Judge Closes Door on Additional Interveners in GOP Delegate Case; Party Quarrel Continues

On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay issued four orders in a case to determine the voting eligibility of career GOP strategist John Yob and three other disputed V.I. Republican delegates, including an order to deny three additional individuals’ motions to intervene in an already complicated case.

(For details of the case, see link below: Court Provisionally Restores Aspiring GOP Convention Delegates’ Voting Rights)

The case already has one intervener, fellow aspiring delegate Valerie Stiles, who is seeking through her legal counsel Edward Barry to make an argument that may be an expansion of the initial dispute. Stiles alleges that Yob, his wife Erica, and their friends Ethan and Lindsey Eilon, lack credentials that would make them “bona fide residents” of the Virgin Islands.

This, Stiles argues, is a fact that would remain a problem for the Yobs and Eilons even if the court rules in favor of their assertion that living in the territory for less than 90 days did not legally bar them from registering to vote.

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In early March, Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes removed them from V.I. voter rolls on the basis of that 90-day requirement, which may not exist.

Although the case’s original filing documents only address the 90-day requirement, Fawkes has said she feels the question of “bona fide” residency brought by Stiles is relevant and should be considered in judge’s final ruling.

J. Russell B. Pate, attorney for the Yobs and Eilons, has argued that the issue at hand is only the existence of the 90-day requirement, on which the court has so far sided with his clients.

At a status conference on April 8, Mackay announced that three more motions to intervene in the case had been filed by V.I. Republicans Vince Danet, Herbert L. Schoenbohm and Noel Loftus.

Pate argued that it would be a mistake to “open the floodgates” to interveners in the case, and that the issue was not actually “as broad as the case’s interveners seem to think.”

In addition to denying those parties’ intervention in the case this week, Mackay also grants attorney Scot McChain’s application to be relieved as counsel for Fawkes.

The question of Fawkes’ defense has been complicated by the fact that she has no separate identity from the Board of Elections in her official capacity, and the board has decided not to take a position in the case or hire legal counsel. (See Link: Board of Elections, AG’s Office Claim No Role in Contested Delegates’ Court Case)

Mackay has said she is ready to issue a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction on the issue of whether the 90-day wait period before voter registration exists, but that it would be procedurally improper to issue the ruling without giving all parties one last chance to present an argument. The plaintiffs must do so by April 22, and the defendants and intervener have 10 days afterwards to respond. The parties must inform the court by Monday if any evidentiary hearing is required.

So far all decisions by the court have favored arguments made by the plaintiffs. On March 9, the court issued a temporary restraining order reinstating their voting rights provisionally to allow them to participate in the March 10 GOP caucus. That TRO was followed by a preliminary injunction on March 22 stating that the Yobs and Eilons will likely prevail in their argument that there is no 90-day wait period required before an individual can register to vote in the territory.

Meanwhile, the V.I. GOP’s internal debate to decide who will attend the National Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in July has continued independently of legal proceedings, at times culminating in personal attacks against individual party members.

Local GOP Party Chairman John Canegata maintains that the court’s ruling in the Yob case makes no practical difference since none of the caucus’s winners followed party rules by accepting their delegacy within five days of winning their bids.

On March 21, Canegata disqualified the caucus’s entire winning slate, including the Yobs and Lindsey Eilon, and replaced them with six alternates, a group that includes intervener Stiles, David Johnson, Andrea Lee Moeekel, Humberto O’Neal, Steven K. Hardy and Robert Max Schanfarber.

According to the V.I. GOP minutes provided by Canegata, the party met on April 7 to elect a delegation chairman and members of several convention committees from among that slate.

Canegata said all members of the delegation were present at that meeting except for National Committeeman Holland Redfield, alternate delegate April Newland (excused) and alternate delegate Jevon Williams. At the meeting, Canegata was elected delegation chairman.

But Redfield stated in an April 8 letter to Canegata that he himself had been elected delegation chairman at an apparently separate meeting attended by the caucus’s original winners: the Yobs, Eilon, Gwen Brady, Warren B. Cole and George Logan.

Redfield, because he is the party’s national committeeman, has the right to attend the national convention as a superdelegate regardless of local caucus results.

Canegata responded in his own letter to Redfield on Tuesday: “You were not elected delegation chairman. The one, true delegation of the Virgin Islands met on April 7, 2016. You were given notice of this meeting but failed to attend. Had you attended, you would know I was unanimously elected as chairman of the Virgin Islands delegation by those present and voting.”

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