Supreme Court Justice and candidate Tom Parker had sued to get GOP challenger Eric Johnston taken off the ballot, citing two disclosure statements that Parker maintained were not timely filed which, Parker also maintained, should have barred Johnston’s name being certified for the ballot. At the trial level, the judge ruled in Johnston’s favor, holding that the disclosures were timely. Parker appealed to the high court.
The specially-seated Supreme Court* (all of Parker’s colleague justices recused) unanimously sided with Johnston but didn’t touch the matter of timely or untimely disclosure statements. Instead, they looked to a motion Johnston made at the trial level which was never ruled on below: that the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the suit in the first place.
Alabama Code 1975, s 17-16-44, sometimes referred to as the “jurisdiction-stripping statute,” severely restricts a court’s jurisdiction to hear actions challenging the conduct or results of elections.
(Parker’s) lawsuit implicates the jurisdiction-stripping statute because it seeks to impact the “conduct” of the June 1, 2010, Republican primary election by having the court either remove the name of one of the candidates, Eric Johsnton, from the ballot or instruct the Republican Party not to canvass votes cast for Johnston.
While the trial court reached its decision on the merits of the case, the Supreme Court unanimously held there was no subject-matter jurisdiction from the outset, so it vacated the ruling below and dismissed Parker’s appeal.
*Justices Torbert, Kennedy, Harwood, Suttle, Stewart, Tompkins and Capell.