BELLEVILLE – East St. Louis election commissioners must issue subpoenas that mayoral candidate Robert Eastern III requested in a ballot dispute, St. Clair County Associate Judge Julie Katz ruled on Jan. 11.
She found their rejection of his request clearly erroneous.
Eastern sought subpoenas in order to gather evidence for an objection he filed against nominating petitions of mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks.
He challenged 29 entire sheets, claiming circulators failed to swear to statements in the presence of an officer authorized to administer oaths.
At a hearing on Dec. 10, the board not only denied his request to issue subpoenas but also denied his objection.
He sued commission chair Edna Allen, vice chair Joseph McCaskill, secretary Darlene Morgan, and Jackson-Hicks on Dec. 17.
Eric Evans of Granite City pleaded on his behalf that it was impossible for Eastern to prevail without subpoenas.
Evans wrote that it was a fundamental denial of due process to prevent a litigant from calling witnesses in support of their case.
Katz held a hearing and ordered commissioners to hold another hearing on Eastern’s objection, after he has served his subpoenas.
She wrote that the board made no finding as to its rationale for denying the issuance of subpoenas.
“At the conclusion of the hearing, the board took a recess and came back onto the record and moved to deny the motion for the issuance of the subpoenas,” Katz wrote.
“Said motion passed unanimously,” she wrote.
She added that no one argued that the demand for subpoenas was unreasonable and that no one argued that the information Eastern sought was irrelevant.
“No one voiced any objections whatsoever to the issuance of the subpoenas,” she wrote.
Katz adopted a portion of an opinion from First District appellate judges.
It stated, “The electoral board bears the responsibility for determining whether a candidate has evidenced the requisite popular support to justify his or her inclusion on the ballot, and we believe that it should encourage the securing of all evidence relevant to that ultimate issue.
“When the electoral board is presented with reasonable requests for subpoenas which are relevant to matters under inquiry, and where the testimony or records sought may constitute evidence before the electoral board, the requests should be granted.”
“Reviewing courts should not countenance arbitrary applications of procedural rules, if the effect is to frustrate the full presentation of evidence in support of or defense to objections to nominating petitions.”
In Katz’s Jan. 11 ruling, she wrote, “The issue of the propriety of the nominating petitions was before the board, and the petitioner was unable to set forth any evidence whatsoever as to the sufficiency of those petitions without being able to elicit testimony from some of the persons who were responsible for either circulating the petitions, notarizing the petitions or signing the petitions.”
She wrote that the witnesses should have been heard.
At Katz’s hearing, Evans represented Eastern.
Richard Sturgeon of Belleville represented the commissioners.
Charles J. Baricevic of Belleville represented Jackson-Hicks.