The legal action between North County businessman Steve Pappas and Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Pappas, who in October was ordered by the Second District Court of Appeals to pay more than half a million dollars in legal fees to Farr stemming from his challenge of her 2008 election victory, has filed a petition for review to the Supreme Court questioning the state’s process of challenging election results.
Santa Barbara attorney A. Barry Cappello is filing the petition seeking to have the high court review whether or not the state’s requirement to have challengers sue in order to have elections reviewed violates the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Farr defeated Pappas in the 2008 election by 806 votes, but Pappas contested the election results alleging voter fraud and sued Farr. The county elections office said it found nothing wrong with the general election process despite Pappas’ claims of voting inequities in precincts surrounding UCSB.
Pappas lost the lawsuit and Farr sought to recoup her legal fees.
A trial court ruled against Farr, but the decision was reversed by the Second District Court. Pappas appealed the decision and lost.
In October, after four years of litigation, appellate Judge P.J. Gilbert affirmed Pappas owed Farr $528,657.50 in legal fees.
Farr’s attorney, Frederic Woocher, said he doubts the Supreme Court will even consider the petition.
“We’re going to file our opposition to it. We’re quite confident when we do it, that will be that,” Woocher said. “He’s lost at every single stage of it. I don’t expect it to be any different this time.
“The chance of the Supreme Court hearing this case is zero,” he added. “It’s not going to happen. But if they need to file, they certainly have the right to do that.”
Cappello filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the high court March 1. On March 20, an order extending the time for Farr’s attorney to respond to the petition from April 4 to May 6 was issued.
Cappello said the basis for his decision to file the petition is his belief that the court’s decision to impose monetary fees on anyone challenging the results of a federal election is unconstitutional. He said fees of any kind would “deprive the public of the right to petition government through the judicial process.”
“When Steve brought this to us, we thought immediately that it’s an issue that should be brought before a national audience,” Cappello said. “Here, there is a federal question. It is a federal election that was conducted. The allegation of fraud permeates not only the Pappas-Farr election, they permeate the federal election.”
Cappello said he believes the Supreme Court will consider the case based on its decision to rule on the Gore v. Bush case when voter fraud was alleged in Florida during the 2000 presidential election between Vice President Al Gore and then-Texas Gov. George Bush.