An appeals court ruled against Laura Rivero Levey on Wednesday, the Republican state House candidate who claimed a bank error kept her off the November ballot for House District 113.
In a 2-1 ruling, the First District Court of Appeals upheld the decision of a Leon County circuit judge keeping Levey off the ballot in HD 113, which includes part of Miami-Dade County.
With Levey out of the race, incumbent Democratic Rep. David Richardson won without opposition.
The majority of justices said state law requires the ruling, echoing comments made by the circuit judge over the harsh decision of keeping Levey off the ballot.
Levey insists she was the victim of bank error, something out of her control.
SunTrust Bank, where Levey held her campaign account, put hold on a $2,000 check written June 12 from the Republican Party of Florida, although records show the check actually cleared on June 16. The inappropriate hold caused the return of Levey’s check to the Department of State on June 17 for the $1,781.82 filing fee.
Levey learned her campaign check was dishonored on July 1, three days past the June 30 qualifying deadline.
SunTrust sent a letter accepting responsibility for the improperly returned check, but that did not sway the court.
“The statute at issue is clear and unambiguous,” said Chief Judge Joseph Lewis, who wrote the majority opinion, joined by Judge Stephanie Ray.
“Although we agree with the trial court that this result is harsh, it is mandated by the clear language of the statute,” Lewis continued. “If a candidate’s qualifying check is returned for any reason, the candidate must pay the qualifying fee by cashier’s check before the end of the qualifying period. Levey’s check was returned, the reason for that occurring is immaterial, and she failed to cure the deficiency within the time allotted by the statute.”
Judge Robert Benton, the sole dissenter, said keeping Levey off the ballot would deprive voters the choice of who will represent them. Benton noted that Levey was not at fault, suggesting she re-present the original check to the bank.
“Promptly on being informed of the first check’s dishonor when initially presented, Mrs. Levey tendered a second check, this one certified,” he wrote.
“While it is true that the second, certified check arrived after qualifying had closed — she was not, after all, told there was any problem before the qualifying period had ended — the certified check was wholly superfluous under the facts of the present case.”