Legal Technicalities to Dismiss Trump Election Lawsuits Are Important To the Legal System
As President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration draws closer, the Trump Campaign and its allies have filed lawsuit after lawsuit in an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Each of these cases has been thrown out for myriad of different reasons. The most striking reason is that they lack any real evidence in support of their claims, claims which range between discrimination and minor procedural infractions.
The majority of these election lawsuits do not even mention fraud. Republican media asserts that these lawsuits are thrown out by liberal judges who are ignoring evidence of fraud in favor of legal technicalities. However, the Third Circuit panel that dismissed one of the Michigan appeals is lead by a Trump appointee and the Supreme Court’s denial of an injunction in one of the Pennsylvania cases was without dissent even though there are three Trump appointees on the Supreme Court.
As to the legal “technicalities,” the cases were not thrown out based on minor matters. If anyone is asserting a technicality, it is the Trump campaign – Rudy Giuliani has argued that Pennsylvania’s votes should not be counted because two men forgot to put their ballots inside the correct envelope.
No, the “technicalities” that judges are using to dismiss all these cases are based on important judicial doctrines. These doctrines establish the bare minimum of a valid lawsuit. If these elements are missing, the lawsuit cannot survive:
Basic Requirements for a Lawsuit
Standing – Standing tackles a simple but important question: who should be sued? This may seem simple, but suing someone who didn’t harm you is a fast way to get your lawsuit dismissed. If you slip and fall inside a Wal-Mart, you should sue Wal-Mart for your injuries, not Hobby Lobby.
Conversely, just because somebody did something wrong, doesn’t mean anyone gets to sue them. If Microsoft violates a hypothetical contract with Amazon, it means Amazon has standing to sue Microsoft. It doesn’t mean every Amazon user has the right to sue Microsoft. Nor does it mean that Jeff Bezos has the right to sue Bill Gates.
So why is standing important with these election lawsuits? Well, if the goal is to recount the votes, the court needs to order the appropriate defendant to count the votes. So while it might make Donald Trump feel good to sue Joe Biden for voter fraud, the President Elect himself has nothing to do with overseeing or counting votes. That happy power lies with the various Secretaries of State from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or any other state election that the Trump Campaign wants to contest. Suing President-Elect Biden accomplishes absolutely nothing and would thus be a waste of the court’s time.
Similarly, Texas suing Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania is also a textbook example of lack of standing. Texas is not injured by any election rules that these states make. The voting rights of Texans are not impacted by how these four states organize their elections. The outcome of this lawsuit will have no impact on how Texans vote in the future. Thus, Texas lacks standing to sue any other state for how they organize their elections.
Jurisdiction/Venue – Not only do you have to sue the right person, you also have to file it in the right court. You don’t file a bankruptcy case in state court and you don’t file a personal injury claim in family court. If you don’t file your case in the right courthouse, you’re going to lose.
As Georgia pointed out in its opposition, if anyone has a problem with how Georgia runs its elections, they should sue in Georgia state courts rather than running to the federal Supreme Court. Similarly, Donald Trump’s request to join the Texas case would remove the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court can only directly hear the Texas case if the only parties to the case are states. Adding a non-state party, even if that party is currently President, would only force the case back down to the trial court.
Laches – Laches means that the time to readdress a wrong has long passed. Laches, and the statute of limitations, are significant reasons why lawsuits should be brought as soon as possible. If too much time has passed, there is nothing a court can do to help.
For instance, an employee who believes she has been wrongfully terminated should file her claim as soon as possible. If she waits too long, events might proceed such that she would no longer be able to prosecute her claims. All the supervisors and other important witnesses might have left already. The company could have filed for bankruptcy. The company could have closed that branch and moved its offices to another state.
Waiting to file a lawsuit accomplishes nothing and may result in more obstacles. If the obstacles become insurmountable, then the defendant may invoke the doctrine of laches.
Laches has been repeatedly invoked in each of these election lawsuits because the election is over. If anyone had a problem with laws in Michigan, Wisconsin, or Pennsylvania that require mail-in ballots be counted after in-person ballots (laws that Republicans had enacted in those states), the time to challenge those laws was before November 3, 2020, not afterward. Changing those laws would only impact elections beginning in 2022, not the 2020 election.
Do You Need the Help of a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you have sustained a personal injury through the unlawful act of another, then you should contact a personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer near you can help you avoid legal pitfalls such as standing and laches and represent you at hearings and in court.