June 12, 2004
Down to the wire for Rodriguez

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez is arguing his case before an appeals court in what is likely his last shot at overturning the recount results from the 28th CD Democratic primary in which challenger Henry Cuellar was declared the winner.

During oral arguments before a trio of 4th Court of Appeals justices, Rodriguez attorney Buck Wood defended his contention that a district judge erred last month when he barred evidence of voting irregularities, including illegally cast ballots, in his election lawsuit.

The panel, composed of Chief Justice Alma Lopez, Judge Catherine M. Stone and Judge Paul W. Green, peppered Wood with questions about whether his attempt to amend his initial lawsuit was too vague and represented a wholesale departure from his original case.

The justices did not reach a decision Friday, but a court spokesman said a ruling could come early next week.

According to the Texas Election Code, any ruling by the appeals court is not reviewable by the Texas Supreme Court.

The panel quizzed Wood on whether his description of "voting irregularities" involving an initial recount of the 28th Congressional District race opened the door to other potential voting problems in an amended lawsuit.

The Rodriguez camp contends there were hundreds of illegally cast ballots in Cuellar's home county of Webb by felons, who are prohibited from voting, or voters who either do not live in the congressional district or did not live at the address listed on voter registration records.

"Is it, as Mr. Cuellar says, to plead everything is to plead nothing?" Stone asked.

"It is certainly a broad pleading, but it is not supposed to be anything but that," Wood responded, noting that he used language straight from the state's election code and was working under a tight deadline because of the expedited schedule of an election case.

The justices also reserved pointed questions for Cuellar's attorney, Bob Heath, who said Wood's original lawsuit only pertained to the first recount and not election day voting.

"The pleading was broad enough to include both things, wasn't it?" Green asked.

Heath responded, "Had they presented facts (of illegally cast ballots), yes."

Heath later added, "It's as if I came and filed a suit in district court and said you were negligent, but then I didn't tell you if it was an auto crash, an airplane crash or what you were negligent of."

We should know by next week what happens.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 12, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack