A federal judge who will decide whether Olympic superstar Carl Lewis has lived in New Jersey long enough to run for the state Senate said Tuesday that he could call a jury to hear parts of the case.
Judge Noel Hillman discussed procedural issues in a case that so far has the nine-time gold medalist unchallenged in the June Democratic primary, but hasn't determined whether the 49-year-old recent California resident and New Jersey native is eligible to run in the November election.
Hillman, in essence, laid out a procedural roadmap, saying some factual issues in the case could wind up before a jury. For now, though, lawyers for the three sides -- Lewis, the Republicans who challenged the athlete's candidacy, and New Jersey's Secretary of State, who ordered his name stricken from the ballot -- will do battle on paper.
The state's top election official, Republican Secretary of State Kim Guadagno, set off the legal tussle in federal and state courts after ruling that Lewis doesn't meet the state's four-year residency rule for candidates. His lawyers appealed.
The athlete grew up in the state, went to college in Texas and had been based in California. But he has owned homes in New Jersey since 2005 and has been a volunteer track coach at his alma mater, Willingboro High School, since 2007.
He still has a home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a business in Los Angeles. And he has voted in California as recently as 2009. He registered to vote in New Jersey only last month as he declared his candidacy. He has had a valid New Jersey driver's license since 2006.
Lewis is making his first political run in southern New Jersey's Republican-dominated 8th District. One of the world's most decorated track stars, he would face incumbent Dawn Marie Addiego, who is unopposed in the Republican primary.
"Two things are clear,'' Lewis' lawyer William Tambussi said after the hearing. "They don't want Carl Lewis' name on the ballot, and they don't want Kim Guadagno to have to testify.''
A rapid-fire series of state and federal court rulings upheld Guadagno's decision to take Lewis off the ballot.
The state Supreme Court last week declined to weigh in, leaving Hillman to decide whether Guadagno's decision violates Lewis' right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Mark Sheridan, the lawyer for the local Republican challengers, said he is pleased with how the case is progressing.
"It's been conclusively determined in the state courts that Mr. Lewis is not a resident and does not meet the requirements under the New Jersey state Constitution,'' Sheridan said. "So the only issue that remains is that Carl Lewis claims he is entitled to some special treatment and the Constitution doesn't apply to him.''
Tambussi said Sheridan shouldn't be involved in the federal case against the state and plans to ask that he be removed.
Sheridan said nothing's changed since Tambussi consented to his involvement.