District Court Declines to Delay Special Election; Rodriquez Appeals to Third Circuit

Embattled senatorial aspirant Kevin Rodriquez has taken his fight to hold off the April 8 special election to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorneys for Rodriquez filed the appeal after U.S. District Court Judge Curtis V. Gomez issued an order Wednesday declining to stay or delay the election.

Rodriquez wants the court to postpone the special election to fill a vacancy in the 32nd Legislature until his appeal of the court’s dismissing his federal lawsuit stemming from last November’s general election is resolved.

Even before Gomez’s Wednesday ruling, Rodriquez’s attorney filed an appeal with the Third Circuit court in which concerns were raised that the District Court’s delay in ruling or in enjoining the special election could adversely impact Rodriquez’s case on appeal. Early voting and absentee voting are scheduled to begin shortly ahead of the April 8t election.

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In Wednesday’s order, Gomez ruled Rodriquez failed to meet his burden in proving four conditions necessary for the District Court to stay the election. The conditions are that without a stay, Rodriquez would be irreparably harmed; that Rodriquez could win based on the merits of the appeal; that the stay won’t injure other parties interested in the proceeding and the stay is in the public interest.

Rodriquez came in sixth in November’s election to fill seven St. Thomas-St. John legislative seats and the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections certified his candidacy and the final vote.

But in December, the eighth-place candidate, Janelle Sarauw, joined by a campaign worker, sued in V.I. Superior Court to stop Rodriquez from being seated, arguing that Rodriquez had asserted in court documents filed in 2016 that he was a bona fide resident of Tennessee and therefore could not meet the three-year V.I. residency requirement set by V.I. law.

The V.I. Supreme Court determined that in his bankruptcy petition, Rodriquez swore under penalty of perjury that he lived in Tennessee and had not lived in another state anytime during the preceding three years. It applied the doctrine of “judicial estoppel,” saying that Rodriquez’s claim under oath in one court prevented him from claiming the opposite in another court.

The Election System in the meantime has announced a schedule of early voting ahead of the April 8 special election. Voters can cast early votes on March 29 and 30 and again on April 1 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at the elections office in Lockhart Gardens on St. Thomas. On St. John, early voting will take place at the elections office in Estate Enighed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Testing of voting machines to be used in the special election will take place at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

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