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Legal Briefs Filed In Keeley Supreme Court Case, Arguments Thursday

December 19th, 2017 · 39 Comments · City Politics, News and Events

UPDATE: with full legal briefs. Thursday morning lawyers for plaintiffs and defendants will appear before the Connecticut Supreme Court to address Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis’ order for a third Democratic primary in the City Council’s 133rd District based on what she termed absentee ballot abuses. The complaint was brought by former State Rep. Bob Keeley running with zoning commissioner Anne Pappas-Phillips after party-endorsed Michael DeFilippo and incumbent Jeanette Herron ran first and second respectively. The two top vote producers go on to the general election. The city has appealed the decision joined by other defendants. The Supremes have accepted this case on an expedited basis. The legal parties on Monday filed dozens of pages of legal briefs in advance of Thursday’s session.

Defendants have raised four questions of law that will be considered by Connecticut’s highest court:

Does Connecticut General Statutes prohibit any person other than the elector from arranging for a designee to return an elector’s absentee ballot to the Town Clerk?

Did the trial court err in rejecting twelve absentee ballots that were stamped but not postmarked on the ground that they were not “mailed” pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes?

Did the trial court err in deciding that the administration of the supervised absentee balloting at Northbridge Health Care Center did not meet the minimum standards required by law?

Did the trial court err in applying the burden of proof, and in rejecting votes validly cast by electors, thereby undermining the trial court’s conclusion that there were substantial statutory violations that left the reliability of the election seriously in doubt?

Deputy City Attorney John Bohannon and attorney James Healy, representing various defendants, will address the court Thursday morning. Attorney Peter Finch will also address the court on Keeley’s behalf.

See excerpts below from briefs filed with the court on Monday, starting with Bohannon and Healy jointly. See the full city legal brief here and Keeley’s full brief here.

If allowed to stand, the trial court’s decision will discard the results of the second primary election conducted in Bridgeport’s 133rd city council district, and force the City and the voters to go to the polls for a third time. But this Court’s precedent emphasizes that courts should not disturb election results, absent extraordinary circumstances not present here. An election is “the paradigm of the democratic process designed to ascertain and implement the will of the people.” Caruso v. City of Bridgeport, 285 Conn. 618, 637 (2008) (quoting Bortner v. Town of Woodbridge, 250 Conn. 241, 254 (1999)) (internal citations, quotations, and alterations omitted). Each one is “essentially–and necessarily–a snapshot,” following campaigns by candidates and political parties, culminating in a result that “reflects the will of the people as recorded on that particular day, after that particular campaign, and as expressed by the electors who voted on that day[.]” Bortner, 250 Conn. at 255. Because this “snapshot” is something that “can never be duplicated,” a court ordering a new election “is really ordering a different election[,]” id., which necessarily “result[s] in the[] election day disfranchisement” of those who cast ballots. Caruso, 285 Conn. at 637 (quoting Bortner, 250 Conn. at 256) (internal citations, quotations, and alterations omitted). For those reasons, this Court “counsels strongly that a court should be very cautious before … vacat[ing] the results of an election and … order[ing] a new election.” Id. at 637-38. See also Bortner, 250 Conn. at 254. Judicial review is to be similarly deferential to the will of the people, as expressed in their votes on election day. Absentee ballots carry a presumption of validity, see, e.g., Colten v. City of Haverhill, 564 N.E.2d 987, 990 (Mass. 1991), such that “no voter is to be disfranchised on a doubtful construction, and statutes tending to limit the exercise of the ballot should be liberally construed in [the voter's] favor.” In re Election of  U.S. Representative for Second Cong. Dist., 231 Conn. 602, 653 (1994) (internal citation and quotation omitted; emphasis added).

In ordering yet another new election, the trial court (Bellis, J.) went too far and erred in four principal ways. First, the trial court read into Section 9-140b a prohibition against any candidate or party worker requesting a police designee to return an absentee ballot, and nullified 13 absentee ballots on that basis. See Argument, section I. Second, the trial court also erroneously nullified 12 stamped absentee ballots–the envelopes for which the plaintiff never even entered into evidence–that had been received from the post office by City mailroom personnel but allegedly did not bear postmarks or cancelation marks. Without any evidence suggesting that the lack of a postmark or cancelation mark meant the envelopes had not been delivered by the post office, the trial court nonetheless determined that the ballots had not been “mailed” within the meaning of Section 9-140b. See Argument, section II. Third, the trial court misconstrued applicable law in suggesting that the City was required to provide notice of the primary and deliver absentee ballot applications to the residents of a nursing home. See Argument, section III. Fourth, the trial court flipped the burden of proof, essentially requiring the defendants to disprove each allegation instead of holding the plaintiff to his obligation to prove violations of law so substantial that they placed the outcome of the election seriously in doubt.

Peter Finch, representing Keeley:

On September 26, 2017, the Plaintiff, Robert Keeley Jr., commenced an action against Defendants Santa Ayala, the Bridgeport Democratic Registrar of Voters; James Mullen, Head Moderator; Thomas Errichetti, Head Moderator of Absentee Ballots; Charles D. Clemons, Bridgeport Town Clerk; and candidate for the 133rd Bridgeport City Council Jeanette Herron, and sought relief arising out of the September 12, 2017 City of Bridgeport democratic primary. (Record page 2) In the Plaintiff’s complaint he alleged, among other things, various issues with respect to the absentee ballot voting. (p. 2) A vote recount was held on September 19, 2017. (R. Page 2) The hearing on the original complaint commenced on October 11, 2017 and continued to October 16, 2017. (pp. 2-3) Based on facts, testimony and argument provided at said hearing, the Defendants agreed with Plaintiff that the results of the September 12, 2017 Democratic Primary for the 133rd City Council District would be vacated, and a special election would be conducted on November 14, 2017. (p. 3) Attorney Maximino Medina was appointed as the court election monitor. (p. 3) On October 20, 2017, the Court approved the parties written joint order and additional clarifying orders were subsequently entered. (pp. 3-4) The trial court, pursuant to the agreement of the parties as approved by court order, retained jurisdiction in the matter throughout the special election. (p. 4) Any disputes regarding the special election were to be brought to the immediate attention of the trial court. (p. 4) The mutual agreement of the parties set forth the procedure for any challenge to the special election. (p. 4) Based on the serious issues that did arise out of the special election, and the trial court’s fact gathering and interpretation of the law with respect to those issues, a third primary election for the 133rd District (p. 19) was ordered on November 30, 2017.

Facts
What amounted to a bag of absentee ballots, went missing after the Bridgeport Democratic Primary election held on September 12, 2017. (pp. 2,3) Furthermore, a single absentee ballot was added to the tally and cast for City Council candidate and Defendant Herron after the recount of said primary election in the 133rd City Council District. (p. 3) This single vote gave Herron the victory over candidate Keeley, 171 votes to 170 votes, respectively. (pp. 2,3) Additionally, after giving some testimony, Bridgeport Town Clerk Clemons invoked his Fifth Amendment rights regarding further questioning about the signing of official absentee ballot affidavits that he signed and swore to the document in front of notary Aida Marquez. Initially Clemons testified that in fact he had never signed those affidavits in front of a Notary Public. (p. 3) Because of the aforementioned absentee ballot debacle, a special election was ordered for November 14, 2017 for Bridgeport’s 133rd City Democratic Council Primary. (p.3) Attorney Maximino Medina, the appointed special election monitor, brought to the attention of the trial court issues that arose during the special election. (pp. 3,4) The first issue brought to the attention of the trial court on November 13, 2017 was the delivery of nine (9) absentee ballots by Officer Nicola at the direction of Bridgeport Democratic Party Chairman Mario Testa and 133rd City Council District Candidate Michael DeFilippo. Prior to meeting Testa and Defilippo, Police Chief AJ Perez (pp. 4, 13) and Officer Nicola met face to face and was ordered by Chief Perez to contact Mario Testa because “Testa and the party needed an officer to pick up absentee ballots.” (p. 13)

Subsequently, approximately one half hour later Officer Nicola was provided a list of absentee ballot pickups from DeFilippo. (p. 13) DeFilippo then went on to text additional names and addresses of absentee ballots to be picked up by Nicola. (p. 13) Nicola did not ask for any identification from any of the individuals that he picked up absentee ballots from on November 13 and 14. (p. 13-14) Nicola delivered nine (9) absentee ballots to the Town Clerk on November 13 and either four (4) or five (5) absentee ballots on November 14th. (p. 14) These 14 or 15 ballots were found to have “no legitimacy” and were disqualified by the trial court in violation of absentee ballot laws in that “illegal partisan party interference came into play.” (p.19) The trial court found that Nicola did not pick up absentee ballots from the actual absentee ballot voters but from unidentified individuals and even picked up an absentee ballot out of a mailbox. (p. 13-14) Another issue brought to the trial court’s attention by Medina was the delivery of fifteen (15) absentee ballots to the mail room at Bridgeport’s City Hall on November 14, 2017. (p. 6) Twelve absentee ballots bore no postmarks or marks of cancellation. (pp. 6) The trial court determined that these twelve ballots were not mailed as per the statutory requirement. (p. 7) In addition, there was evidenced lack of security regarding those twelve absentee ballots. (p. 7).

Furthermore, it was determined by the trial court that the twelve absentee ballots were added to the mail either by mistake or by foul play and all twelve should have been rejected and not have been counted. (p. 7) Another issue brought to the trial court’s attention by Medina was that the registrar of voters, Santa Ayala did not follow the proper procedure with regard to the supervised absentee balloting at Northbridge Health Care Center. (pp. 9-13) During the special election there was no outreach by the registrar’s office giving notice to the residents of Northbridge of the supervised absentee balloting, as there had been on the November 7, 2017 general election. (p. 11) For the November 7 general election, designees from the registrar’s office went door to door in the Northbridge Health Care Center a few days prior to the supervised absentee balloting, but did not do the same for the November 14th special election. (p. 11) No effort was made in the special election to distribute the absentee ballot applications to the Northbridge residents. (p. 12) This stealth supervised balloting was found to be fundamentally unfair and not up to the standards set by law for supervised balloting. (p. 12) The trial court found that the registrar failed to take reasonable steps to deliver the applications and ballots and failed to post reasonable notice of the supervised absentee balloting so as to give proper notice to the Northbridge residents and the potential voters there that the supervised absentee balloting was taking place. (p. 12) In addition, the trial court rejected an absentee ballot that shouldn’t have counted because it was not signed on the Voter Registration Card. (p. 9) Overall, the trial court found that even beyond a reasonable doubt, established by the Plaintiff having met his burden, that there were substantial violations of law and that these violations amounted to serious doubt in the reliability of the result of the special election. (p. 20) There were absentee ballots that should not have been counted highlighted supra, and a third primary election was ordered for the 133rd City Council District of the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut. (p. 19) Here, the voters were due integrity in the electoral process and a fundamentally fair and honest election, but did not get that in the November 12th special election.

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39 Comments so far ↓

  • Jimfox

    bsentee ballot fraud has long history in Bridgeport
    CT-POST Published 11:05 pm, Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Oct. 20, 1988– Former state Rep. Ernest Newton agrees to pay $1,000 as a civil penalty after admitting he filled out Ada Crosby’s absentee ballot for her, requested she sign the inner envelope and then mailed it for her with her consent. The action was taken during the Sept. 14, 1988 primary in which Newton was a candidate for state representative from the 124th district.
    May 29, 1991 – Curtis E. Mouning, a volunteer campaign worker for then state Rep. Mario Testa agrees to pay $500 for signing the names of five people, including his parents, to request absentee ballot applications that allowed them to vote in the Sept. 11, 1990 primary.
    March 18, 1994 – Jacqueline Rogers, a campaign worker for James Holloway, a City Council candidate, was barred from participating in campaigns for five years. During the Sept. 14, 1993 primary, Rogers wore a nurse’s uniform with a certified nurse’s name tag, and solicited and collected seven “emergency” absentee ballot votes. She also instructed at least one of the voters to cast her ballot for Holloway. Additionally, the commission determined Rogers was paid $150 for her service at the direction of Dr. Ralph Ford. Both Rogers and Ford claimed the payment was for office work but the commission did not find their statements credible. Holloway defeated incumbent Mary Brantley by just nine votes.
    Nov. 28, 1994 — Thirty nine absentee ballots cast in Sept. 13, 1994 Republican primary for governor, lieutenant governor and U.S. senator were found a day after the election and not counted because of possible human error. As a result Town Clerk Hector Diaz agreed to pay $400 for inadequate controls and safeguards in storing, handling and processing these ballots.
    April 5, 2001– Warren Blunt, now a city councilman, agrees to pay $2,500, resign from the Town Committee and not seek election for two years. He admitted being present while individuals voted by absentee ballot and then taking possession of their ballots cast in the March 7, 2000 Democratic Town Committee primary. In that primary, Blunt was a candidate for re-election.

    April 6, 2001– Sybil Allen agrees to pay $5,000, resign from the Democratic Town Committee and not seek re-election to the Town Committee for two years. She was found to have completed absentee ballot applications for voters, persuaded one person to sign the application for a family member that no longer resided in the home, forged the signatures of two other applicants and told one voter that a candidate was not on the ballot. She also was present when ballots were marked and took possession of them. Allen was a candidate for re-election in the March 7, 2000 Democratic Town Committee primary.
    April 9, 2001– Paulette Park agrees to pay $5,000 and was barred from participating in any future campaigns. Park admitted that she assisted people in completing absentee ballot applications, did not sign the application, instructed at least one person to make a false statement regarding the reason for voting by absentee ballot, was present when ballots were marked and received the completed ballots. The commission found Park was paid by Sybil Allen, a candidate in the March 7, 2000 Democratic Town Committee primary and took directions form Allen, Testa and Blunt.
    April 11, 2001 – Ronald Caveness agrees to pay $4,000 (which was later reduced to $1,000), resign from the Democratic Town Committee and not seek reappointment for two years after he admitted distributing absentee ballot applications and being present while voters marked their ballots and then took possession of them. The action was part of his “get out the vote” effort for the March 7, 2000 Democratic Town Council primary in the 135th District.

    April 11, 2000 – George Cabrera Jr. of Fair Haven, Mass., agrees to pay $750 for being present while a Platt Street resident marked his absentee ballot and taking possession of the ballot, which was cast in March 7, 2000 Democratic Town Council primary.
    Oct. 13, 2000 – Carlos Reinoso, the brother of state Rep. Felipe Reinoso, agrees to pay $250 for voting by absentee ballot when he was not eligible to do so.
    Aug. 15, 2000 – Linda L. Morre, of Middletown, and Loretta Sarro, of Wallingford, each agree to pay $500 for soliciting absentee ballot applications from Shaw’s Supermarket employees and not signing their names to the applications.
    Sept. 20, 2000 — Abraham Omonte, of Woodbridge, was ordered to remove his name from the Bridgeport voting list after the commission determined he did not live on Berkshire Avenue, even though he voted in the March 2002 Democratic Town Committee primary and the May 2002 delegate primary for the 23rd state Senate district.
    Nov. 30, 2000 – Eva Christian, of Hartford, was ordered to register with the town clerk before distributing absentee ballot applications and to sign them on the assistor line. As part of the Sept. 13, 2005, Democratic primary, Christian, then a resident of Bridgeport, distributed and assisted six residents in filing absentee ballot applications while working for City Councilman James Holloway’s re-election campaign. The commission determined that she was not apprised of these new requirements.
    June 2, 2004 — Town Clerk Hector Diaz ordered to comply with state law after a complaint was filed by voters claiming they were told by the Town Clerk’s office they could fax absentee ballot applications for the Nov. 4, 2003, election.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Nothing new here except the attorneys representing Bob Keeley. They’re good too, worth every cent of the retainer.

    The city is going tolose this round.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      STANDARD OF REVIEW & RELEVANT LEGAL PRINCIPLES
      This Court’s review in this election appeal is plenary.
      See Bortner , 250 Conn. at 258.
      The plaintiff was required to demonstrate a ruling by an election official that involved
      “substantial violations of the [elections] statute [s] that render [ed] the election seriously in doubt .”

      Id. (internal citation omitted). While “the underlying facts are to be established by a preponderance of the evidence and are subject on appeal to the clearly
      erroneous standard, the ultimate determination of whether, based on those underlying facts, a new election is called for . . . is a mixed question of fact and law that is subject to plenary review on appeal.” Id. See also
      Spiotti v. Town of Wolcott
      , 326 Conn. 190, 195 (2017)
      (plenary review for matters of statutory interpretation)

      The argument above is from the City of Bridgeport Brief. It’s actually in the beginning of the brief.

      Joel Gonzalez // Dec 14, 2017 at 12:24 am

      “Court should exercise caution and restraint in deciding whether to order new election; two-part standard established for such decisions; plenary scope of review of trial court decision is appropriate, no special need for speed and finality for trial court decision under circumstances of this case; “rulings of the election official” defined, and “mistake in the count of the votes” the reliability of the result of interpreted and applied. 250 C. 241.”

      This short line alone, presents a troubling area for Pete Finch (It’s not his fault): “rulings of the election official” defined.” As I had commented days ago, Keeley had jumped the gun and apparently failed to follow the language of law–he was supposed to file a complaint with SEEC first and waited for a ruling. While reading the brief filed by Pete Finch, he is confusing “election officials”–SEEC, with local election officials like the Town Clerk and the Registrar of Voters. The Pete Finch brief looks like a cut and paste job with lots of errors in facts, not to mention poor citing of case laws. I’m done with this, and like every OIB readers and posters am looking forward to the outcome of the case. In the mean time, I’m eyeing C.G.S.9-370.

      https://law.justia.com/codes/connecticut/2005/title9/sec9-328.html

  • Grin Ripper

    Not one citing of case law by Pete in his brief. He better be wearing boxers!

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Why is Mario Testa helping Michael DeFilippo open a liquor store?

    He’s desperate for some holiday spirit.

  • Maria Pereira

    I just read every word of Bellis’ decision. The mailroom must be watched like a hawk. They are 100% in on the AB fraud.

    Wishing Bob, Ann and the voters of the 133rd District an honest outcome of the Supreme Court deliberation.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Did everyone read Attorney Finch’s argument?

    “Overall, the trial court found that even beyond a reasonable doubt, established by the Plaintiff having met his burden, that there were substantial violations of law and that these violations amounted to serious doubt in the reliability of the result of the special election. (p. 20) There were absentee ballots that should not have been counted highlighted supra, and a third primary election was ordered for the 133rd City Council District of the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut. (p. 19) Here, the voters were due integrity in the electoral process and a fundamentally fair and honest election, but did not get that in the November 12th special election.”

    The City Attorney’s Office should be recused. Mr. Meyers and Mr. Bohannon are representing the interests of Mario Testa and Little Joe Ganim and a corrupt political machine, not the interests if the people of the city of Bridgeport.

  • Bob Halstead

    Good luck Bobby and Anne!
    May The Force be with you!
    These are extraordinary circumstances.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    I read both briefs, thoroughly. Bohannon and Healy used a lot of words in an effort that is light on brilliance and heavy on bullshit. Mr. Finch’s brief gets right to it, citing many documented violations of election law. It is a matter of black letter law.

  • Jimfox

    I hope the State Supreme Court recommends to SEEC and the lower Court to remove Mario Testa from the Democratic Town Committee and not seek re-election to the Town Committee for the next 20 years.
    His blatant disregard for a fair political system has effected every election in Bridgeport for three decades.
    The SEEC has the necessary tools to remove this PARASITE from Bridgeport Politics once and for all.

  • Bob Walsh

    Off topic but…..

    “A jury, considering all the relevant circumstances, reasonably could find that the defendants’ persistent failure to inspect the decedents’ apartment and thousands of other multifamily units in Bridgeport in violation of their statutory duty under (state law) arose from and exemplified a pattern of reckless disregard for public health or safety and created a foreseeable and substantial risk that some tragedy of this general sort would occur, “the court ruled.

    In a deposition, then-Fire Chief Brian Rooney admitted the fire marshal’s office did not have the resources to inspect the city’s public housing units and so didn’t do it, according to court records.

    Well, well, well…..

    • Grin Ripper

      Look who fell in the well! A terrible tragedy.

      • Bob Walsh

        It was a terrible tragedy then and it has remained a terrible tragedy every day that the city has refused to own up to their involvement.
        And it is a terrible tragedy for every illegal rooming house that operates in the city of Bridgeport.
        And what is the city’s response?
        We need more time to look into this.

        • John Marshall Lee

          Elections are in the Court system. Right to sue the City for deficient attention to risk factors of tenants in public housing on the front page of CT Post from CT Supremes. And Department of Justice with a current suit announced attacking Park City Communities for failure to provide reasonable accommodations to tenants for nearly two years locally.

          Is the only way to get to justice in this City and remove the secret glove of DTC and DTC nominees from citizen and taxpayer throats, through the Court systems? Time will tell.

        • Bob Walsh

          And here is another callous disregard:

          The ACLU said it was a “callous disregard that Bridgeport police officers showed for Jayson Negron during his last moments. … Their behavior was outside the realms of human decency and democracy.”

          • Andrew C Fardy

            That was bullshit pure and simple and if you believe what they said then you are a fucking idiot

          • Joel Gonzalez

            It was Jason Negron’s “callous disregard” for the officer’s safety and the officers order that led to him being shot. The ACLU would like everyone to ignore the photos taken by the CtPost showing the driver’s side door bent forward as is the door struck the officer trying to get Jason out the drivers seat. For every action, there is a reaction.

          • The Bridgeport Kid

            That wasn’t a capital offense, Frodo. At most the cops should have tuned him up, administered a field lesson in respect for lawful authority

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Justice

      noun
      1.
      the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness:
      to uphold the justice of a cause.
      2.
      rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
      to complain with justice.
      3.
      the moral principle determining just conduct.

  • Lisa Parziale

    I still have a crush on you Kid!

  • Andrew C Fardy

    You have a crush on everybody

  • Bob Walsh

    Chalk another one up to our great legal team!!!

  • Bob Halstead

    Oh what a disservice it will be to all the political appointees, attonage job holders and their families in the 133 to be drug out again by the DTC political operatives for yet a third time…poor babies…
    But maybe with this new theme of deposing political bossism will ring true to many who up to Now felt there is no use -with good reason- for even trying.
    It is my suspicion that those who claim to want reform are not getting as involved, for personality conflict-as much or at all- as they should

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Afraid to ruffle feathers, no?

      I agree with your assessment. People are resigned to the political corruption in Bridgeport. That’s why many are disenfranchised. Little Joe Ganim said he’d make everything all better and they voted for him. Two years later there’s a mood of “Hey man, we were hosed…”

      The system has benefitted a few connected individuals at the expense of the rest of the people of the city of Bridgeport. Valuations have raised taxes because no one has the inclination to claw back all the century-long abatements handed out by administrations past. R. Christopher Meyer is too busy arguing with the City Council. Little Joe Ganim is too busy running from photo op to photo op. This administration is not concerned with improving the quality of life for the people of the city of Bridgeport. It’s not a priority. Oh no… Little Joe is focused on obtaining political welfare money. Bob Keeley’s lawsuit is another distraction. Now we know he wasn’t re-elected fair and square, we know he cheated on the ABs and bought votes at twenty bucks each.

      Time to tear down the playhouse.

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