Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Court Declares Apple Rightful Commissioner

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Court Declares Apple Rightful Commissioner

Article excerpt

J.C. Watts was a state corporation commissioner until he resigned and took the congressional oath of office on Jan. 9, and that means Ed Apple is his rightful successor, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said Tuesday.

The court's decision settles a dispute between Apple and Charles Nesbitt, who brought the suit before the state's highest court.

David Walters, while he was still governor, appointed Nesbitt to Watts' seat effective Jan. 4, five days before Frank Keating took office.

After Keating took office, Watts resigned and Keating appointed Apple to replace him.

Watts, Apple and Keating are all Republicans. Nesbitt and Walters are Democrats.

The Corporation Commission voted to recognize Apple, and Nesbitt sued on two grounds: that Watts became a congressman, and was therefore no longer a corporation commissioner, on Jan. 3; and that Watts was only a de facto corporation commissioner in the first place because he never filed the proper oaths for that office _ therefore Walters could have replaced him at any time.

On the issue of when Watts' congressional term began, the court said, "Mr. Watts' office as a corporation commissioner was not vacant at the commencement of the term of Congress," on Jan. 3.

"The first office is vacated when the office holder either resigns the first office or accepts the second office," the court said.

"In this case both the resignation and acceptance occurred on Jan. 9, 1995 and no vacancy subject to gubernatorial appointment occurred until such time."

Although the U.S. Constitution says congressional terms shall end on Jan. 3 and "the terms of their successors shall then begin," the Constitution also says, "Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members," the court said in its decision.

Under state statutes, public office vacancies occur "by reason of resignation," the court said. …

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