Election Can't Keep Missouri Prosecutor Out
(CN) - A Missouri district attorney should not have been voted out of office while he still had two years left on his term, a state appeals court ruled.
The Schuyler County prosecuting attorney office was up for grabs in the election of 2010, but nobody ran for the position. Though attorney Benjamin Gray had the most write-in votes, he declined to take the office.
Gov. Jay Nixon appointed H. Scott Summers to a four-year term of office, which started on Jan. 1, 2011. While Summers was not a county resident, he was allowed to take office in light of the lack of residential candidiates.
County clerk Bree Shaw nevertheless placed the office on the 2012 ballot, and Lindsay Gravett won.
One day later, Summers sued Shaw and Gravett for a declaration that the election was void and that Summers should complete his term.
The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants, but the Missouri Court of Appeals reversed, 2-1, on Christmas Eve.
"Summers is correct that his term as prosecuting attorney of Schyler County continues under the next regular election for prosecuting attorney in 2014," Judge Victor Howard wrote for the majority in the court's Western District. "The county clerk, therefore, did not have the authority to place the office on the 2012 ballot, and Gravett was prohibited from assuming the office after that election."
Writing in dissent, Judge Anthony Rex Gabbert noted that the office was subject to two-year terms from 1880 to 1982.
The Missouri Legislature failed to show an exception to the rule that appointed candidates must have their seats on the line in the next general election, Gabbert wrote.
He also said Summers should have complained during the election, not after it.
"Summers waited until after the election to assert that the county clerk should not have put the office of prosecuting attorney on the 2012 ballot," the dissent states. "He now asks for reinstatement to, and lost wages for, a position that Gravett has assumed for nearly a year."