Aug 31, 2022 - News

Wayne County judicial candidates under fire

Illustration of a voting booth with a gavel printed on the side.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A state judge is expected to soon decide whether five Wayne County judicial candidates can remain on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Driving the news: Local activist Robert Davis filed a lawsuit earlier this month seeking to disqualify the candidates, saying their paperwork did not indicate, as required, their lack of party affiliation.

Why it matters: The lawsuit threatens to upend local judicial races with the election just a couple months away.

  • If Davis prevails, four incumbent judges could be removed from the Nov. 8 ballot: Patricia Fresard, Sheila Gibson, Kelly Ramsey and Mark Slavens. A fifth, non-incumbent candidate LaKena Crespo, also allegedly submitted improper paperwork.

The intrigue: The same judge in this case, Judge Brock Swartzle, recently ordered another Wayne County judicial candidate, Roney Haywood, off the ballot for a similar paperwork infraction.

  • "He is not the first candidate for judicial office to have this problem, and given current filings in the Court of Claims, he may not be the last," Swartzle wrote in his ruling.

Between the lines: The paperwork in question is known as an "affidavit of identity," which candidates must complete and file.

  • While the judicial races are nonpartisan, candidates have to mark their lack of party affiliation.
  • The incumbent candidates left their party affiliation blank and Crespo wrote "N/A."

What they're saying: Davis, who has a history of filing election-related lawsuits, tells Axios he filed the lawsuit because the instructions are clear and rules should apply to judges and partisan candidates alike.

  • When asked whether he's hung up on a technicality, Davis said "the law is nothing but technicalities, so that's irrelevant."

The other side: "This is another last minute and frivolous attempt by a serial litigator to disrupt the election process and get his name in the paper," Christopher Trebilcock, an attorney for judicial candidate Crespo, tells Axios.

  • The other candidates referenced in the lawsuit did not respond to messages.

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