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In re Wooten

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

December 11, 2019

IN RE THE HONORABLE SUZANNE WOOTEN, Relator

          Original Proceeding from Collin County, Texas

          Before Justices Schenck, Reichek, and Evans

          SUPPLEMENTAL MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         On December 9, 2019, we denied relator, Susanne Wooten's, December 6, 2019 petition for writ of mandamus and emergency motion for temporary relief in which Wooten sought an order compelling respondent, Mark Reid, in his capacity as Collin County Republican Party Chairman ("County Chair"), to place her on the ballot for the Republican primary as a candidate for the 401st Judicial District Court of Texas. We did so in a summary opinion in deference to the short time limits imposed on parties to pursue further relief in ballot access litigation as we explained in In re Jones, No. 05-28-0065-CV, 2018 WL 549531 (Tex. App.-Dallas Jan. 24, 2018, orig. proceeding) (per curiam) (memo. op.). We now supplement our memorandum opinion of December 9, 2019, to more fully explain why the Court was compelled to deny Wooten's petition for writ of mandamus.

         Wooten's petition arises from an administrative body's declaration that she is ineligible to be a candidate for the office of District Judge. Accordingly, this mandamus proceeding is similar to other proceedings where we are limited to a review of the face of the record.

         On November 7, 2019, Wooten submitted her Application for a place on the Republican Party General Primary Ballot for the office of District Judge, 401st Judicial District Court of Texas, located in Collin County, Texas. On November 25, 2019, the Chair of the Collin County Republican Party delivered a declaration to Wooten notifying her that she is ineligible for a place on the primary ballot.[1] This mandamus proceeding followed on Friday, December 6, 2019.

         The County Chair's responsibilities regarding any candidate's application for a place on the ballot is set out in section 145.003 of the Texas Election Code. See Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 145.003. Subsection (g) to section 145.003 provides that the County Chair must review whatever public record is presented related to the eligibility of a candidate and must declare a candidate ineligible if the public record establishes ineligibility:

When presented with an application for a place on the ballot or another public record containing information pertinent to a candidate's eligibility, the appropriate authority shall promptly review the record. If the authority determines that the record establishes ineligibility as provided by Subsection (f), the authority shall declare the candidate ineligible.

Id. § 145.003(g). Subsection (f), provides the standard the County Chair must use when evaluating a public record is whether that record conclusively establishes ineligibility:

         A candidate may be declared ineligible only if:

(1) the information on the candidate's application for a place on the ballot indicates that the candidate is ineligible for the office; or

(2) facts indicating that the candidate is ineligible are conclusively established by another public record.

Id. § 145.003(f).

         In addition to the general requirements for public office set out in section 141.001 of the Election Code, [2] section seven of article five of the Texas Constitution requires a candidate for District Judge to (1) be a citizen of the United States, (2) be a citizen of the State of Texas, (3) be licensed to practice law in the State of Texas, (4) for the 4 years immediately preceding the election, have been a practicing lawyer or a Judge of a Court in Texas or a combination of the two, and (5) have resided in the district for the 2 years immediately preceding the election. See Tex. Const. art. V, § 7. A District Judge in Texas must also be at least 25 years of age. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 24.001.

         In determining whether a candidate is ineligible, the County Chair is not permitted to consider facts that are not contained in the public record. See Witherspoon v. Pouland, 784 S.W.2d 951, 954 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1990, orig. proceeding). We likewise are constrained to the limited mandamus record before us and are not permitted to expand the record by embarking on a fact finding mission, nor are we to engage in speculation as to whether facts outside the record could exist that would impact Wooten's eligibility. See e.g., Ferris v. Carlson, 314 S.W.2d 577 (Tex. 1958). To the extent there are any factual disputes as to a candidate's eligibility, they must be resolved in accordance with the comprehensive statutory regime governing injunctive relief to prevent violations of the Election Code, rather than in a mandamus proceeding. See Elec. §§ 145.003(a), 273.081; In re Cullar, 320 S.W.3d 560, 564 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2000, ...


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