Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Special Division
RYAN A. SILVEY, Appellant,
J. RANEN BECHTHOLD; CLAY COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS, Respondents.
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CLAY COUNTY The Ho norable Janet L.
Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, James E. Welsh and Lisa
White Hardwick, Judges
White Hardwick, Judge
Silvey appeals the judgment denying his petition to challenge
the qualifications of J. Ranen Bechthold to run for the
position of state senator in Missouri Senate District 17.
Silvey contends the circuit court had no authority to extend
the deadline for Bechthold to file an answer to Silvey's
election contest petition and that Bechthold's failure to
file an answer within the statutory time required a default
judgment or judgment on the pleadings in Silvey's favor.
For reasons explained herein, we affirm.
and Procedural History
August 15, 2016, Silvey, the Republican nominee for election
to Missouri Senate District 17, filed a petition seeking to
have Bechthold, the Democratic nominee for the same senate
seat, disqualified on the basis of residency. Three days later,
on August 18, Silvey filed an amended petition that added
additional facts regarding Bechthold's alleged residency.
August 22, the court held a preliminary hearing. Counsel for
Silvey and the Clay County Board of Election Commissioners
appeared. Bechthold appeared without counsel. No
transcript of this preliminary hearing appears in the record
on appeal. The court set the case for trial on August 29.
August 23, counsel for Bechthold entered his appearance. On
August 24, Silvey and Bechthold were each deposed. Also on
that day, Silvey filed a motion for default judgment or, in
the alternative, judgment on the pleadings. In the motion,
Silvey argued that, during the August 22 preliminary hearing,
the court informed Bechthold that he would be in default if
he did not file an answer by August 23. Because Bechthold did
not file an answer by August 23, Silvey asserted that
Bechthold was in default and that Silvey was entitled to
either a default judgment or a judgment on the pleadings.
filed an answer on August 26. In his answer, Bechthold
responded to the allegations in the amended petition and set
forth several facts supporting his defense that he satisfied
the residency requirements. Bechthold also filed a motion to
file his answer out of time.
August 29, before the trial on Silvey's amended petition
to disqualify Bechthold, the court heard arguments on
Bechthold's motion to file his answer out of time and
Silvey's motion for default judgment or, in the
alternative, for judgment on the pleadings. The court granted
Bechthold's motion to file his answer out of time. The
court denied Silvey's motion for default judgment or
judgment on the pleadings after finding that the filing of an
answer in response to an election contest petition is
permissive and not mandatory.
trial was held on Silvey's amended petition to disqualify
Bechthold. The court subsequently entered a judgment in favor
of Bechthold. The court found that the "overwhelming
majority of the evidence demonstrates that Bechthold has
always intended to be, has always maintained, and but for his
service as a soldier in the U.S. Army, has always been
physically a resident within Missouri Senate District
17." Silvey appeals.
review of an election contest petition is under the standard
of Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc
1976). In re Contest of Primary Election Candidacy of
Fletcher, 337 S.W.3d 137, 139 (Mo. App. 2011).
Therefore, we will affirm the circuit court's
judgment unless there is no substantial evidence to support
it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it
erroneously declares or applies the law. Id. at 139-140.
We review issues of law, including questions of statutory
interpretation, de novo. Chastain v. Kansas City Missouri
City Clerk, 337 S.W.3d 149, 154 (Mo. App. 2011).
points on appeal challenge the circuit court's handling
of Bechthold's failure to file his answer within the time
frame provided by statute. In Point I, Silvey contends the
court erred in allowing Bechthold to file his answer out of
time and in allowing him to submit evidence relating to the
defense set forth in his answer. In Point II, Silvey asserts
the court erred in denying his ...