Supreme Court upholds order removing candidate from San Luis ballot
The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld an order removing a city council candidate from the ballot in San Luis, Ariz., because of her lack of English fluency.
The court's ruling means Alejandrina Cabrera will not be a candidate in the city's March primary election.
The ruling issued Tuesday upheld an order last month by Yuma County Superior Court John Nelson removing Cabrera from the ballot. His ruling came after several days of testimony, during which a sociolinguistics expert who tested Cabrera said she did not possess the fluency of English required to serve on the council.
Cabrera then appealed Nelson's ruling to the state's top court.
“It is ordered that the trial court's judgment and orders filed January 27, 2012 are affirmed,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Burch. “The City Clerk shall not include appellant's name on the March 13, 2012, City Council election ballot. A written decision of this court shall follow in due course.”
The city had held off ballot printing, pending Cabrera's appeal. The higher court's ruling gives the city the go-ahead to begin printing a ballot that will list the names of nine candidates for the four open council seats.
Also running is Juan Castillo, who was recruited last week by Cabrera's backers to run in place in the event her appeal failed. Castillo must run as a write-in because the deadline has passed for candidates to file nominating petitions to include their names on the ballot.
The legal battle began in December when San Luis Mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla filed a special action in Superior Court seeking a determination whether Cabrera possessed the level of proficiency required by state law to serve on the council.
Conducting language testing ordered by Superior Court, sociolinguistics expert William Eddington found that Cabrera, a Kofa High graduate who spend much of her youth in San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., possessed sufficient knowledge of English to survive but not to fulfill the responsibilities of a council member.
Nelson said his decision also was based on Cabrera's failure to respond correctly to questions posed to her in English in Superior Court.
Cabrera's attorney's had argued that while state law requires public office holders in Arizona to know English, it does not establish specific levels of proficiency that they are required to meet. They contended that removing her from the ballot would constitute a violation of her constitutional rights.
“Unbelievable,” said John Minore, one of Cabrera's attorneys. “This is a fine example of judicial activism. Arizona now has a English standard to be on a ballot but doesn't tell you what that standard is. It's amazing that people in government who are in power can spend taxpayer money to keep people off the ballot. This is Hispanics keeping Hispanics off the ballot, compliments of the San Luis City Council.”
The court battle drew the attention not only of news media in Yuma County but from Arizona and around the nation and world. International news organizations that followed the case included El Pais from Madrid, Spain, BBC and Televisa.
Cabrera was part of a slate of four like-minded candidates hoping to win a majority of seats on the seven-member city council in this year's elections, starting with next month's primary. Remaining on the slate are San Luis businesswoman and former mayor Nieves Riedel, former councilman Archibaldo Gurrola and Ricardo Sandoval.
Other candidates in the primary are council incumbents Jose Suarez and Gloria Torres, and candidates Matias Rosales, María Ramos, former mayor Joe Harper and former councilman Marco Antonio Reyes Jr.