Two legislative races have sparked what sound like twin cases that might wind their way up to the Texas Supreme Court. Both turn on the same provision of Texas law — the prohibition against holding two public offices. And both lawsuits ask how early in a campaign that prohibition attaches to a person who holds a municipal office before seeking state office.
Earlier this year, three Fort Worth firefighters tried to get Wendy Davis disqualified from the Democratic primary. They argued that Davis had not formally resigned her city council position before filing paperwork to run for state office and thus was ineligible.
The firefighters unsuccessfully sought mandamus from the Texas Supreme Court and from the Fort Worth Court of Appeals. The Fort Worth Court explained in its very brief opinion that the firefighters lacked standing.
Now, Davis’s opponent in fall, incumbent Kim Brimer, has filed his own lawsuit seeking to have Davis’s name removed from the fall ballot.
The same legal dispute has arisen between Speaker Craddick and his opponent in the fall, Bill Dingus in a state district courtroom in Austin.
This second case should also be familiar to readers of this blog. That’s because a federal suit between the Texas Democratic Party and Texas Republican Party was litigated in district court in Waco. In that lawsuit, the district court ruled that Dingus was ineligible.
Now, Dingus has gone to state court against Texas Democratic Party seeking to establish his own eligibility for the fall. Last Monday, Judge Margaret Cooper ruled for Dingus, declaring him eligible for the fall ballot.
Two judgments, involving two slightly different sets of parties, at two different times, in two different court systems, all turning on one question of state law — about which the facts have arguably changed since the first ruling (since Dingus did not resign his seat on the Midland City Council until after that time).
This strikes me as a pretty good civil procedure exam question. I suppose how good an exam question would depend on what is happening on appeal from that federal district court judgment.