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Federal Appeals Court Rules Puerto Rico's Supreme Court Should Decide Election... McClintock Nixes Status Deal With Acevedo… Appellate Court Will Hear Complaints About Dominguez, Senate Condemns his Intervention… PIP Conscription Can Continue… Judge Calls For Arrest Of IAU Leaders, Calderon Asks Workers To End Strike… Gracia Denies Disobeying Court Order… Isla Verde Cafe Opens… Delgado Refused Arbitration

Federal Appeals Court Rules Puerto Rico's Supreme Court Should Decide Election


AP Legal Affairs Writer

December 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

BOSTON (AP) - A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Puerto Rico's Supreme Court, not a federal judge on the island, has jurisdiction over disputed election ballots in the governor's race.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that with a few narrow exceptions federal courts are not authorized to meddle in local elections.

The ruling kicks the protracted gubernatorial election back to the island's Supreme Court to review thousands of disputed ballots favoring pro-commonwealth candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila of the Popular Democratic Party.

Preliminary election results from Nov. 2 showed Acevedo Vila narrowly ahead of the pro-statehood contender, former Gov. Pedro Rossello of the New Progressive Party -- 48.38 percent to 48.18 percent.

On the ballots in question, voters marked an 'x' for the tiny Independence Party, but they also put marks next to the names of Acevedo Vila and Roberto Prats, the Popular Democratic Party's candidate for nonvoting delegate to U.S. Congress.

Acevedo Vila's supporters say Puerto Rico's laws allow voters to mark one party in addition to candidates from other mainstream parties.

The 1st Circuit rejected the claim by Rossello that these so-called "three-mark ballots" were not legitimate.

"Here, there is no clearly articulated Commonwealth policy, much less a statute, to indicate the three-mark split vote ballots were invalid," the court said in its ruling.

Rossello's lawyer, former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who represented George W. Bush in the disputed 2000 presidential election, had argued that it is impossible to determine the voter's intent on those ballots.

Last month, Puerto Rico's Supreme Court and U.S. District Judge Daniel Dominguez both ordered an immediate recount, but made contradictory rulings on how to deal with the ballots favoring Acevedo Vila. The Supreme Court ordered them counted as valid, while Dominguez ordered election officials to count the ballots, but not to add them to the final recount tally until he rules on their validity.

The dispute landed in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week, where dozens of protesters showed up on the courthouse steps.

A three-judge panel of the court issued a 41-page ruling concluding that "it was an abuse of discretion for the District Court to exercise jurisdiction over this local election dispute."

Opinion at


Editors' Note: Denise Lavoie is a Boston-based reporter covering the courts and legal issues.

McClintock Rules Out Status Agreement With Acevedo Vila

December 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Even if PDP candidate Aníbal Acevedo Vila was confirmed as the governor-elect, the next Senate president, New Progressive Kenneth McClintock, ruled out an agreement to clarify by consensus the future of the political status of the island.

For McClintock, the possibility of an agreement is not realistic through which his New Progressive Party tries to commit to the U.S. Congress with a plebiscite of "non-colonial" alternatives, and if it is not obtained in the first two years of the term, then to accept the proposal of Acevedo Vila to promote a Constitutional Assembly on status.

"Acevedo Vila has in the past formed alliance with the big enemies of Puerto Rico to try to stop any status effort. He has made them in the past with the most conservative and anti-Hispanic groups," McClintock said.

Boston Court Will Hear Complaints About Dominguez

December 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A citizen has submitted a complaint of poor conduct against Federal Judge Daniel Dominguez to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, for agreeing to evaluate a case involving a former client, the New Progressive Party (NPP), and an alleged friend, Pedro Rossello.

Marimar Benítez, dean of the School of Fine Arts and sister of the former Popular Democratic candidate for resident commissioner, Celeste Benitez, submitted the complaint Nov. 30, based on a series of acts by Dominguez and the secretary of the Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico, Frances Rios.

According to press reports, the complaint says the actions of the judge and the secretary represent a "affront to the good reputation and the reliability of the federal courts."

The complaint says Dominguez’s capacity to act as judge in the case initiated by the NPP also must be evaluated because Rossello’s son, who is one of the plaintiffs, was a law clerk for the judge until recently.

Senate Condemns Intervention By Dominguez

December 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Senate approved a measure by its outgoing president, PDP Antonio Fas Alzamora, which condemned the intervention of Federal Judge Daniel Dominguez in the complaint about the Nov. 2 elections.

According to newspaper reports, the measure was approved Wednesday with the opposition of the delegation from the New Progressive Party, the party that brought the case about the validity of mixed-vote ballots before the federal court.

The resolution stipulates the report will be sent to the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the U.S. Supreme Court, International Transparency, the U.S. Congress, and Amnesty International, among about 20 organizations.

The statement by the Senate against Dominguez’s intervention was criticized by the the alternate spokesman for the NPP in the Senate and the incoming vice president of the body, Orlando Parga, on the grounds it will damage Puerto Rico and the United States.

PIP Can Continue With Its Inscription, Judge Rules

December 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Judge Oscar Davila Suliveres said Thursday the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) can continue with its inscription because its certification, issued by the State Elections Commission, is valid.

The judge said the SEC authorized the PIP after interpreting its own regulations.

"The court delivers a sentence confirming the unanimous decision of the State Elections Commission, which authorized the PIP to continue their inscription," the judge said.

PIP Election Commissioner Juan Dalmau said the judge awarded the verdict based on the law and not on the regulations, because the statute carries more weight.

"There is no reason for the judge to not make this interpretation in favor of the PIP. We are following the law, and this was in agreement with the meeting of the commissioners," he said.

Judge Calls For Arrest Of IAU Leaders, Sets Bail At $100,000

December 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Judge Ada Rosa Juarbe found cause to arrest 11 leaders of the Independent Authentic Union (IAU) accused of tax evasion, including union President Hector Rene Lugo.

Juarbe imposed bail of $100,000 for each person, $20,000 for each of the five charges imposed by the prosecutor. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 28.

According to authorities, union leaders failed to report some $3 million to the Treasury between 1999 and 2003.

"The court does not doubt the decision we are going to make… the court finds cause in each and every one of these cases," Juarbe said at a hearing where the press was allowed to be present, unusual in this type of case.

Defense lawyer Fernando Carlo protested the amount of the bail and asked for reconsideration, however his request was not immediately addressed.

Calderon Asks IAU Workers To End Strike

December 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila M. Calderon on Wednesday asked workers of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, on strike for two months, to return to their jobs, and said the last offer the government made is "final."

"This is not the time for offers, the government’s offer already is final," she said.

Calderon refused to comment about the judicial case faced by the president of the Independent Authentic Union, Hector Rene Lugo, and 10 other leaders of the union for tax evasion.

Judge Ada Rosa Juarbe found cause to arrest the leaders, and set bail at $100,000 for each. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 28.

Gracia Denies Any Disobedience Of Judge’s Order

December 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The president of the State Elections Commission, Aurelio Gracia, on Wednesday denied that when he divulged the breakdown of the controversial votes with three marks he was not complying with an order by Federal Judge Daniel Dominguez.

Gracia said the order, in which Dominguez stipulated that the ballots with three marks be counted and segregated, but not adjudicated, did not place any limitation on divulging the numbers.

"We think we have complied with Judge Dominguez’s order this entire time. We have separated the ballots and not adjudicated them," Gracia said at a press conference.

He said as he does not have a document from Dominguez that is specific about divulging the number of controversial ballots, he will continue to do so.

Gracia was reacting to angry words from Dominguez the night before that his order allegedly had not been obeyed by the SEC or the Popular Democratic Party.

Isla Verde Cafe Opens With Tropical Theme

December 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Philadelphia Daily News. All rights reserved. 

Today is the grand opening of Isla Verde Cafe at 2725 N. American St. (215-426-3600). Owner Reinaldo "Rey" Pastrana hired Vince Rivera of SRK Architects for his $1.6 million tropical island fantasy (the name refers to a city in Puerto Rico). Chef-partner Juan Carlos Rodriguez (Park Hyatt at the Bellevue, Alma de Cuba) is cooking up a "South Beach menu," meaning Latin, Italian and Caribbean cuisine. There will be live music and dancing on weekends.

Jays Decline To Offer Delgado Arbitration


December 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Sports Network. All rights reserved. 

TORONTO (Sports Network) - The Toronto Blue Jays have decided not to offer arbitration to first baseman Carlos Delgado, who has spent his entire 12-year career with the team.

The Blue Jays can't re-sign Delgado before May 1, meaning he will probably be wearing a different uniform in 2005. If Delgado does leave Toronto, the Blue Jays will not receive compensation.

Delgado has reportedly received offers from Texas and Seattle, in addition to a two-year deal offered by the Blue Jays. The left-handed slugger could end up in the Bronx playing for the Yankees.

Delgado has a career .282 batting average with 336 home runs and 1,058 RBI since signing with Toronto as an amateur free agent in 1988.

The two-time All-Star finished second in AL MVP voting in 2003, when he hit .302 with 42 homers and 145 runs batted in.

Last season, the native of Puerto Rico hit .269 with 32 homers and 99 RBI in 128 games. He made $18.5 million in 2004, the final year of a four-year, $68 million contract.

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