Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he lacked the legal jurisdiction to hear the claim by Ruben Anderson, a Democrat, and Ron Berman, the Republican who lost to Powell in last month’s election.
Robert Hauser, a West Palm Beach attorney representing Anderson, said it would be several days before a decision is reached on whether to appeal Lewis’ ruling.
Anderson was disqualified in July after his bank did not honor his campaign’s $1,781.82 check to cover the candidate qualifying fee.
Florida law gives a candidate until the end of the qualifying period to correct such a situation. But Anderson, a pastor who retired from running his own landscaping business, had no remedy because his check was returned after qualifying closed.
Anderson, though, gained new legal life when the section of state law that thwarted him was declared unconstitutional in September by the Florida Supreme Court in a similar case involving the mayor’s race in Miami Gardens.
But in his ruling, Lewis sided with Powell’s attorney, Mark Herron, who argued in a recent hearing that since the lawmaker had already taken office, it was up to the Senate to decide, not a court.
Senate rules, though, also require any such election “contests” to be filed before the Legislature’s organizational session, a date which has already passed.
Berman had filed a contest with the Senate seeking unsuccessfully to stop Powell from being seated during the Nov. 22 organizational session. But since Berman’s contest sought to halt Powell’s swearing in until the the legal challenge was resolved, that avenue now also appears closed.
Ryan Berman, a Michigan lawyer representing his father, Ron, said it was unclear whether Monday’s ruling would prove the final action.
“I think we’re in unprecedented territory here, anyway,” Ryan Berman said.
Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said a replay of the two recently completed elections could cost taxpayers more than $1 million.