Dismaying that NOBODY is covering this crucial lawsuit!

I realize the “news” under our vulgar distractor-in-chief is a constant torrent of diarrhea coming at us through high-powered spray hoses and at this point most of us reflexively turn away from it. Still, the news media has not been following what several of them have fairly characterized as a crucial election 2020 story, teasing a federal ruling– by a Trump appointee– on the virtual non-existence of frequently claimed voter fraud.

I should make a separate category for this case so you can have my many posts on it all in one place. I’ll do that now. OK, click the link to view my several posts in order HERE.

The Trump campaign and the RNC brought a federal lawsuit in key swing state Pennsylvania to stop the expansion of absentee voting, which included provisions for the widespread use of drop boxes for mail-in ballots. The lawsuit was filed on June 29, 2020. There were hundreds of documents filed in this case, (410 as of last filing) you can see them all here. Click on any entry to read the public filing (any news service, incidentally, could do the same).

You can, for example, read the judge’s entire short August 13 order to Plaintiffs, granting Defendants’ motions to compel the production of actual evidence of the RNC/Trump campaign’s claims. JUDGE RANJAN’S ORDER IS HERE and at the bottom of this post for your scrolling convenience [1].

You will notice, if you read the judge’s order, that he orders Plaintiffs to produce specific, responsive evidence and that “if there are no responsive documents, Plaintiffs must state as much.” The judge details exactly what specific evidence (or admission they have none) Plaintiffs must provide in section 2) of his order.

He gives them until the close of business the following day, August 14th, to provide the evidence (which has never been produced anywhere) of the massive voter fraud and abuse they predict, or admit they don’t have evidence.

Reading the order I at first believed I may have been seeing another encouraging judicial profile in courage: a judge, appointed by Trump, telling him that his case would not go forward without evidence. Then the media went silent on this case.

I did my own research (tip of the hat to my old friend from law school who provided me the link to the docket). In light of further reading, Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan does not appear to be performing any kind of profile in courage, as I will explain in a moment.

The bold-faced type below is from the August 14 New York Times report of the order. Facing that is a section of the August 23 Reuters account of the same thing, phrased not as an “order” but as the judge asking the campaign to do something they simply declined to do, assuring the judge they’d win the case without evidence.

Both of these reports can’t be true. The judge’s order of August 13 was clear and explicit. It was actually an order, and not a polite ask the party could politely decline by telling the judge their case would be just fine without the evidence. You can see for yourself below [1] or on the actual docket of the case (above) that the “ask” narrative is ridiculous. How does a mainstream news organization make that kind of rookie blogger error?

Reviewing the filings on the online docket, we can see that Plaintiffs filed nothing on August 14, in spite of being ordered by the judge. Contempt of court? They don’t seem to have filed anything responsive to the judge’s order after August 14th either, which is surprising and confusing, since the only two stories updating the progress of the case (Reuters and this one, from the Intercept) cited their submission of hundreds of pages (“over 300 documents”, “524 pages”) of non-responsive documents containing no evidence of voter fraud.

Judge Ranjan writes well, and his analysis of the applicable law appears to be sound. He appears to be a qualified judge, unlike some of his recently appointed extreme-right ideologue colleagues (some deemed unqualified by the non-partisan American Bar Association). Yet he crafted a few beautifully tell-tale lines in his opinions in this case which suggest he may not be as dispassionate in this matter as his August 13 order might make him appear. Here are two.

The first is from his August 13 order to Trump 2020 and the RNC to produce evidence (addressing defendants’ request for attorneys fees for being forced to fight a lawsuit brought without evidence, to suppress the vote):

4) Pursuant to Rule 37(a)(5)(A)(ii), the Court finds that Plaintiffs’ positions were substantially justified, and so will not award reasonable expenses or attorneys’ fees.

That might be fair enough, if that subsection of Rule 37 states some legal ground for presuming a lawsuit “substantially justified” until proven otherwise or something like that. On the other hand, if the cited rule is not so generous, Judge Ranjan summarily concludes that the RNC/Trump positions were “substantially justified” even without seeing any of the evidence he ordered them to produce. In that case — hmmmm… 

As to Trump’s “substantially justified” lawsuit, this next bit is as close to analysis as we get from the judge. The audacity of this amazingly supple sentence would make legalistic wordsmith and prose contortionist Robert Mueller III blush and fall on the floor:

In the context of recently analyzing why the law compels him to “stay” the case until the resolution of related state law cases, he crafts this wonder of a sentence, which I have carved up a bit, for emphasis and ease of appreciation:

while Plaintiffs do assert one facial constitutional challenge and allege a few violations of statutory provisions 

that are probably not ambiguous,

these claims are intertwined with those that are less clear.  [2]

Dig it, I’m not saying every one of these assertions are necessarily legally ambiguous, a few of them are probably not, one is arguably an actual constitutional claim, but those claims that are probably not ambiguous are freely mixed in and entangled with claims for which we have even less confidence of their probable unambiguity, if you know what I’m sayin’.

I read that abortion of a sentence, the truth of what I was actually reading hit me hard and my heart sank. The words that came into my mind next were these, uttered recently to a cheering audience in red MAGA hats by the innocent and heroic non-perjurer Michael Flynn (and much in the news lately as well):

Where we go one, we go all.

[1]

ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO COMPEL [ECF 366, ECF 368]

After considering the parties’ submissions on the motions to compel, the Court hereby ORDERS as follows: 

1) As to the motion to compel filed by the Democratic Party Intervenors [ECF 366], Plaintiffs shall respond fully to the Democratic Intervenors’ Interrogatory Nos. 1-9 and Document Requests Nos. 1-4 and 9 with specific information or documents requested and/or specifically identify by Bates number which document(s) produced are responsive to each Document Request and Interrogatory. If there are no responsive documents, Plaintiffs must state as much.

2) As to the motion to compel filed by the Sierra Club Intervenors [ECF 368], the Court finds that instances of voter fraud are relevant to the claims and defenses in this case, particularly since Plaintiffs are reserving their right to introduce such evidence or retain an expert regarding the same. Plaintiffs shall produce such evidence in their possession, and if they have none, state as much. More specifically, Plaintiffs must respond fully to the Sierra Club Intervenors’ Document Request Nos. 1 and 15, “as narrowed to include documents, data, analysis and communications relating to allegations Case 2:20-cv-00966-NR Document 374 Filed 08/13/20 Page 1 of 2 2 in the Amended Complaint concerning potential or actual fraud or voter misconduct,” including as relates to: a) “non-uniform procedures concerning drop boxes in Pennsylvania”; b) “fraudulent voting resulting from the use of drop boxes, absentee ballots, or vote-by-mail in Pennsylvania”; c) “fraud resulting from the use of third-party groups to collect absentee or mail ballots in Pennsylvania”; d) “the existence and/or prevalence of fraud, ballot harvesting, ballot manipulation or destruction, or duplicitous voting in Pennsylvania”; and e) “the prevalence and/or counting of absentee or mail ballots in Pennsylvania that lack a secrecy envelope, whose envelope contains any text, mark, or symbol which reveals the elector’s identify, political affiliation, or candidate preference, or whose envelope does not include on the outside envelope a completed declaration signed by the elector.” 

3) Plaintiffs shall provide supplemental responses and documents consistent with the foregoing no later than August 14, 2020. 

4) Pursuant to Rule 37(a)(5)(A)(ii), the Court finds that Plaintiffs’ positions were substantially justified, and so will not award reasonable expenses or attorneys’ fees.

[2] Judge Ranjan concludes:

Thus, the state court’s resolution of the uncertain questions could narrow even these claims, or at least cause Plaintiffs to present them in a different posture. Under these exceptional circumstances, the mandatory elements of Pullman abstention are satisfied.

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