Connecticut’s Supreme Court will hear arguments Friday in an ongoing dispute between factions of the Independent Party in Danbury, where competing slates of candidates are contesting who should appear on the third party’s ballot line in next month’s election.
The case stems from a lawsuit by Democratic mayoral candidate Roberto Alves, who argued that Danbury Town Clerk Janice Giegler broke the law by providing state election officials with an Independent ballot lineup including herself and Republican Mayor Dean Esposito despite members of the party submitting a separate slate of names earlier in the process.
Last week, Danbury Superior Court Judge Maximino Medina Jr. granted a motion from Alves’ attorney asking for the slate including Giegler and Esposito to be struck from the ballot, prompting Giegler’s attorney, Proloy Das, to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
Das asked the court to expedite its review of the case, given that the issuance of absentee ballots remained on hold due to the litigation.
“The Town Clerk must have the ability to proceed with the preparation of the ballot for the November 7, 2023 election or there is a risk that voters will be disenfranchised,” Das wrote. “But, without resolution of the issue raised by the plaintiff in this case, the ballots cannot be finalized and produced.”
The high court agreed to quickly hear arguments, which will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday in Hartford.
On Monday, Medina issued a 19-page memorandum explaining his decision last week to order the removal of most of the party’s candidates from the November ballots.
The judge found issues with how both slates were submitted: the Esposito slate was not certified and party members failed to comply with meeting notification requirements before endorsing the Alves slate.
Meanwhile, Medina said that he found Giegler to be an evasive and uncredible witness when she testified before the court on Oct. 4.
“The totality of the circumstances convinced this court that placement of the Esposito slate on the Independent Party of Danbury line would be improper. The court further concludes that placement of the Alves slate on the line of the Independent Party of Danbury would be equally improper,” the judge wrote.
However, Medina’s order to remove the candidates from the ballot line did not remain in effect long. The judge stayed his own order pending higher court review soon after issuing it.
The stay came following an effort by Alves’ attorney, Christopher Mattei, to have Giegler held in contempt of the court for refusing to immediately begin preparing and distributing new ballots which did not include the candidates on the Esposito slate.
“Every hour that passes, defendant Giegler deprives the voters of Danbury of access to absentee ballots,” Mattei wrote. “The Court must impose penalties to coerce defendant Giegler to fulfill her legal responsibilities.”
The judge ultimately declined to hold Giegler in contempt and instead opted to clarify that a restraining order barring the clerk from preparing and distributing ballots remained in effect. He also paused his earlier order removing the Esposito slate to “avoid the possibility of confusing voters” until the Supreme Court could review the issue.
In its review, the high court will seek to answer whether Giegler exceeded her authority when she declined to submit the Alves slate of candidates, which was approved by Independent Party members during a caucus on Aug. 11.
The court will also consider whether Giegler’s submission of the Esposito slate of candidates — approved during a separate caucus meeting overseen by Independent Party of Danbury Chair Veasna Rouen on Aug. 21 — was improper because the slate was not certified.