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City commissioners fight back on lawsuit calling for their ouster in May election

The Philadelphia city commissioners are asking the state Supreme Court to allow them to intervene in a lawsuit that could render them powerless in elections that involve Home Rule Charter questions.

The commissioners, who act as the local board of elections, say a lawsuit filed last month in the state Supreme Court by the Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia 3.0, and three candidates is incorrect in its reading of the state election code.

The lawsuit, filed March 27,  argues that the Common Pleas Court president judge must appoint replacements for the commissioners when voters are to consider a ballot question asking for a Home Rule Charter amendment. A three-judge panel would be appointed.

Such a question is on the May primary  ballot. It deals with  changes in the city's procurement practices.

"The city commissioners will argue that the interpretation of the [statute] advocated by petitioners is incorrect," the commissioners stated in last week's filing.

The lawsuit is based on a section of the election code that says, "Whenever there appears on the ballot a question relating to the adoption of a Home Rule Charter for the county or amendments to an existing county Home Rule Charter, the president judge of the Court of Common Pleas shall appoint judges or electors of the county to serve in the stead of the county commissioners."

The city commissioners, through the City Solicitor's Office, argue that county Home Rule Charter does not apply to them because the city has a city Home Rule Charter.