37th Senate Seat Dispute Timeline

37th Senate Seat Dispute Timeline

November 1 2004: On the eve of the general election, democrat Virginia Woodward files a motion in court to disqualify republican Dan Seum Stephenson, on the grounds that she failed to meet the constitutional requirement that she live in the state for the 6 years leading up to the election. Stephenson had lived in southern Indiana from 1997-2001 while she attended Indiana university southeast. She received in-state tuition because she lived in Indiana. Woodward claims Stephenson voted in Indiana in the 2000 elections.

November 2, 2004, Election Day: Republican Dana Seum Stephenson (dss) defeats Virginia Woodward (vw) by a vote of 22,772 to 21,750.

November 3, 2004: Hearing in Jefferson Circuit Court: Stephenson admits she lived in Indiana from 1997-2001, and says she did not check residency requirements when she filed to run for office. Her lawyers argue the suit challenging her qualifications should have been filed before the primary election.

November 8, 2004: dss attorney (Jim Milliman) files motion in Jefferson circuit court asking that the suit by vw be dismissed because the courts lack jurisdiction. Milliman cites the Kentucky constitution's provision of "separation of powers" that only the senate can rule on the qualifications of its members. He also says the court did not make a ruling on dss's qualifications before the election.

November 22, 2004: Franklin Circuit Court Judge William Graham says Stephenson did not meet residency requirements. Stephenson appeals.

December 2, 2004: Milliman says he will not appeal Judge Graham's ruling to the court of appeals, but instead files an election challenge in the State Senate.

December 13, 2004: State Board of Elections meets and decides to qualify neither candidate.

December 16, 2004: Woodward files suit in Franklin Circuit Court to force the Board of Elections to declare her the winner.

December 21, 2004: Judge William Jennings orders the board of elections to certify vw as winner.

December 28, 2004: Kentucky Board of Elections certifies Woodward as winner. (Stephenson has already asked the State Senate to declare her the winner.)

January 1, 2005: Woodward takes the oath of office at her home in Louisville.

January 4, 2005: Legislature opens organizational session in Frankfort. Woodward takes the seat but is then forced to leave the floor. The names of nine members are drawn to form a Senate Elections Contest Board to recommend to the full senate who should be seated (there are 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans.)

January 6, 2005: Senate elections contest board votes along party lines (5-4) that Woodward should be seated.

January 7, 2005: Full senate votes along party lines (20-16) to seat Stephenson. Woodward files motion in Franklin Circuit Court to overturn the Senate vote and keep Stephenson from acting (voting) as senator. Stephenson is sworn in as senator.

Republican Senator Bob Leeper of Paducah threatens to resign over the outcome of the vote to seat Stephenson. Leeper wanted a special election ordered.

January 12, 2005: Senator Leeper announces he will not resign, but will switch to the Independent party.

January 14, 2005: Judge Graham rules that Stephenson cannot act as senator. He grants temporary injunction requested by Woodward. Graham says senate overstepped its bounds, voting to seat Stephenson after two circuit court judges had ruled her ineligible.

January 18, 2005: Stephenson files appeal of Graham's ruling denying her "powers" to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

January 28, 2005: Judge Graham refuses to order the senate to seat Woodward (so the seat is empty).

February 1, 2005: Kentucky General Assembly opens for legislative work with no one in Senate 37 (although the clerk always calls Stephenson's name during every vote).

March 17, 2005: Kentucky Supreme Court rules 5-2 that Judge Graham did not exceed his authority when he refused to allow Stephenson to act as senator.

Two justices dissented, saying the court should have ruled on the merits of the case and the courts have no jurisdiction: "The power to decide elections of members of the General Assembly is vested solely in the General Assembly itself and the and the courts lack any power even to entertain the questions presented." (This is essentially the argument of Jim Milliman, attorney for Stephenson.)

The case (on the merits of who has power to decide the matter) is then sent back to Franklin Circuit Court Judge William Graham.

June 1, 2005: Judge Graham rules basically it's up to the Senate to decide the winner, but also says Stephenson is clearly not entitled to the seat. He called the Senate's move arbitrary, saying, "the legislature cannot make a buzzard a bull by merely saying it is, nor can the General Assembly declare Stephenson a resident when she is not."

November 16, 2005: Kentucky Supreme Court hearing scheduled.