City of Huetter v. Keene, No. 35470-2008.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtEISMANN
Citation244 P.3d 157,150 Idaho 13
PartiesCITY OF HUETTER, an Idaho municipal corporation, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Bradley W. KEENE and Jennifer L. Brown, Defendants-Appellants.
Decision Date24 November 2010
Docket NumberNo. 35470-2008.
244 P.3d 157
150 Idaho 13


CITY OF HUETTER, an Idaho municipal corporation, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Bradley W. KEENE and Jennifer L. Brown, Defendants-Appellants.


No. 35470-2008.

Supreme Court of Idaho,
Moscow, November 2010 Term.


Nov. 24, 2010.

150 Idaho 158

James, Vernon & Weeks, P.A., Coeur d'Alene, for appellant Keene.

Wetzel, Wetzel & Holt, PLLC, Coeur d'Alene, for respondent.

EISMANN, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment holding that pursuant to Idaho Code § 50-469 the positions of mayor and city councilman became vacant when the voter registrations of the occupants of those positions were cancelled after they had been sworn into office. We reverse.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 6, 2007, Bradley Keene was elected mayor of the City of Huetter and Jennifer Brown was elected to the city council. Their status as electors was challenged, and on December 27, 2007, the Kootenai County Elections Department sent them written inquiries by certified mail, return receipt requested, notifying them of the challenges.1

Mr. Keene did not receive the letter addressed to him. He was not at home when the mail carrier attempted to deliver it, so the carrier left a notice stating that Mr. Keene had a certified letter that could be retrieved at the post office. Due to his work schedule, he was unable to go to the post office when it was open to obtain and sign for the letter. He testified that he did not ask one of his roommates to pick up the letter because Ms. Brown later told him it wasn't pertinent, he did not need to do it right away, and in the worst-case scenario he could just reregister as a voter.

Ms. Brown received and signed for her letter on January 8, 2008, and she telephoned the Elections Department to discuss the matter. She was told that she had twenty days to respond or she would be dropped from the rolls of registered voters. She asked if she could just reregister, and was told that she could, but she was not told that reregistering would satisfy the challenge.

On January 9, 2008, Mr. Keene and Ms. Brown were sworn into office. Their voter registrations were canceled on January 18, 2008, because they had not timely responded to the written inquiries, in person or in writing.

When Mr. Keene and Ms. Brown arrived at a city council meeting on February 13, 2008, two council members refused to permit them to occupy their respective positions because their voter registrations had been cancelled. The next day, Mr. Keene and Ms. Brown attempted to reregister as voters. After a hearing, they were permitted to reregister on February 25, 2008.

On March 19, 2008, the City filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that Mr. Keene's and Ms. Brown's positions became vacant when their voter registrations were cancelled. The City also sought an injunction preventing them from representing that they are municipal officers. The matter was tried to the district court, and on May 6, 2008, the court entered its decision holding that Idaho Code §§ 50-601 and 50-702, respectively, require mayors and councilmen to remain qualified during their terms; that pursuant to Idaho Code § 50-469, Mr. Keene's and Ms. Brown's positions became vacant when their voter registrations were cancelled; and that the City can fill those positions according to law. The court

150 Idaho 159
entered judgment on May 16, 2008, and Mr. Keene and Ms. Brown timely appealed.

II. ANALYSIS

Both Mr. Keene and Ms. Brown were duly elected to their respective positions. They each took the required oath of office, and they received their certificates of election. The City has not challenged their elections or their right to take office. Idaho Code § 50-601 requires that a mayor shall "remain [ ] a qualified elector during his term of office," and Idaho Code § 50-702 requires that a person elected to a city council shall "remain[ ] a qualified elector under the constitution and laws of the state of Idaho." It is undisputed that during the period from January 18, 2008, until February 25, 2008, Mr. Keene and Ms. Brown were not qualified electors. The district court held that when their voter registrations were cancelled on January 18, 2008, their positions became vacant pursuant to Idaho Code § 50-469. The district court misconstrued the statute.

"The interpretation of a statute is a question of law over which we exercise free review. When construing a statute, the words used must be given their plain, usual, and ordinary meaning, and the statute must be construed as a whole." Athay v. Stacey, 142 Idaho 360, 365, 128 P.3d 897, 902 (2005) (citations omitted).

Idaho Code § 50-469 provides, "If a person elected fails to qualify, a vacancy shall be declared to exist, which vacancy shall be filled by the mayor and the council." The district court construed the statute as stating that a vacancy exists if the person elected fails to remain qualified. The court wrote as a conclusion of law, "A vacancy is created when a person elected fails to remain a qualified elector during his term of office. I.C. § 50-469." (Emphasis added.) The court misconstrued the statute by adding the word "remain" to it. Unlike Idaho Code §§ 50-601 and 50-702, the word "remain" is not in Idaho Code § 50-469. We cannot add by judicial interpretation words that are not found in the statute as written.

In order to assume the office, the person must be elected and qualify. The word "qualify" means doing whatever is required by law to assume the office to which the person was elected. That usually means taking the oath of office. In some cases, it may also mean doing something else, such as posting a bond.

In White v. Young, 88 Idaho 188, 397 P.2d 756 (1964), we stated what it means to "qualify." Crowley was elected as a probate judge on November 3, 1964, and on November 9th he took and filed the oath of office and filed the required bond. He contended that he was...

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1 practice notes
  • Erickson v. McKee (In re Estate of McKee), Docket No. 38130
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 13 Junio 2012
    ...fees where an appeal 'was so far outside the realm of reasonability that it warrants a sanction on the losing attorney.'" Funes, 150 Idaho at 13, 244 P.3d at 157 (quoting Fowble v. Snoline Exp., Inc., 146 Idaho 70, 77, 190 P.3d 889, 896 (2008)). Filed with his brief on appeal to the distric......
1 cases
  • Erickson v. McKee (In re Estate of McKee), Docket No. 38130
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 13 Junio 2012
    ...fees where an appeal 'was so far outside the realm of reasonability that it warrants a sanction on the losing attorney.'" Funes, 150 Idaho at 13, 244 P.3d at 157 (quoting Fowble v. Snoline Exp., Inc., 146 Idaho 70, 77, 190 P.3d 889, 896 (2008)). Filed with his brief on appeal to the distric......

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