As lawsuits go, these are pretty bizarre. The Trump campaign has filed at least a dozen lawsuits in several states seeking to overturn the election results. One lawyer, Mark “Thor” Hearne, from St. Louis, filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Claims, apparently intending to file in the Michigan Court of Claims. He blamed the error on PACER, the online filing platform. But, he did not explain how PACER was able to cover the cost of a filing fee in a second, wrong court. For those of you who do not file suits on PACER, the PACER system takes you to a second web page to pay the filing fee. For PACER to “accidentally” file your lawsuit in a second court, it would also have to somehow pay for the second lawsuit in the wrong court.
Too, at least one of the lawsuits filed in the federal court of claims was styled, “Donald J. Trump v USA.” As Ben Ginsberg asks, why would anyone style their lawsuit that way? Typically, you style the lawsuit against the entity you are suing. Was Donald Trump suing the entire USA? Too, when you fie a lawsuit, you want to name the actual opposing party. You are asking the judge to take action against a specific person pr entity. If you sue the USA, who are you asking the judge to issue orders to? But, the title of the lawsuit likely appealed to the real client, Donald J. Trump.
Michigan Court of Claims
“Thor” Hearne then appeared in front of the Michigan Court of Claims, First District, on Nov. 5, 2020. Mr. Hearne explained that a poll watcher said he was told by a poll worker who was told by a second poll worker that he had been told to back-date a ballot. The judge asked how that was not hearsay. Mr. Hearne struggled in trying to explain to the Judge how third-hand testimony was not hearsay. Thor Hearne insisted that for the person who signed the affidavit, he did actually hear it. As if, hearsay testimony might be admissible if the final listener did “actually” hear the third-hand information. But, Mr. Hearne’s lawsuit had so many other defects. The judge listed the many defects in the pleadings at the outset of thee hearing. Among those defects was that the motion for injunction had not been filed. The judge did not have a copy of the motion. Although the lawyer for the Secretary of State did have a copy of the motion in question.
The campaign sued the Michigan Secretary of State. The Trump campaign insisted their poll watcher be allowed to view the recorded videos of each drop box. But, as the opposing lawyer explained, the Secretary of State cannot compel action by the various County boards across the state. The Trump campaign would have to sue each individual county to obtain an order against those entities. Too, there is no right in statute or elsewhere that mandates a voter be allowed to view any videos of persons dropping their ballots in a drop box. The Trump campaign was asking for a remedy that did not exist in the law anywhere.
The Trump campaign also alleged a poll watcher was excluded from watching the vote counting. But, the affidavit did not specify when, where or by whom he was excluded. Thor Hearne was not able to explain anymore than what was in the affidavit.
And, in the end, the lawsuit would have made no difference to the outcome of the election results. Only one ballot was in question. Viewing the videos of the drop boxes may or may not result in any discrepancies. So, the Trump lawsuit was largely symbolic.
At the close of the hearing, the judge rejected the motion for injunction. The judge noted the Secretary of State does not conduct local elections. That responsibility lies with the individual counties. The judge noted a prior lawsuit in which the role of the Secretary of State was made clear. So, why, Judge Stephens asked, did Mr. Hearne sue the Secretary of State, again? Thor Hearne said the Secretary of State should issue a directive to the counties to make videos available, if they have such videos. But, as the judge noted, once the ballots are collected from the drop boxes, the ballots are not segregated. Even if the videos showed some malfeasance, no one would know where that ballot was. In the end, the Judge simply noted the Secretary of State had already issued guidance to the counties regarding access to the vote counting. Regarding local county officials, the court has no jurisdiction over those entities. Even if court had jurisdiction, the vote counting was essentially completed by the time of the hearing. So no relief was available. And, there is no legal duty on the part of any official regarding any videos of the drop boxes. The lawsuit was largely symbolic.
See C-Span recording of the Nov.5 hearing here.
In other lawsuits, one lawyer for Pres. Trump, Kory Langhofer, admitted in Arizona that many of the affidavits acquired for these lawsuits were gathered online. The process for gathering those affidavits resulted in some “spam.” Mr. Lahnghofer called his business partner as a witness and called other witnesses, who could not say they were deprived of any votes. Mr. Langhofer said this was not a fraud case. It is not a “vote-stealing” case, the Trump lawyer added.
In another lawsuit in Pennsylvania, Bob Goldstein said in court he was not alleging fraud. Accusing people of fraud was a “pretty big step,” he said. The next day, his law firm withdrew from its lawsuit. In Montana, federal judge Dana Christensen labeled the allegations of voter fraud “fiction.” See Politico news report here. It is very unusual for a firm to withdraw within days of filing the lawsuit. The suit was filed in U.S. district court. That means the lawyers must first obtain approval form the judge. The judge has yet to rule on the law firm’s motion to withdraw.
And, I am just surprised no one has been sanctioned, yet.