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Court tosses out lawsuit over FAMU student election

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An appellate court has thrown out a lawsuit over this year’s student government election at Florida A&M University.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal unanimously agreed on Monday to reverse a trial judge’s earlier injunction and dismiss the case.

The reason: Under state law, Circuit Judge John Cooper “did not have jurisdiction” to rule in the case.

Victor Chrispin and Pernell Mitchell lost the race for president and vice president in February to Justin Bruno and Devin Harrison by 1,203 to 1,366 votes, the court explained.

Chrispin and Mitchell appealed the results to the Student Supreme Court because “because ballots at the law school precinct were not secured or counted in accordance with Student Body Statutes,” they said.

The student court eventually “declared the election invalid and called for a new university-wide election,” according to the opinion.

Bruno then appealed, and the school’s vice president for student Affairs and president both affirmed the court’s decision. Bruno then filed in circuit court in Tallahassee.

The appellate court panel noted that the complaint “did not cite any state or federal law that was allegedly violated by the Student Supreme Court’s decision.”

A state law says there “shall be no cause of action against a state university for the actions or decisions of the student government of that state university unless the action or decision is made final by the state university and constitutes a violation of state or federal law.”

“The complaint did not cite – nor did the trial court identify – any law that was conceivably violated by the Student Supreme Court’s decision to hold a new university-wide election,” the opinion said.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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