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THE SAN JUAN STAR
Cases Still Alive, Kicking in Fight to Kill Status Vote
Federal judge takes jurisdiction in PDP lawsuit
by Marty Gerard Delfin
October 15, 1998
©Copyright 1998 The San Juan Star
Opponents to the Dec. 13 plebiscite have already lost two court battles
in their fight to kill the status vote but their cases are still alive and
On Tuesday, a federal judge assumed jurisdiction in the lawsuit filed
by the Popular Democratic Party against the Rosselló administration's
scheduled plebiscite. Another federal judge assumed jurisdiction last week
in a separate case against the electoral event filed by former New Progressive
Party Sen. Nicolás Nogueras.
The PDP was in meeting Wednesday to decide whether to rush an appeal
before the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston or wait until after
today's decision by their governing board on what the party will do in the
U.S. District Judge Juan Pérez Giménez ruled late Tuesday
that he has jurisdiction because arguments lodged by the PDP raise federal
The PDP wanted to keep the case out of federal court in opposition to
the move by the Justice Department, which requested jurisdiction.
At its meeting today, the PDP will determine whether to boycott the plebiscite
or support the "none of the above", or fifth category on the ballot.
Acevedo Vilá has said that regardless of what they decide to do
in the plebiscite, the challenge in court against the plebiscite law will
"I am personally not in agreement with the way the law is formulated...this
matter will take its legal course and we'll keep watch over it," Calderón
said. "It is our understanding that this plebiscite is not constitutional
and we will keep fighting it."
In its lawsuit, the PDP argues that the definition of commonwealth as
a territory to be presented to voters on the ballot violates the party's
constitutional rights because it forces them to abandon its platform and
The party also states that other definitions to be offered differ also
from those approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in a separate status
plebiscite bill that was shelved by the Senate.
Pérez Giménez ruled that both those questions must be decided
by a federal judge because they deal with the history of the island's relationship
with the U.S. Congress.
A similar action was taken by U.S. District Judge Héctor Laffitte
last week when he ruled that the federal courts also had jurisdiction in
Nogueras' lawsuit. Nogueras also has announced that he will appeal the decision
before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
For his part, Gov. Rosselló said the courts are making it clearer
each day that Puerto Rico's matters fall under the territorial clause of
the U.S. Constitution making it a federal issue.
The U.S. Constitution gives the Congress full power over its territories.
When asked what he thought about the PDP's strategy to be decided today,
Rosselló said, "That is the PDP's problem."
Staff writers Gina Cavallaro and Eva Lloréns Vélez contributed
to this story.