Pa. Democratic Party turns to courts to remove convicted former state Rep. Bill DeWeese from ballot

By Jon Campisi | Aug 9, 2012

Attorneys representing the state’s Democratic Party have taken their fight to remove a

convicted politician from the upcoming election ballot to court, arguing that former House speaker Bill DeWeese should be replaced by another candidate since he is no longer eligible to serve in office, a central Pennsylvania newspaper has reported.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg on Wednesday reported that lawyers for the Democratic Party went before Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley to see about getting DeWeese thrown off the ballot.

DeWeese was convicted of public corruption charges last spring; he was sentenced to state prison on primary election day this past April when voters in his district re-nominated him for another term, the newspaper reported.

While the state constitution prohibits those convicted of so-called infamous crimes – they are generally determined to be felonies – from holding office, a technical loophole allows the same people to run for office.

Although DeWeese resigned his House seat the day he was sentenced to prison, his attorney, Courtney Powell, told the court that it would be premature to remove DeWeese from the ballot entirely because he is pursuing an appeal of his conviction, according to the Patriot-News.

“This scenario is incredibly unique,” Powell told the Commonwealth Court judge Wednesday, the paper reported.

Powell was also quoted as saying that her reading of the law is that the Democratic Party and the other plaintiffs in the case lack the legal authority to challenge DeWeese’s place on the ballot, since the candidate replacement mechanisms in the state’s Election Code deal with those who have resigned as candidates or those who have died.

The paper further reported that an attorney representing the Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, has said the agency doesn’t yet have a position on the court case and is awaiting guidance from Commonwealth Court Judge McGinley.

Commonwealth Court, the state’s lower-tier appellate court, generally handles legal issues relating to elections.

DeWeese, who is in his early 60s, was found guilty of five felonies following a jury trial earlier this year.

The former state representative was convicted of using state employees and state resources for campaign purposes.

DeWeese formerly represented a district in Greene County, located in southwestern Pennsylvania.

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