19 March 2015

Scene from a suburban Philadelphia courthouse, March, 2015

The scene: A large courtroom in the courthouse of a county in southeastern Pennsylvania. Large-scale portraits of recent-looking judges (some female but all white), apparently painted from photographs, line the room's walls. The case is a petition to set aside the nomination petition of a candidate for the office of commissioner in a mid-sized township. In other words, someone's trying to get a candidate kicked off the ballot for the primary election. Three COURT WORKERS stand between the JUDGE's bench and the parties. They are not sure what's going on -- it is Florida, 2000, writ small.

COURT WORKERS: "What's a petitoner? What's a respondent? We don't know where you should sit. Parties, just pick a table, any table."

ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONERS: "Your Honor, the law states that a candidate has to file Statement X with the Ethics Board and file a copy with the Board of Elections. The law further states that failure to file with the Ethics Board is a fatal defect to candidacy. Candidate filed only the latter. Therefore, her candidacy is fatally defective and she should be stricken from the ballot. Please issue an order to that effect."

CANDIDATE: "It's true I didn't file the statement with Ethics. But I'm disabled and I had to take my son to sportsball game and the notary had stepped out and the Party person said they'd take care of it. In fact, this lawyer should be representing me, not the petitioners, because the Party person didn't do what they promised."

ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONERS: "The law as written is unambiguous about the requirement. Also, Case Y from just 2 years ago in the state supreme court says that judges aren't allowed to make an exception when a candidate says they relied on someone to do something and it didn't happen. Please issue our order."

JUDGE: "Board of Elections, do you have anything to add?"

BOARD: "Nope."

JUDGE: "Sounds good to me. I'm not interested in getting overturned by Superior Court. Too bad, so sad, Candidate. Order issued as requested."


No comments: