GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A St. Augustine judge is expected to rule this week in a court case involving a Clay County Judge who is suing to keep her first-ever opponent’s name off the ballot in the …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A St. Augustine judge is expected to rule this week in a court case involving a Clay County Judge who is suing to keep her first-ever opponent’s name off the ballot in the general election.
On May 30, Clay County Judge Kristina Mobley filed suit against Lucy Ann Hoover of Middleburg who is challenging Mobley’s seat. The complaint sought to have Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless remove Hoover’s name from the ballot.
According to the complaint, Mobley believes Hoover failed to complete necessary forms properly and did not turn them in before the deadline of noon on May 4. During court on June 19, Seventh Judicial Circuit Judge Howard Maltz heard arguments from Mobley’s plaintiff lawyers, Michael Fackler and Paul Renner.
“Your honor, let me begin by saying our position is straightforward,” Renner said. “We have a clear and unambiguous statute...it requires five items to be filed and those items must be received by the qualifying officer by the end of the qualifying period, in this case, noon on May 4.
“Our position is that one or more of those items were simply not received before the noon deadline and that is our argument,” Renner said.
Renner cited that there are similar court cases where substantial compliance would occur, which simply put, would allow a workaround on an otherwise strict rule, but that this instance does not fall under the same territory as those.
For example, in one case cited, a would-be candidate had their paperwork complete but was unable to have them turned in on time because there was a long line outside the building that said person had to wait in. In this situation, substantial compliance would be in play as had an outside force not affected the candidates’ ability to turn in their complete and necessary paperwork on time, said person would have done so successfully.
According to Renner, Hoover failed to turn in one or more of the necessary items on her own accord, meaning that rather than substantial, strict compliance was in play – strict compliance would disqualify Hoover in this instance.
When it was time for the defending party to speak, Chambless’ lawyer, Ron Labasky, spoke first. Labasky began his argument by citing a list of relevant facts. He said Hoover was in the office prior to deadline and not all documents were received on time. If a candidate has initiated the procedure, which includes being in the office before deadline and filling out necessary paperwork, then the Supervisor of Elections, in this case Chambless, has the right to allow the potential candidate to finish. Maltz responded to this argument by asking Labasky if any Supervisor of Elections has the right to do this, thus superseding state policy with their own policy.
“I think Bayne v. Gibson tells us, ‘yes, they do have that policy’,” Labasky said. “That was the operative situation that allowed the Bayne candidate to qualify.”
Maltz further questioned Labasky about Bayne v. Gibson, citing that in that court case, everything was completed by the time Bayne entered the door before deadline but that was not the reality in Hoover’s situation.
“I think all of the cases we’ve cited in our memo would lead to exactly the conclusion that the court will adhere to the vision that fundamental fairness would allow a candidate in this situation to qualify because the direction the court has taken, as cited by the case and in our brief and our memo, is that the courts favor having candidates being allowed to qualify,” Labasky said.
When it was time for Hoover’s lawyer, Mark Herron, to speak, he continued the discussion surrounding Bayne v Gibson, citing that Hoover ran into an outside force, in this case, a glitch between Wells Fargo Bank and VyStar Credit Union, that prohibited her from completing all items necessary on time. Because of this, it would bring substantial compliance into play, like it did in Bayne v. Gibson.
“The candidate was in the office [before the deadline] and engaged in the process,” Herron said. “I don’t really think that in this instance, [Hoover failing to turn in the documents completed and on time] is the fault of the candidate...this falls squarely within Bayne v. Gibson.”
Renner responded and reiterated his previous argument that the policy surrounding candidate qualifications is clear and unambiguous. Maltz then responded by asking if the plaintiff’s argument was draconian.
“Isn’t it a bit draconian, for lack of better term, when somebody is just 10 minutes late to say no you can’t qualify?” Maltz asked.
“There’s no doubt that the closer we get to the [deadline], the more our sympathies lie with the candidate, but those are facts that unfortunately cannot enter in aggregating a clear and unambiguous statute,” Renner said.
Following the end of both parties’ arguments, Maltz said he would do his best to have a verdict released by the end of the week.