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Noel v. Board of Election

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

June 30, 2015

MARY NOEL, ET AL., Respondent,
v.
BOARD OF ELECTION, ET AL., Defendant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. Honorable Robert H. Dierker.

FOR APPELLANT: Stuart P. Keating, St. Louis, MO; Ronald A. Fein, Newton, MA.

FOR RESPONDENT: Thomas E. Schwartz, Mark J. Gaertner, St. Louis, Mo; Jane E. Dueker, St. Louis, Mo.

OPINION

ROY L. RICHTER, J.

Appellants Leonard Jones, Pearl Olsen, Courtnae Smith, David Scott, and Lynn Oldham (collectively, " Drafters" ) appeal from the trial court's judgment, following a bench trial, holding that the Initiative Petition at issue conflicts with state law and granting injunctive relief. Mary Erin Noel, Joseph McNeal, Melinda Gorman, and the Law Offices of Fehlig, Fehlig & Tatum, LLC (collectively, " Plaintiffs" ) also cross-appeal from the trial court's judgment holding that the form of the Initiative Petition submitted by Drafters was lawful and dismissing Plaintiffs' equal protection claim. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Drafters are members and representatives of the Committee of Petitioners for the Initiative Petition at issue here, and were involved in its formulation. The proposed Initiative Petition would do two things: (1) prohibit the City of St. Louis from providing " public financial incentives" to " unsustainable energy producers," and (2) require the City to create a " sustainable energy plan" which mandates the City provide financial incentives to " renewable energy producers."

Drafters gathered signatures in support of the Initiative Petition and submitted them to the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of St. Louis (" the Board of Election Commissioners" ) on July 31, 2013. The Board of Election Commissioners certified the sufficiency of the signatures on August 12, 2013, and submitted the ballot measure to the Board of Aldermen for approval. As the Board of Aldermen did not pass the ballot measure within 60 days, the Initiative Petition was scheduled to be placed on the ballot on April 8, 2014.

Plaintiffs are citizens and taxpayers of the City of St. Louis, and on January 31, 2014, they brought a civil action seeking to prevent the Board of Election Commissioners from placing the Initiative Petition on the ballot. On February 7, 2014, Judge Robert H. Dierker held a hearing on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and on February 11, 2014, Judge Dierker granted Plaintiff's motion by written order.

Trial took place on March 31, 2014. The Committee of Petitioners were allowed by Judge Dierker to intervene during the trial. On May 27, 2014, Judge Dierker issued his Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order and Judgment. Judge Dierker granted judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on Counts II and VII, holding the Initiative Petition conflicted with state law and granting injunctive relief. He granted judgment in favor of Drafters on Counts I, III, IV, and V, and dismissed Plaintiffs' equal protection claim, Count VI, as moot.

Drafters filed this appeal alleging error with Counts II and VII, with Plaintiffs' subsequently filing a cross-appeal alleging error on counts I, III, IV, V and VI.

II. DISCUSSION

In their sole point on appeal, Drafters allege the trial court erred in granting judgment for Plaintiffs and holding the Initiative Petition conflicts with Missouri state statutes. Drafters argue the Initiative Petition is neither expressly inconsistent nor in irreconcilable conflict with state statutes, and thus, is not facially unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs bring two points on cross-appeal. In their first point, Plaintiffs allege the trial court erred in finding the form of the Initiative Petition to be in substantial conformity with the law because it contains an insufficient and unfair summary statement. Secondly, Plaintiffs allege the trial court erred in dismissing their equal protection claim. Plaintiffs argue the Initiative Petition lacked any rational relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose, and thus ...


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