2018-02-28 / Front Page

Federal judge throws out suit in election case


A U.S. District judge on Monday quickly dismissed a document filed by a man accused of running illegally for Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Ellis Leonard Keyes, who is not a licensed attorney, filed a 36-page document in federal court last Friday attempting to have a judge dismiss a suit brought in Letcher Circuit Court to have him removed from the ballot.

Incumbent Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison Banks filed suit against Keyes, Letcher County Clerk Winston Meade in his official capacity, the Letcher County Board of Elections and Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Grimes in her official capacity, seeking to have Keyes declared ineligible for the office and to prevent Meade or Grimes from approving or printing any ballots with Keyes’s name on them.

According to Section 100 of the Kentucky Constitution, “No person shall be eligible to the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney unless he shall have been a licensed practicing lawyer four years.”

Keyes said he attended Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans and, according to him, graduated “about 1974.” Keyes, 61, who is originally from Chalmette, La., would have been only 17 years old in 1974.

Keyes acknowledges that he is not licensed as an attorney, but maintains that the bar association is nothing more than a labor union and he can’t be forced to become a member. Instead, he relies on his own reading of the Bible and the Constitution, and claims that a lawyer is “a common occupation” for which no license is required.

Kentucky courts disagree.

In order to be licensed, a law school graduate must take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, and pass the Kentucky Bar Exam, which is administered by a sevenattorney panel appointed by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Banks states multiple times in his suit that Keyes and the people who signed his petition to run signed an oath “under penalty of perjury” saying that Keyes was legally qualified for the office. Banks is asking the judge to make Keyes pay for any court costs associated with the action.

In response, Keyes, who has filed lawsuits on his own behalf in courts all over the United States against individuals he accused of damaging property, renters he wanted to evict, and British Petroleum for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, filed a document in federal court in Pikeville and in Letcher Circuit Court seeking to have Banks’s suit dismissed.

Instead, it had the reverse effect.

Keyes filed the document late Friday in Pikeville. U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell, chief judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky, dismissed it summarily on Monday and ordered it stricken from the docket. It is still pending in Letcher Circuit Court, where a hearing has been set for March 8.

Keyes has run for office in San Francisco and in Letcher County several times, but has never won. He received attention last year for hosting Neo-Nazi, KKK, and other white supremacists groups on his family property at Loves Branch at Deane when the groups staged a march in downtown Pikeville.

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