I going to do with this tin foil hat?

Keep wearing it - for protection during the post election shit-storm.

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Posted : November 17, 2014 4:39 pm
CruzanIron
(@cruzaniron)
Expert

Wait a minute. I thought, based on reading this message board, that when a judge or justice makes a decision on a complicated legal issue in an election case that benefits a candidate I dislike, or is detrimental to a candidate I like, the decision inherently reflects the judge or justice's personal opinion about the candidate, not their professional opinion of the legal issue, and the judge or justice is corrupt.

LOL.

Justice = when the decision goes the way I want it to be.

In-Justice = when the decision goes against the way I want it to be.

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Posted : November 17, 2014 5:28 pm
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