Judge to determine Fuller's eligibility

Retired circuit judge hears arguments, says he'll rule in a few days

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Even though he's on the ballot and early voting is under way, a judge on Tuesday heard challenges to whether Duval County Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller is eligible to run for a fourth term.

A retired circuit judge, Judge William Wilkes, listened to arguments Tuesday morning in a lawsuit filed to remove Fuller's name from the ballot.

Fuller, who's been in office for 12 years, said his seat is not term-limited and is protected by the Florida Constitution.

The city says a recent state Supreme Court ruling makes Fuller ineligible because of term limits. Fuller, however, said because he is a judicial officer, term limits on city or county officials don't apply.

But after City Council authorized an emergency measure, city attorneys filed a lawsuit and said they're willing to take this issue to the state Supreme Court.

The judge said Tuesday he'll have a decision in a few days. If the ruling is against Fuller, Duval County would have to hold a special election for the office of Clerk of Courts because early votes have already been cast.

"It could go against me," Fuller said after the hearing. "I will abide by what the judge says. We will go with his ruling."

Fuller said if he loses, he probably won't appeal.

"No use dragging this thing out," he said. "We have been to court with this thing once. The Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional. I did not have term limits. Nobody has changed that."

City Council authorized the case to be appealed if the judge sides with Fuller, but that's not a certainty.

"The council has authorized us to appeal if necessary," city attorney Mike Wedner said. "We will see what the judge decided and will get with client and decided accordingly."

Fuller faces Ronnie Fussell in the Republican primary that is currently under way. Democrats Bill Hodges and Brenda Priestly Jackson are competing in the Democratic primary. Two independent candidates will face the Republican and Democratic winners on the November ballot, and a write-in candidate also qualified in the race.

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