Ruling sought on Fred Jordan District Attorney eligibility

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Steve Kunzweiler, the Assistant DA seeking the open Tulsa County District Attorney's seat, has filed a petition in Oklahoma County District Court seeking a ruling on the eligibility of his two opponents in the June 24, 2014, GOP primary. A legislative action taken after the April filing period made the two legislators in the race constitutionally ineligible to be elected or appointed to the job, under Article V, Section 23, of the Oklahoma Constitution. One of the two, State Sen. Brian Crain, has withdrawn from the race, but the other, State Rep. Fred Jordan, refuses to withdraw.

The heart of the question is when the legislative term ends and when the DA is considered elected. Jordan's term does not end until November 19, 2014, but the new DA will be elected prior to that date.

Kunzweiler is asking the court to rule that Crain and Jordan are both ineligible and that neither can be certified as elected. Kunzweiler notes, "The office of District Attorney is too important to public safety to risk a period of disruption and confusion. The election of a constitutionally prohibited candidate to the office could call into question and subject to legal challenge every official act taken by the newly-elected Tulsa County District Attorney."

Here is a press release from the Kunzweiler campaign:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DA candidate Steve Kunzweiler asks court to declare opponents Fred Jordan and Brian Crain ineligible to be elected DA

TULSA, Okla., June 16, 2014 - Republican Candidate for District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler today filed a petition in Oklahoma County District Court asking the court to declare candidates Fred Jordan and Brian Crain ineligible to be elected Tulsa County District Attorney.

The action claims Kunzweiler is entitled to a declaratory judgment finding:

a. That Crain and Jordan are constitutionally prohibited from being elected to the Office of Tulsa County District Attorney pursuant to Article V, Section 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution; and

b. That the state Board of Election is constitutionally prohibited from certifying either Crain or Jordan as elected to the Office of District Attorney.

Kunzweiler's petition cites the Oklahoma State Constitution's prohibition against Legislators increasing pay of an elected official and then seeking election to that office while they are legislators.

State Representative Fred Jordan and State Sen. Brian Crain are candidates for DA along with Kunzweiler. On May 23, 2014, the Legislature voted to increase the pay of state judges and district attorneys. Sen. Crain then publicly acknowledged that the action prohibits him from seeking the DA office and suspended his campaign, although his name remains on the ballot. Jordan claims that the prohibition does not apply to him and has continued campaigning for the office.

On June 3, 2014 Governor Mary Fallin signed HJR 1096 into law, rendering both Jordan and Crain ineligible for election. The Oklahoma Constitution Article V, Section 23 provides:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any office or commission in the State, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his term of office . . .

According to Kunzweiler's petition, the election of a constitutionally prohibited candidate would call into question every official act of the Office of Tulsa County District Attorney.
Kunzweiler, an Assistant District Attorney in Tulsa County and a 24-year prosecutor, said, "I did not ask to be put in this position. Since the governor signed this into law, I have asked many different attorneys to research the law to determine whether Jordan could be considered eligible for election. After consultation with them, it is clear to me that Jordan's candidacy violates both the spirit and the letter of the law. The Oklahoma Constitution clearly states this," Kunzweiler said.

"The actions of the Oklahoma Legislature - of which Jordan is a Majority leader - put me in this position. I took an oath of office to uphold the Oklahoma and US Constitutions. It is my duty and my obligation under the Constitution of Oklahoma to raise this issue and to resolve it," Kunzweiler said.

"The office of District Attorney is too important to public safety to risk a period of disruption and confusion. The election of a constitutionally prohibited candidate to the office could call into question and subject to legal challenge every official act taken by the newly-elected Tulsa County District Attorney beginning January 1, 2015. Our citizens need to be protected without interruption. Based upon Oklahoma's Constitution, it is apparent that neither Jordan nor Crain can be elected or appointed to the Office of Tulsa County District Attorney come January 1, 2015.

"I honor and respect State Senator Brian Crain, who recognized that he could no longer run for this office based upon the pay increase. He announced that he was withdrawing from the election. That was the correct thing to do because it was required by Oklahoma's Constitution," Kunzweiler said. "Jordan is also subject to the same Constitutional prohibition that Senator Crain faced."

"As I said at the outset - I am a prosecutor - not a politician. As a prosecutor I am obligated to follow the rule of law. I am sworn to uphold our Constitution. I am doing what the law requires me to do."

MORE: Steve Kunzweiler's petition to the Oklahoma County District Court regarding eligibility of candidates for Tulsa County District Attorney.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 16, 2014 3:39 PM.

Steve Kunzweiler for Tulsa County District Attorney was the previous entry in this blog.

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