Case Caption: Allen Haynes, Sr. v. Basil Ottley, Jr., et al.Case Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2014-0071Date: 12/01/2014Author: Per CuriamCitation: Summary:

The Superior Court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction of a complaint challenging the eligibility of the Democratic Party's nominee for lieutenant governor to serve in that position if elected, on various grounds including failure to meet the requirement of bona fide five-year residence in the Virgin Islands, is reversed. While the election has been completed, this appeal is not moot since the results reported by the Supervisor of Elections are at this stage unofficial, and an exception to the mootness doctrine applies to this case, in that the underlying legal issue is capable of repetition yet evading review. The plain text of 18 V.I.C. § 412 reflects that the Legislature could not have intended for it to represent the exclusive means through which to challenge a candidate's eligibility to hold office. Title 18 of the Virgin Islands Code establishes a comprehensive framework governing elections in the Virgin Islands, containing several provisions regarding challenges to candidacies, including 18 V.I.C. § 411, a statute governing examination of nomination petitions and papers by the Supervisor of Elections calling for disqualification of a candidate who does not meet the qualifications established by law for the office. Section 412 was also not intended to preempt 5 V.I.C. § 80, which provides that a taxpayer may maintain an action to restrain illegal or unauthorized acts by a territorial officer or employee or the wrongful disbursement of territorial funds, or the general jurisdiction statute, 4 V.I.C. § 76, which confers jurisdiction over civil actions, including actions for statutory or common law extraordinary writs, including writs of mandamus and quo warranto. Therefore the Superior Court had jurisdiction to consider the present suit notwithstanding the fact that the five-day limitations period set forth in § 412 had passed. No opinion is here expressed as to what statutory or common law remedy is appropriate; plaintiff could assert, in addition to or instead of pleading a claim under 5 V.I.C. § 80, other claims for equitable relief 4 V.I.C. § 76, even though those causes of actions were not pled by name in his complaint. Nor is any opinion expressed here as to whether the plaintiff has actually pled sufficient facts to succeed on the merits of any of those causes of action, or whether any affirmative defenses are available to the defendants which may defeat those claims. The October 30, 2014 order of the Superior Court is reversed and this matter is remanded for the sole purpose of allowing it to consider this complaint on the merits or, if appropriate, dismissing it as moot if the election results are subsequently certified and no legitimate reason exists to proceed into inquiry into the merits of this claim.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion