3 Republican Judges v. Donald Trump

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit issued what has been called a “stinging rebuke” to Rudy Giuliani and the Trump legal team, dismissing their appeal against the certification of Pennsylvania’s twenty electoral votes for Joe Biden. Most notable to Spirited Reasoners is the fact that the court’s unanimous (3 – 0) decision was written by a Trump appointee (Judge Stephanos Bibas) and that the decision was joined by two Bush appointees. Thus, the decision was as much a victory for Republicans (who want to claim they are the party of law and order) as for Democrats (who want to claim they are the party of increased voter access and inclusion.)

Judge Bibas’s reasoning is quite lively and worthy of review by Spirited Reasoners. It can be found at the following link:

https://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/203371np.pdf

The opinion lists a number of reasons for refusing Giuliani’s request for an injunction that would have stopped Pennsylvania’s electoral certification process. Though more than five arguments are listed in response to the formal legal pleadings, they can be distilled into the following five:

  1. Giuliani’s legal team had made a big deal out of the need for speed at the Federal District Court level yet took its sweet time when it came to amending its complaint (after most of the initial complaint had been thrown out.) If the court had granted more time at that late date for the amendment to happen, it would have been forced to put the election on hold in order to grant sufficient time for Pennsylvania to file its own response, thus indirectly rewarding the Trump team for their delaying tactics.
  2. Amending the complaint would have been futile. Giuliani’s team never presented any facts to back up its sweeping claims of vote-counting irregularity.
  3. There was no chance the Trump campaign could succeed on its underlying case. It had been unsuccessful in demonstrating any proof of fraud, discrimination, or even basic standing to move forward with the lawsuit.
  4. Elections are run by states, not by the federal government. All the state court decisions in Pennsylvania had gone against the Trump campaign. There were no independent federal claims worth litigating.
  5. Ruling in favor of the Trump campaign would require the disenfranchisement of millions of voters. There is a strong public interest in counting every vote.

Americans should feel heartened by the solid demonstration of independence shown to date by our nation’s third branch of government: our state and federal courts. Three cheers for the wisdom shown by our founders in crafting a divided government that rules through a system of checks and balances.

And three cheers for federal judges who can apply the law impartially, regardless of which President appointed them.