Ralph Nader v. Democratic National Committee
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The most recent court ruling in this case was on May 27, 2008 from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia which declined to permit a trial. On December 5, 2008, Nader et al filed a petition challenging the dismissal.
A secondary, related lawsuit filed by Nader related to the same issues is Nader v. McAuliffe. Nader v. McAuliffe was filed in order to have a similar lawsuit in two different venues.
Motion to dismiss and reply brief
The DNC and the other co-defendants all filed briefs with the Superior Court asking that the case be dismissed. On March 31, 2008, Nader filed a 39-page reply brief arguing that the case should proceed to a trial. Facts brought into evidence in the reply brief include the actions of the defendants (or, as the lawsuit calls them, co-conspirators) to file 24 complaints in eighteen state courts as well as five complaints with the FEC in a twelve-week period between June and September 2004. According to the brief, the purpose of this litigation was not to "vindicate valid legal claims, but to use the sheer burden of repetitive and abusive litigation as a means to drain and distract" the Nader-Camejo ticket from being able to turn their efforts to communicating their views and qualifications to the public as they sought office.
Additionally, the brief notes:
- 95 lawyers from 53 law firms participated in the anti-Nader litigation strategy of the DNC and other co-defendants;
- These firms received more than $1 million in fees and contributed an additional $2 million in pro bono work.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Nader, his vice-presidential running mate Peter Miguel Camejo and voters in several states.
Defendant and co-defendants
Co-defendants named in addition to the primary defendant the Democratic National Committee include the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the Service Employees International Union, Toby Moffett and Elizabeth Holtzman, several private law firms, the Ballot Project and America Coming Together. The lawsuit alleges that these individuals and groups conspired to force Nader off the ballot in 18 states.
According to Mayer, the efforts undertaken in 2004 to deny Nader ballot access were "...the most massive anti-democratic campaign to eliminate a third-party candidate from the ballot in — probably in recent American history. It is — not content with having all these laws and statutes on the book that make it difficult for third-party and independent candidates to run, the Democratic Party and their allies in over fifty-three law firms, with over ninety lawyers, were engaged in filing litigation in eighteen states. They were to remove Ralph Nader from the ballot. It was an organized, abusive litigation process."
The organized efforts to keep Nader's name off the ballot included, according to the lawsuit, a petition blocking component. According to Nader attorney Carl Mayer:
"There was an organized effort of harassment of petitioners who went around trying to collect signatures for the Nader campaign in Ohio, in Oregon and in Pennsylvania. In Ohio, for example, lawyers were hired to call up petitioners and tell them that if they didn’t verify the signatures on the petition, they would be guilty of a felony. They were called at home by — and they were, in many cases, visited by private investigators and told — this is voter intimidation of the worst order.
In the state of Oregon, for example, there was a nominating convention, and you need a thousand signatures at the convention. We have emails from Democratic Party operatives stating, we want our people to go to this convention and then refuse to sign the petition at the convention so Nader will not get enough signatures at the convention to get on the ballot. And they accomplished their goal in Oregon. After the convention, there’s an alternative way of getting on the ballot, which is to collect signatures, and the Nader campaign went about doing that, and during the course of that there was further harassment and intimidation of petitioners by law firms, private investigators, calling up and threatening petitioners that they would be called before a court if they did not certify all the petitions.
- Copy of the lawsuit
- Democrats' Legal Challenges Impede Nader
- Ballot Access Obstruction by Democratic Operatives
- Ralph Nader ballot access attorney Bruce Afran YouTube of Afran about challenges to Nader signatures
- Nader: Democrats will do anything to keep me off ballot, Washington Post, September 2004.
- Ballot Project expenditures (dead link)
- Validation Procedures and the Burden of Ballot Access Regulations, Robert Yablon, Yale Law Journal, 2006
- Ballot Access News, "Nader Files Brief in U.S. Court of Appeals in Opposition to Democratic National Committee," December 6, 2008
- [http://www.ballot-access.org/2008/Appellant-Brief.pdf Text of appeal from the ruling of United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina presiding, in Nader v. DNC]
- Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, March 31, 2008