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Rocco appealing judge's order

Rose Rocco has appealed a judge's order that bars her from taking the contested District 2 County Commission seat.

A successful appeal could pave the way for the three-time candidate to take the oath of office.

The appeal, filed Friday, nudges the case forward, but it remained unclear when the residency dispute at the heart of the case will be decided.

In the meantime, Gov. Jeb Bush is looking into appointing a temporary commissioner to fill the vacancy.

Rocco, 65, defeated four-term Commissioner Nancy Robinson by 1,444 votes. But Robinson challenged the win in court, saying Rocco wasn't qualified to take office because she wasn't a District 2 resident on Election Day. Robinson, 61, argues that she was the only qualified candidate on the ballot and should be allowed to reassume the seat she held for 14 years.

Rocco lived a block from the Spring Hill district lines, which were redrawn in 2003. She moved to a house inside the district the week after the Nov. 7 election, before the election results were made official - soon enough, she argues.

The appeal does not address the residency issue but focuses on a Nov. 20 order granted to Janey Baldwin, a plaintiff-intervenor who sued to join Robinson's lawsuit.

Rocco's appeal challenges Baldwin's standing to intervene. It also challenges the legal basis underpinning the temporary injunction, arguing that Baldwin didn't prove "irreparable harm," a condition that must be met in order to qualify for an injunction.

"I think we will be successful in the appeal of the temporary injunction," said Jennifer Blohm, a lawyer with Meyer and Brooks, the Tallahassee firm that represents Rocco.

Blohm added: "That will allow her to be sworn in, and then we can continue to fight the residency issue."

Robinson's attorney, Robert Morris Jr., could not be reached for comment Monday.

Blohm said she will ask the court for an expedited appeal. She expects a ruling within the next two weeks.

The residency issue remained before Judge John Booth, and a hearing has not been scheduled. Both candidates vowed to take the case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, and it could be months before it is resolved.

On Monday, Anthony DeLuise, a Bush spokesman, said the lame-duck governor is "reviewing the matter" and might consider naming an interim commissioner.

The County Commission is, for the second time this year, operating with only four members. There is only one remaining meeting before the board breaks until Jan. 9.

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at (352) 754-6127 or aloder@sptimes.com.

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