Judge pulls DeWeese from House ballot

Former Pa. House Speaker Bill DeWeese was ruled ineligible to run because he's in prison.
Former Pa. House Speaker Bill DeWeese was ruled ineligible to run because he's in prison. (BRADLEY C BOWER / Associated Press)
Posted: August 12, 2012

HARRISBURG - Former Pennsylvania House Speaker Bill DeWeese is ineligible to run for reelection in his old district because he is serving a prison sentence for public corruption convictions, a state judge ruled late Friday.

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley said that DeWeese may not appear on the November ballot and that the Democratic Party was free to replace him.

State party officials sought the ruling so that they could find someone to oppose Republican candidate Mark Fischer in November for the southwestern Pennsylvania seat.

During a teleconference Wednesday, DeWeese's lawyer told McGinley it was premature to rule because DeWeese is pursuing appeals and might be eligible to serve by the time the ballots are cast.

DeWeese, 62, is serving a 21/2- to five-year sentence at a state prison in Northeastern Pennsylvania for using his staff and state resources for campaign purposes.

The lawyer for the state Democrats and the three people who sued to remove DeWeese argued during the teleconference that DeWeese's five felony convictions barred him from holding public office under the state constitution, and McGinley agreed.

DeWeese resigned the day he was sentenced in April. Voters renominated him the same day.

DeWeese's lawyer, Courtney Powell, had argued that if DeWeese still was not eligible to serve come January, when the new legislative session starts, the state could hold a special election to replace him.

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