Pennsylvania Record

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Philly Democratic committeemen lacked standing to challenge election of committee colleagues

Lawsuits

By Nicholas Malfitano | Aug 15, 2018


PHILADELPHIA – According to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, a pair of Democratic Committeemen had no legal standing under Philadelphia’s Election Code to challenge the election of 11 of their fellow committeepersons.

On Aug. 13, Commonwealth Court judges Robert Simpson, P. Kevin Brobson and Michael H. Wojcik affirmed a trial court decision to certify 11 of plaintiffs James D. Lewis, Jr. and James P. Ryan, Jr.’s committee colleagues in the City’s 58th Ward, 41st Division after the May 16 Primary Election.

Following their election as Democratic Committeepersons for the City’s 58th Ward, 41st Division, Lewis and Ryan (objectors) ran for the offices of Ward Leader and Ward Chair at their Ward’s Organizational Meeting, losing by only one vote.

On May 31, Lewis and Ryan filed the instant appeal in the trial court pursuant to Section 1407 of the Election Code, alleging that each of the challenged Democratic Committeepersons who were said to be elected as “write-in” candidates did not receive the minimum number of votes at the election to hold that office, per Section 1405 of the Election Code.

After two hearings, the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ appeal. The trial court determined that Lewis and Ryan lacked standing to initiate the appeal challenging the election under Section 1407 of the Election Code; that the appeal was “procedurally improper” because they did not challenge the computation of the write-in votes cast in the election, and according to Section 810 of the Election Code, committeepersons may be properly elected to office by a plurality of 10 or more write-in votes cast in an election.

Lewis and Ryan then filed the instant appeal, arguing the trial court made a mistake in determining that they did not have standing to bring the appeal regarding the election of the challenged Democratic Committeepersons under Section 1407 of the Election Code.

But, the Commonwealth Court did not agree.

“With regard to the issue of standing, while objectors may have been aggrieved by the results of the election of the Ward Leader and Ward Chair at the Ward’s Organizational Meeting, objectors were not aggrieved by the Board’s computation and/or certification of the votes cast in the relevant divisions of the 58th Ward from which the challenged Democratic Committeepersons were elected,” Wojcik said.

“After reviewing the record, the parties’ appellate briefs, and the law, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that objectors did not have standing to prosecute the appeal under Section 1407 of the Election Code.”

The Commonwealth Court then affirmed the trial court’s order.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania case 859 C.D. 2018

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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