Two attorneys battled over an Emergency Injunction in federal court yesterday in the matter of Orgeron v. Quartzsite. One thing is for certain: Nothing is going to be resolved quickly here.
This is the matter where Mark Orgeron ran for, and won, the seat for Quartzsite Town Council. Yet the incumbents refuse to seat him, claiming—after he won—that Orgeron wasn't qualified to run in the first place. Ironically, Quartzsite Town attorney, Martin Brannan, has cited Arizona case law in a similar matter (Prutch v. Quartzsite) that the time to challenge the qualifications of a candidate is BEFORE an election. Not after. But this fact hasn't been brought up yet in federal court.
While the federal judge spoke about a proposed Order she had written, which seemed to favor the Town, (the attorney for the Town said he was "happy" with it), the federal judge has a couple of hoops to jump through before she can take jurisdiction in this touchy matter. She wanted both sides to supply her with more case law before she made any formal decisions. Unfortunately, that will take time. She gave both parties until Friday, June 22 to file supplemental briefs and until Wednesday, June 27 to file Responses. She promised a ruling immediately thereafter, which, coincidentally, would be sometime around Independence Day.
The first hoop is the issue of "abstention." The federal judge is reluctant to interlope/interfere/intervene because the state has also taken action in this matter. Since La Paz County Attorney Sam Vederman had initiated a Quo Warranto action in state court to seat Orgeron, if Vederman is successful, Orgeron will be duly seated and no longer suffer harm, a requirement to be heard in federal court. But this presents a Catch-22 situation. If he's waiting on the federal court to act first, perhaps Vederman isn't expediting the state matter. Which means it will stretch out for a least a month at the state level. Whereas the federal court has the power to act before that. (In fact, the federal judge speculated it could take six months before the issue is resolve in state.)
The second hoop is the "first impression" nature of this potentially big case originating from this small Town. It didn't appear Orgeron's attorneys had completely thought this through, but the federal judge pointed out that, if she gives Orgeron what he wants, she will effectively be declaring durational residency requirements for candidacy unconstitutional throughout the entire United States! Not so small town anymore, is it! The judge requested similar case law to support such a broad, sweeping, landmark decision.
The attorneys also argued about details that only attorneys could love, but which have a major consequence on how the judge has to look at things, in order to rule. (For example, whether the legal standard of strict scrutiny or rationale determination apply. The former favors Orgeron, the latter the Town.)
Meanwhile, a majority of citizens in the Town of Quartzsite watch in frustration as the incumbents on the Town Council continue to rule after they were voted out of office.