High noon: Lawyers for Jarrett Maupin and the City of Phoenix slug it out in court; Judge Swann promises ruling before 5 p.m.

Keep remindin' yourself, he's only 20...

It was a packed house in the Old Bailey today as lawyers for both the Rev. Jarrett Maupin and the City of Phoenix duked it out before Judge Peter B. Swann over whether or not Maupin's name will be on the ballot come this September 11. Okay, maybe it wasn't the Old Bailey, but damn if it didn't look like it in the wood and marble courtrooms of the '20s-era Maricopa County Courthouse in downtown PHX.

The drama couldn't have been any higher. As you heard here first, Maupin's suing the City, claiming he was unfairly denied a spot on the ballot by the City Clerk after Mayor Phil Gordon's campaign challenged Maupin's signatures. You need 1500 to make the ballot. City Clerk Mario Paniagua claims that of the 3920 Maupin submitted, only 1401 were valid. So he's off. Maupin charges that the City Clerk was doing Mayor Gordon's bidding, and that many of the sigs challenged are in fact legitimate, so he wants on. Time is of the essence because 9/11 is 'round the corner and City Clerk Paniagua says the ballots have already been printed.

Assistant City Attorney Bill Solomon filed a motion to dismiss this morning, arguing that it's too late to put Maupin's name on the ballot, and why didn't Maupin file a complaint sooner? Maupin attorney John Acer told the judge, "The city should shred what it's done and start over." Judge Swann seemed most skeptical of Acer's arguments, and wondered why the suit hadn't been filed as soon as Paniagua issued his formal "Certificate of Insufficiency," prohibiting Maupin's name from appearing on the ballot.

Nevertheless, Swann found an apparent conflict between city and state law, and told both parties he wanted their legal briefs on the matter faxed to him no later than 3:30 p.m. today, even if they were rough. "All of this was new to me as of 10 o'clock today," he told the lawyers, so he didn't expect perfection. Swann then promised a ruling on the city's motion to dismiss by day's end.

Maupin was on hand, seated next to Acer in a natty three-piece suit. Gordon was absent. Other than Solomon and two other lawyers, City Clerk Paniagua was in the house, as well as others from the clerk's office. Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell was present, ready to testify if need be. And so was Gordon campaign director Tony Motola, who refused to speak with me, as you might expect, but who did grant Channel 12 reporter Melissa Blasius an interview, which I eavesdropped on. Asked why the Gordon camp was so intent on keeping Maupin off the ballot, Motola claimed there was "nothing unusual" about one campaign challenging another's petition signatures, and that Philly Cheesesteak's posse had received no preferential treatment.

Your tax dollars at work, people. Scanning the signature challenges, some of them look bogus to me -- the challenges, not the signatures. Others look like they could go either way, depending on your point of view. Maupin told me he's applied to be a write-in candidate, just in case he doesn't prevail today or on appeal. I keep having to remind myself, and this guy's only 20? What the hell will he be up to when he's 40, for Chrissakes?

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