MONTGOMERY — Two Montgomery County Circuit Court judges refused on Wednesday to reinstate two disqualified candidates for Jefferson County Treasurer.
Incumbent Jefferson County Treasurer Eyrika Parker and Democratic primary challenger Mara Ruffin Allen filed lawsuits last week after being kicked off the 2024 primary ballot. The lawsuits are before Montgomery County Circuit Judges Brooke Reid and James Anderson.
Thirteen Jefferson County Democrats were disqualified in late December from appearing on the primary ballot in March. Republican Party officials said in December, about 18 Republican candidates statewide were disqualified from ballot access.
The disqualifications were primarily due to candidates allegedly not turning in their Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) within five days of qualifying as required by law.
Allen named Jefferson County Probate Judge James Naftel, Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Rogers, and Alabama Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton as defendants in her lawsuit.
"We believe that the people of Jefferson County should have a right to determine who sits in this seat and by taking her name off the ballot because currently there are no persons qualified or certified at this point based off of the information that was submitted that will be able to sit in that seat. Someone will have to be appointed to sit in that Jefferson County Treasurer's seat. We believe that the people of Jefferson County should have the right to vote and to choose who that person should be," Allen's attorney Jacquese Antoinette Gary said in a hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Wednesday.
Jefferson County Probate Judge James Naftel filed motions to dismiss the lawsuits on Wednesday morning.
French McMilan, an assistant Jefferson County attorney, said during the hearing, "Judge Naftel did not remove anyone from the ballot."
"We filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of Judge Naftel this morning and attached an email from Tom Albritton that was sent to multiple people not including Judge Naftel who is the presiding Probate Judge of Jefferson County," McMilan said. "It was actually sent to Judge (Sherri) Friday who is the place 2 (Probate) Judge but not the chief elections officer of the county. It was sent on Wednesday, (December) 21st. Judge Naftel didn't even find out about that until Friday the 23rd. We also attached the list that was attached to that email from the 21st of the people that had to come off."
McMilan continued, "None of this was a decision made by Judge Naftel. In our motion today we point out that either the correction decision maker in this instance in our opinion is either the director of the Ethics Commission or the (Alabama) Secretary of State but not Judge Naftel in either case."
Brian Paterson, assistant general counsel with the Alabama Ethics Commission, said during the hearing, "Mr. Albritton, as director of the (Alabama) Ethics Commission, the statute requires us to notify the election official."
"We are not the election official. Additionally, it is my understanding, the Secretary of State's Office doesn't handle county-level elections so we contact probate judges for these county-level elections as they handle who goes on the ballot," Paterson said.
Paterson said during two court hearings on Wednesday that neither Allen nor Parker submitted a SEI form to the ethics commission within the five-day deadline after qualifying.
Neither Anderson nor Reid ruled on Wednesday on a temporary restraining order motion filed by Allen and Parker seeking to keep their name on the primary ballot for Jefferson County Treasurer.
A virtual hearing in Allen's lawsuit is set for Friday with Reid.
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