On the Friday before this holiday weekend, the El Paso Court of Appeals issued its decision in a hotly contested local election case. The background was a series of local political initiatives about benefits for same-sex couples — the city approving them in 2009, a local ballot proposition in 2010 overturning that decision, followed by the city council voting in 2011 to restore them. (There is good background and a timeline in this El Paso Times piece.)
A local group then obtained signatures to force a recall election of the mayor and some city council members. Those officials, in turn, challenged whether the signatures had been obtained with corporate support that would be illegal under Texas law.
The El Paso Court of Appeals held that the petition signatures had been tainted an early supporter, which was a non-profit religious corporation. Cook v. Tom Brown Ministries, No. 08-11-00367-CV (Feb. 17, 2012). The key piece of evidence seemed to be a website that, regardless of who owned it, had been used by the corporation to help gather some names of supporters (pp. 3 & 15-16). The holding was that all the signatures had to be thrown out because of this early (and decidedly counterproductive) corporate support (p. 23).
The recall supporters said that they would appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.
The attorney for the elected officials, however, is saying that the Texas Supreme Court has no power to hear the appeal because Section 22.225(b)(3) of the Government Code generally gives the intermediate appellate courts the final say over “a case of a contested election.”
“My analysis is it can’t be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court,” Walker said, and he called the appellate ruling “a victory for the rule of law.”
What could happen next
Among other issues, the recall supporters argued, that the application of this Texas law violated Citizens United (pp. 17-20). It’s not inconceivable that they could ask for certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court. They may take support from the serendipity that, the same day that the El Paso Court decided this case, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a Montana decision that had (rather explicitly) held that the rationale of Citizens United did not hold in the (especially corrupt?) state of Montana.
If the opinion of the El Paso Court truly is final under Texas law, then the case could proceed directly to Washington, D.C. But if the parties see an open question about that procedural point, we may see an emergency petition of some sort of the Texas Supreme Court.
Source: “Court rules against recall: Organizers broke law, ruling says” (El Paso Times)