Back to the courthouse? Basil appeals the ruling favoring Browning

Union County Courthouse

A judge’s signed order puts Roger Browning’s name on the ballot as a Republican candidate for county school superintendent, but incumbent Democrat Ken Basil has appealed the order.

Union County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford received the signed judgement from Circuit Judge John A. Gregory Tuesday afternoon. She also received a written appeal from incumbent Union County Superintendent of Education Ken Basil, asking Judge Gregory to “reconsider” his judgement.

At issue was whether Browning, who is not a resident of the Union County School District, but is a resident of the New Albany Separate School district, is qualified to serve as head of the county schools. A consent decree approved in 2003 by a federal magistrate says that a person who is not a resident of the county district cannot serve as its superintendent.

Our understanding of Judge Gregory’s ruling is that the 2003 consent decree does not apply to Browning’s situation, because the Election Commission relied on the terms of the consent decree, rather on the Mississippi Code, to disqualify Browning. Further, neither the Union County School District, the New Albany Separate School District nor Mr. Browning were parties to the 2003 consent decree, and, in fact, the consent decree did not “enjoin” any of the actual parties to that suit, including the Election Commission. The consent decree was not submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for pre-approval as required by federal voting rights laws, and thus, as we understand the judge’s ruling, did not have the force of law.

Click on Judge Gregory’s Judgement at the end of this article to read the entire text of the court ruling.

However, Democrat Ken Basil, a two-term incumbent county superintendent, who had entered the case as an “interested third party,” immediately filed an appeal, asking Judge Gregory to reconsider his ruling in favor of Browning’s candidacy. Basil’s appeal cites the federal magistrate’s approval of the 2003 consent decree as being applicable to the current case.

The complete text of Basil’s appeal and that of the 2003 consent decree may be read by clicking the Basil’s filing and Basil’s Exhibits links below this article.

Both Basil and Browning have told that they are personally paying their own legal fees in this lawsuit, and and that their lawyers are not being paid, in whole or in part, by other persons or entities.

Federal law requires that Circuit Clerk Stanford must have a finalized ballot available 45 days before the election date so that members of the armed forces will have time to vote absentee. That deadline is this upcoming Saturday, September 19, 2015.

Persons familiar with the legal system have told, that it is unknown when Judge Gregory will rule on Basil’s appeal, or whether he will rule on it at all.

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