The appellate judges ruled that according to state law, no local option elections can be held for three years “in the same overall territory,” including precincts, which the judges said are a part of the county.
In late January 2010, Woodall ruled that a precinct is not the same territory as a county, and a precinct-wide election can take place less than three years after a county-wide special election on the issue.
Woodall cited Campbell v. Brewer, in which the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that a precinct in a wet county can have vote on the issue less than three years after county-wide vote. Roughly 90 days after it voted itself wet, there were petitions in all 16 precincts in Wolfe County.
After the Campbell v. Brewer decision, changes were made in the
relevant laws, and as a result there is no longer any legislative definition of territory, whereas it had previously meant a county, city, precinct or district, said W. E. Rogers III, attorney for Grow Trigg, a local group that circulated a petition for a referendum to end prohibition in the county in 2009.
Though Campbell v. Brewer hasn’t been overruled, in 1998 the legislature changed the law , which the court referred to in other cases, so the ruling in question doesn’t apply, Rogers argued.
A little over a week later, after Grow Trigg announced its intent to appeal, Woodall ruled to stay the election and prohibit any new alcohol licenses in Montgomery until the issue was settled in the state courts.
The court agreed that Campbell v. Brewer has been superceded by the 1998 legislative amendment and that the 1994 ruling no longer applies. “The new statutory language results in a county-wide, three-year limit for holding local elections. To hold otherwise would produce an absurd result,” the court said.
Trigg County Judge Executive said it was his understanding that the decision will be final on June 13. Woodall said the parties representing the Montgomery petitioners can still ask for a discretionary ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court and, like Humphries, stated that the ruling itself won’t be finalized until 30 days later, so there won’t be any change in the short term.
Woodall hasn’t read the ruling yet but said, “it’s how checks and balances work … The system worked like it’s supposed to.”
Neither Donald Thomas, who has represented the Montgomery petitioners, nor Rogers could be reached for comment at press time.