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Brannock Humphries & Berman Wins Election Appeal

A mere two weeks after a Leon County trial judge disqualified a Tampa Bay area congressional candidate from running in the 2022 election, Brannock Humphries & Berman secured a reversal from the First District Court of Appeal, restoring him to the ballot.

The lawsuit was filed by two voters and a state political party after the Department of State qualified the candidate for the election. The plaintiffs sought to go behind the Department’s qualification decision to attack the procedures used in the swearing and signing of the candidate oath, one of the forms that must be submitted to run for federal office. The gravamen of the complaint was that the candidate was not in the physical presence of the notary when the oath was notarized. The trial court accepted that argument and found that, although the candidate’s paperwork was otherwise accurate, timely submitted, and facially complete, the oath was invalid, and the candidate therefore could not run in the election.

Brannock Humphries & Berman provided legal support at trial to the team from Beltran Litigation and Charles Kelly Law and then took the lead on appeal. One of the main arguments developed by the firm, ultimately accepted by the First District, was that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing to bring a cause of action to challenge the verification mechanics of Department-approved qualification paperwork. As the appellate court ruled, unlike other election-related statutes, the statute governing qualification paperwork does not create a right for private parties to bring a civil action in court. Instead, it vests the Department with the sole authority to declare if candidate paperwork has been properly verified. 

This decision to restore the candidate’s ability to run for office leaves it up to the voters in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties to decide who will represent them in Congress.