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Appeals court hearing set in Wright-Jones' effort to keep rival Nasheed off primary ballot

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 31, 2012 - An appeals court hearing has been set for June 8 for state Rep. Jamilah Nasheed’s quest to get back on the Aug. 7 ballot as a candidate for the 5th District state Senate seat.

Nasheed, D-St. Louis, is claiming a partial victory this week after the Eastern District Court of Appeals denied a bid by state Sen. Robin Wright-Jones to keep Nasheed off the primary ballot.

Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis, won the first round when her lawyer, Elbert Walton, succeeded in getting Nasheed knocked off the ballot several weeks ago. A lower-court judge ruled in favor of Wright-Jones’  assertion that Nasheed doesn’t qualify for the ballot because she doesn’t live in the 5th District, redrawn after the 2010 census.

Nasheed and her lawyer contend that the state constitution allows her to file in the 5th since part of her current district is in the new 5th  District, which takes effect with this fall’s elections.

This week, the Eastern District Court of Appeals denied Wright-Jones' attempt to dismiss Nasheed's case and granted Nasheed's motion for an expedited hearing.

"I was heartened by the Eastern District Court's validation of my appeal earlier this week," said Nasheed. "I've said for two weeks now that, while I respect the court's preliminary decision, I vehemently disagree with it. I look forward to having my appeal heard in this expedited manner and am confident that any questions about my eligibility will be resolved in my favor.”

Also competing for the 5th District seat is state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis.

A spokesman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan confirmed this week that Nasheed’s name has been taken off the ballot in response to an order from a lower-court judge.

Nasheed can be reinstated if the appeals court so rules, said Carnahan spokesman Ryan Hobart. “We’re just following the court’s directives,” he said.

(Start of update) Attorney General Chris Koster’s office weighed in on the dispute on Friday, filing an amicus brief with the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals arguing the lower court’s ruling should be reversed.

The brief written by Solicitor General James Layton states that St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Joan Moriarty erred in her interpreation of a constitutional provision regarding residency after redistricting.

Layton wrote that Moriarty “cited no contemporary authority for its conclusion” that the framers of the 1945 constitution “sought to limit candidates for each new district to those who lived in the geographical boundaries of that new district for a year even if that year began before the district boundaries were defined.

“Certainly, residence matters,” Layton wrote. “But the absolutism demanded by the circuit court’s order is not justified by the rationales that justify a residency requirement.”

Layton added that the appeals court should apply the constitutional section “as it is written and as it has been applied for decades, and allow candidates to appear on the August and November ballots who live not just in the newly defined district, but in a ‘district or districts from which the same shall have been taken.’ "(End of update)

Jason Rosenbaum of the Beacon contributed information for this article.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.