Appeals court denies Fletcher a place on March 22 ballot

A three-judge appeals court panel has upheld a ruling by a Jackson County judge that 3rd district city council candidate Michael Fletcher could not properly claim Kansas City residency because of court papers filed in California.

After a morning hearing a court spokesman announced the decision, which disqualifies Fletcher from a spot on the March ballot.

Fletcher said he would not appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court. Instead, he said, he would launch a petition drive to recall whoever voters pick March 22.

Sharon Sanders Brooks, the incumbent who brought the legal challenge to Fletcher’s residency, said her campaign against Jermaine Reed would now go forward.

“The judges have looked at the evidence that was filed and they have made a wise decision,” she said after the ruling.

Fletcher said he was still angry, but would pursue a remedy at the ballot box, not in the courtroom.

“The idea that a white judge can decide who is going to run for the 3rd district is shocking,” he told reporters. “It’s shocking.”

Reed could not be immediately reached for comment.

Fletcher’s lawyers told the court that their client mistakenly used the word “domicile” to describe his living situation in California in court filings, but that he consistently said he considered Kansas City his home.

But Brooks’ lawyer told the court a principle known as “judicial estoppel” precluded Fletcher from taking one position on residency for purposes of a California court case and another position when running for the city council.

“The integrity of the judicial system is at stake,” Phil Willoughby told the judges. “Mr. Fletcher created this dilemma.”

While the three judges upheld the ruling, the panel’s full written decision isn’t expected until Tuesday. Lawyers for the Kansas City Election Board recently wrote the court asking for a decision by noon Monday — so it could begin printing ballots.

It also isn’t clear how Fletcher could qualify to run in a recall election if he chooses to do so. He would, theoretically, face the same challenge over residency on a recall ballot.