Stephenson v. Woodward, No. 2005-SC-0603-TG.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
Writing for the CourtJohnstone
Citation182 S.W.3d 162
Decision Date22 December 2005
Docket NumberNo. 2005-SC-0604-TG.,No. 2005-SC-0645-TG.,No. 2005-SC-0603-TG.
PartiesDana Seum STEPHENSON Appellant, v. Virginia L. WOODWARD and David L. Williams, in His Capacities as President of the Kentucky State Senate and Official Representative of all Members of the Kentucky State Senate Appellees. and David L. Williams, in His Official Capacity as President of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Appellant, v. Virginia L. Woodward and Dana Seum Stephenson Appellees, and Virginia L. Woodward Appellant, v. Dana Seum Stephenson and David L. Williams, in His Capacities as President of the Kentucky State Senate and Official Representative of All Members of the Kentucky State Senate Appellees.

Page 162

182 S.W.3d 162
Dana Seum STEPHENSON Appellant,
v.
Virginia L. WOODWARD and David L. Williams, in His Capacities as President of the Kentucky State Senate and Official Representative of all Members of the Kentucky State Senate Appellees. and
David L. Williams, in His Official Capacity as President of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Appellant,
v.
Virginia L. Woodward and Dana Seum Stephenson Appellees, and
Virginia L. Woodward Appellant,
v.
Dana Seum Stephenson and David L. Williams, in His Capacities as President of the Kentucky State Senate and Official Representative of All Members of the Kentucky State Senate Appellees.
No. 2005-SC-0603-TG.
No. 2005-SC-0604-TG.
No. 2005-SC-0645-TG.
Supreme Court of Kentucky.
December 22, 2005.
As Modified January 19, 2006.

Page 163

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Page 164

James E. Milliman, Donald H. Vish, Rebecca Grady Jennings, Middleton & Reutlinger, Louisville, Counsel for Dana Seum Stephenson.

Jennifer Ann Moore, H. Philip Grossman, Fernandez, Friedman, Grossman & Kohn, Louisville, Counsel for Virginia L. Woodward.

Harland C. Hatter, Frankfort, Paul Emmanuel Salamanca, Lexington, Counsel for David L. Williams.

Douglas L. McSwain, Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, Lexington, Peter S. Wattson, St. Paul, MN, Counsel for Amicus Curiae, National Conference of State Legislatures.

David T. Royse, Stoll, Keenon & Park, LLP, Lexington, Steven F. Huefner, Columbus, OH, Counsel for Amicus Curiae, American Legislative Exchange Council.

JOHNSTONE, Justice.


Appellants, Dana Seum Stephenson and David L. Williams, in his official capacity as President of the Kentucky State Senate, appeal from a judgment of the Franklin Circuit Court granting summary judgment in favor of Appellee, Virginia L. Woodward, determining that Stephenson is not qualified to hold the office of State Senator for the 37th District. Woodward cross appeals that portion of the Franklin Circuit Court judgment denying her request to issue an injunction requiring the Senate to seat her as State Senator for the 37th District. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

Though agreed upon by the parties, the nature of this matter and its import to the public require a detailed recitation of the facts and procedural history. Virginia L. Woodward (Woodward) and Dana Seum Stephenson (Stephenson) were candidates for the office of State Senator from the 37th District, located in Jefferson County. The general election was scheduled for November 2, 2004. The day before the election, Woodward filed a motion in the Jefferson Circuit Court to disqualify Stephenson as a candidate. The motion, filed pursuant to KRS 118.176, alleged that Stephenson failed to meet the residency requirement set forth in Section 32 of the Kentucky Constitution. It was filed at four o'clock on the afternoon of November 1, 2004.1 A hearing on the motion was scheduled for November 3, 2004.

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The general election was held on November 2, 2004, and the names of both Woodward and Stephenson appeared on the ballot. There were 22,772 votes cast for Stephenson; 21,750 votes were cast for Woodward.

The Jefferson Circuit Court held an evidentiary hearing the next day. Senator David Williams appeared by counsel at the hearing, intervening in his capacity as President of the Kentucky State Senate, to argue that the court lacked jurisdiction. The court disagreed, interpreting KRS 118.176 as authorizing the judiciary to decide pre-election challenges to candidates' qualifications. The court further issued a temporary injunction preventing the Jefferson County Board of Elections from certifying the results of the disputed election pending a final ruling on Woodward's motion.

On November 22, 2004, after considering evidence submitted at the hearing as well as additional briefing by the parties, the Jefferson Circuit Court granted Woodward's motion. Concluding that Stephenson had failed to meet the six-year residency requirement found in Section 32 of the Kentucky Constitution, the court ruled that she was not a bona fide candidate. Accordingly, the court dissolved the temporary injunction previously issued, and ordered the Jefferson County Board of Elections not to count votes cast for Stephenson. Neither Stephenson nor Senator Williams appealed this order.

Rather, on December 7, 2004, Stephenson filed an election contest in the Kentucky State Senate pursuant to KRS Chapter 120. Stephenson asserted that the Jefferson Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction to determine her qualifications for office, and requested the State Senate to seat her. In response to the election contest, Woodward filed an action in the Franklin Circuit Court on December 15, 2004. She sought declaratory and injunctive relief against Stephenson, Senator Williams, and the State Board of Elections. On December 21, 2004, Woodward further requested that Stephenson be prohibited from pursuing the election contest in the Senate. A Franklin Circuit Court Special Judge considered both motions, and on December 21 ordered the State Board of Elections to certify the votes for Woodward and to issue an election certificate despite the ongoing dispute. The court also denied Woodward's request to enjoin Stephenson from proceeding with the election contest in the Senate. On December 28, the State Board of Elections complied with this order by unanimously certifying Woodward as the winner for the 37th District State Senate seat.

On December 30, 2004, Woodward brought another motion in the Franklin Circuit Court for a temporary injunction against Stephenson. She also sought an injunction against Senator Williams that would require him to seat her as an active State Senator and to reject Stephenson's election contest. The court declined to issue either injunction due to pending motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, on January 1, 2005, Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Stephen Ryan administered the oath of office for State Senator to Woodward. On January 4, 2005, Woodward again recited the oath of office for State Senate in the Kentucky State Senate chambers with other newly elected Senators. Immediately thereafter, however, Senator Dan Kelly moved to refuse

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recognition of the certificate of election by the State Board of Elections on the basis that Woodward had not received the most raw votes. The motion passed by voice vote. The same day, the Senate randomly selected an Election Contest Board of nine members to consider Stephenson's still-pending election contest.

Following two days of deliberations, the Senate's Election Contest Board issued reports to the full Senate. The majority report, signed by five of the nine members of the committee, determined that Stephenson's election contest was without merit because she failed to meet the six-year residency requirement of the Kentucky Constitution. The majority report further found Woodward to be the duly certified and elected winner in the 37th District. Nevertheless, on January 7, 2005, the Senate voted to reject the majority report of its Election Contest Board and instead accepted a minority report filed by three members of the Board.2 This minority report found that Stephenson was legally qualified to be seated as a member of the Senate. Shortly thereafter, the Senate seated Stephenson as the State Senator from the 37th District and the Clerk of the Senate administered the oath of office to her.

The following week, on January 14, 2005, the Franklin Circuit Court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting Stephenson from exercising the duties of the Senate office and denying Stephenson's motion to dismiss for want of jurisdiction. On January 28, 2005, the court also denied Woodward's motion for injunctive relief against Senator Williams. Subsequently, Stephenson and Senator Williams, in his official capacity as President of the Senate, filed motions for interlocutory relief with the Court of Appeals. This Court accepted transfer of the motions and issued an opinion on March 17, 2005, upholding the temporary injunction and declining to address the merits of the dispute.

Both parties then filed motions for summary judgment in the Franklin Circuit Court. The court issued its opinion on June 1, 2005. Though concluding that the Jefferson Circuit Court's judgment was not binding on the Senate, the Franklin Circuit Court found that the Senate's action in seating Stephenson as a Senator was arbitrary under Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution. Accordingly, the court partially granted Woodward's motion for summary judgment by declaring Stephenson a constitutionally unqualified candidate and therefore ineligible to be seated as a Senator. However, the court declined Woodward's request to require that Senator Williams seat Woodward as Senator, concluding that the court lacked authority for such action.

Stephenson and Senator Williams appealed the judgment of the Franklin Circuit Court to the Court of Appeals. This Court accepted transfer of the case on August 31, 2005, and heard oral arguments by the parties on November 16, 2005. On appeal, the gravamen of Stephenson's and Senator Williams' arguments is that this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this action. Both Appellants argue that Section 38 of the Kentucky Constitution grants the General Assembly exclusive and ultimate power to judge the qualifications of its members. They maintain that Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution does not permit the judiciary to review the General Assembly's exercise of power pursuant to Section 38 and, therefore, the Franklin Circuit Court

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erred in holding that the Senate acted arbitrarily in seating Stephenson as State Senator. Woodward responds with two central arguments. First, Woodward maintains that Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution authorizes this Court to review the Senate's exercise of power for arbitrariness. For this reason, according to Woodward, the...

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69 practice notes
  • B.L. v. Schuhmann, Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-151-RGJ-CHL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • May 2, 2019
    ...determine legislative intent, "[r]esort must be had first to the words, which are decisive if they are clear," Stephenson v. Woodward , 182 S.W.3d 162, 170 (Ky. 2005) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Gateway Constr. Co. v. Wallbaum , 356 S.W.2d 247, 249 (......
  • Feehan v. Marcone, SC 20216, (SC 20217), (SC 20218)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 30, 2019
    ...elections clause "vested [state senate] with exclusive power to adjudge the qualifications of its own members"); Stephenson v. Woodward , 182 S.W.3d 162, 168–69 (Ky. 2005) (rejecting argument under state constitution's elections clause that court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to entert......
  • Feehan v. Marcone, SC 20216
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 30, 2019
    ...13 tions clause "vested [state senate] with exclusive power to adjudge the qualifications of its own members"); Stephenson v. Woodward, 182 S.W.3d 162, 168-69 (Ky. 2005) (rejecting argument under state constitution's elections clause that court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to entertai......
  • Beshear v. Acree, 2020-SC-0313-OA
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • November 12, 2020
    ...the laws enacted. When construing statutes we examine the language used to determine legislative intent, Stephenson v. Woodward , 182 S.W.3d 162, 169-70 (Ky. 2005), and if that language is clear and unambiguous, we look no further. Richardson v. Louisville/Jefferson Cty. Metro Gov't , 260 S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
68 cases
  • B.L. v. Schuhmann, Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-151-RGJ-CHL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • May 2, 2019
    ...determine legislative intent, "[r]esort must be had first to the words, which are decisive if they are clear," Stephenson v. Woodward , 182 S.W.3d 162, 170 (Ky. 2005) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Gateway Constr. Co. v. Wallbaum , 356 S.W.2d 247, 249 (......
  • Feehan v. Marcone, SC 20216, (SC 20217), (SC 20218)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 30, 2019
    ...elections clause "vested [state senate] with exclusive power to adjudge the qualifications of its own members"); Stephenson v. Woodward , 182 S.W.3d 162, 168–69 (Ky. 2005) (rejecting argument under state constitution's elections clause that court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to entert......
  • Feehan v. Marcone, SC 20216
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 30, 2019
    ...13 tions clause "vested [state senate] with exclusive power to adjudge the qualifications of its own members"); Stephenson v. Woodward, 182 S.W.3d 162, 168-69 (Ky. 2005) (rejecting argument under state constitution's elections clause that court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to entertai......
  • Beshear v. Acree, 2020-SC-0313-OA
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • November 12, 2020
    ...the laws enacted. When construing statutes we examine the language used to determine legislative intent, Stephenson v. Woodward , 182 S.W.3d 162, 169-70 (Ky. 2005), and if that language is clear and unambiguous, we look no further. Richardson v. Louisville/Jefferson Cty. Metro Gov't , 260 S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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