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Election Litigation: Filling Vacancies
Validity of a Local Special Election
Powell v. Alabama (L. Scott Coogler, N.D. Ala. 2:08-cv-1345)
The federal case involved a dispute about whether a county commission vacancy had been filled by gubernatorial appointment or by special election, both of which had occurred. The case included the question of whether the procedure for filling the vacancy required section 5 preclearance. As the next general election drew near, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action because the governor’s appointee failed to qualify for the ballot.
Topics: Section 5 preclearance; three-judge court.
Establishing a New Position Too Late for a Primary Election
Shapiro v. Berger (Colleen McMahon, S.D.N.Y. 7:04-cv-5895)
A prospective candidate for a new judicial position filed a federal complaint alleging that the position was purposely established too late for a primary election. The district judge denied the candidate a preliminary injunction, concluding that the complaint stated no valid federal constitutional claim.
Topics: Primary election; getting on the ballot; party procedures; matters for state courts.
Removal of an Elected Official as a Violation of Voting Rights
Kuhn v. Thompson (Mark E. Fuller, M.D. Ala. 2:03-cv-1136)
A 2003 complaint challenged the disciplinary removal of Alabama’s chief justice for his violating a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the court building’s rotunda. The district judge denied the plaintiffs immediate injunctive relief and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint. (1) The defendants were entitled to Younger v. Harris abstention because the chief justice’s appeal to Alabama’s supreme court was still pending. (2) The defendants were entitled to judicial immunity. (3) The plaintiffs failed to state a valid claim because the right to elect the chief justice did not include a right to keep him in office for his whole term.
Topics: Matters for state courts; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; enforcing orders.