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Senator's attorneys seek dismissal of election suit

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The new Alabama Legislature began its regular session Tuesday with the elections of five senators being challenged in court.

Shortly before the session opened at noon, attorneys hired by Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla, asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Means' write-in opponent, Jack Lowe of Gadsden. Means' attorneys argued that Lowe did not file a proper challenge to Means' lopsided victory in the general election Nov. 7, and now the courts have no jurisdiction.

Retired Circuit Judge Sandra Storm, who's filling in on the case, did not indicate when she would rule.

At a separate hearing Friday, Circuit Judge Charles Price said he would rule in about three weeks on whether to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former Republican appeals court judge Mark Montiel. Montiel is challenging the election of four Democratic senators: Lowell Barron of Fyffe, Hank Sanders of Selma, Roger Bedford of Russellville and Zeb Little of Cullman.

Both lawsuits involve the senators' filing of campaign finance reports with the secretary of state. Montiel's suit contends the four senators didn't file the proper reports for the Democratic primary June 6, and Lowe's suit argues that Means didn't file the proper reports for the general election.

Both suits were filed late last year when the Senate was in a battle over who would be elected president pro tem. Means was on the losing side, and the other four senators were on the winning side.

Greg Hawley, one of Lowe's attorneys, said the suit raises important legal questions that are still worth pursuing. He said Alabama's campaign finance laws need to be enforced, and the courts have jurisdiction because the secretary of state's office did not issue a certificate of election for Means.

Matt Lembke, one of the attorneys hired by Means, said the courts have no jurisdiction because state election officials approved the official canvass of the general election and Means is now a voting member of the Senate.

"Senator Means has been sworn into office. He's receiving his pay," Lembke told the judge.

Attorneys for the governor, secretary of state and attorney general agreed with Lembke.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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