Case Caption: Janelle K. Sarauw and Brigitte Berry, v. Caroline Fawkes, in her official capacity as Supervisor Of Elections, Virgin Islands Joint Board of Elections, Board of Elections, St. Thomas-St. John, and Kevin A. Rodriguez a/k/a Kevin A. Rodriquez,Case Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2017-0005Date: 01/08/2017Author: Per CuriamCitation: Summary:

Considering an appeal from the denial of a permanent injunction enjoining a candidate from taking the oath of office as a member of the Legislature, the Superior Court erred by failing to apply the doctrine of judicial estoppel. The purpose of the doctrine of judicial estoppel is to protect the integrity of the judicial process by prohibiting parties from deliberately changing positions in one or more proceedings. The doctrine precludes a party from asserting a position on a question of fact or a mixed question of law and fact that is inconsistent with a position taken by that party in a previous judicial proceeding if the totality of the circumstances compels such a result. In conducting this inquiry, a court must focus on the impact that allowing the claims would have on the judicial process. The Superior Court erred when it declined to apply judicial estoppel to preclude the candidate from contradicting his claims of Tennessee residency and citizenship made in a prior bankruptcy proceeding, since those representations were clearly and unquestionably inconsistent with the candidate claiming to have been a bona fide resident of the Virgin Islands. Because the inconsistent representations were without legitimate excuse or explanation, were made in a very short duration so as to warrant an inference that the candidate intended to play fast and loose with the court, were relied upon by the bankruptcy court, and involve the subjects of domicile and residency which affect many civic duties and should not be taken lightly, the balance of the equities supports application of judicial estoppel so as to preclude the candidate from claiming to have been a bona fide resident of the Virgin Islands. The Superior Court's denial of a permanent injunction is vacated. Since the Superior Court failed to make findings on the remaining permanent injunction factors, and did not resolve other outstanding issues between the parties, the matter is remanded for further proceedings. Because it is possible that the Superior Court may not resolve all of these issues before the swearing-in of the 32nd Legislature, the Supreme Court issues a preliminary injunction pursuant to title 4, section 32(b) of the Virgin Islands Code enjoining the candidate from taking the oath of office until the completion of all proceedings on remand, as well as any associated appeal.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion