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Mapp v. Lawaetz

filed: August 4, 1989.

KENNETH E. MAPP, LILLIAN BELARDO DE O'NEALE, VIRDIN E. BROWN, BINGLEY G. RICHARDSON, SR., ELMO D. ROEBUCK, CELESTINO A. WHITE, SR., ANA L. DAVILA, HOWARD FRANCIS, CLAUDE PETERSEN, HENRY SEALEY AND DR. THOMAS EDWIN DONOGHUE, APPELLANTS
v.
HONORABLE BENT LAWAETZ, PRESIDENT OF THE 18TH LEGISLATURE, LORRAINE BERRY, ALICIA HANSEN, EDGAR ISLES, ROBERT O'CONNOR, DAVID PURITZ, HOLLAND L. REDFIELD, II, PAUL ALAN SHATKIN AND ST. CLAIRE WILLIAMS, APPELLEES



Appeal from the District Court of the Virgin Islands, Division of St. Thomas, Appellate Division, D.C. Civil Action No. 89-217.

Gibbons, Chief Judge, Hutchinson, Circuit Judge, and Wolin, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Hutchinson

Opinion OF THE COURT

HUTCHINSON, Circuit Judge.

I.

Appellant Kenneth E. Mapp (Mapp) appeals an order of the Appellate Division of the District Court of the Virgin Islands. The district court reversed a decision of the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands granting Mapp declaratory and injunctive relief against the president and other members of the 18th Legislature of the Virgin Islands (legislature) because the case was not justiciable.

The legislature had passed a bill removing Mapp as a member of that body and notified the Governor of the Virgin Islands that Mapp's seat was vacant. The bill based Mapp's removal on his failure to meet the standing requirements of voter registration and residency expressly set forth in § 6(b) of the Revised Organic Act of 1954. Satisfying these conditions is required to be eligible for legislative office.

The district court held that the legislative majority required to remove a member for failure to meet the standing qualifications set forth in § 6(b) was textually committed to the sole judgment of the legislature by § 6(g) of that Act and was therefore a non-justiciable political question. However, Mapp contends that the procedure used to remove him by a simple majority vote violated his constitutional right to due process. We hold that the legislature's action in this case met due process requirements and that the question of whether its rule requiring a two-thirds vote applied to Mapp's case is a matter entrusted to that body for its final resolution.

II.

Mapp is a long-time resident of the Virgin Islands and was a registered voter in the electoral district of St. Croix in 1987. In December of that year, he traveled to the State of Georgia to further his education. Appendix for Appellants (App.) at 6. In Georgia, he and his wife resided in a rented apartment in College Park. On January 11, 1988, he registered to vote in Fulton County, Georgia for the March 8, 1988 Democratic presidential preference primary. Appendix for Appellees (Supp. App.) at 35. In registering, Mapp swore that he was a citizen of the United States, the State of Georgia and Fulton County. He also affirmed that he possessed the qualifications of an elector as required by Georgia law and completed a card canceling his St. Croix registration. Id. at 36-37. On March 8, 1988, Mapp voted in the primary. App. at 8.

Neither Mapp's educational plans nor a subsequent business venture in Georgia worked out. Therefore, he left Georgia and returned to the Virgin Islands in April, 1988. Id. at 16. He did not re-register to vote in the Virgin Islands upon his return to St. Croix. Id. at 23-24.

Having once been a member of the legislature, Mapp decided to run again for a position in that body in the November, 1988 election. Not having received the card canceling Mapp's registration from Fulton County, the St. Croix Board of Elections certified his eligibility to run for the office of senator in the Virgin Islands' unicameral legislature. Supp. App. at 49. He was successful, and on December 2, 1988, the Board of Elections certified his election as a Senator in the 18th Legislature. Id. at 48. Mapp took the oath of office and assumed his senatorial duties on January 8, 1989.

One month later, on February 8, 1989, the supervisor of elections in St. Croix received the card from Fulton County canceling Mapp's Virgin Islands registration. The Board of Elections then met and attempted to withdraw its previous certification of Mapp because he did not qualify to seek and hold legislative office. Id. at 33-34, 50-51. Section 6(b) of the Revised Organic Act of 1954, the Virgin Islands' analogue of a state constitution, requires that members of the legislature be qualified voters and "bona fide residents" of the territory for three years before their election. By letter of April 12, 1989, appellee Senator Bent Lawaetz (Lawaetz), president of the legislature, was notified of this determination.

Lawaetz, in the name of the 18th Legislature, thereafter filed an action in district court seeking a declaratory judgment that Mapp was ineligible to continue serving as a member. On May 10, 1989, the district court dismissed that action, holding that the exclusive power and authority to determine Mapp's qualifications and eligibility for membership in the ...


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