Try Again, Judge Tells Ron Paul Supporters
SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) - A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit accusing Republicans of thwarting Ron Paul's bid for the party's presidential nomination, but left the door open for an amended complaint.
U.S. District Judge David Carter rejected allegations by delegates to the Republican National Convention and other Paul supporters that the party establishment used underhanded tactics to undermine Paul's bid to secure the nomination.
Though Carter found their claims vague and mostly unintelligible, he gave them a "third and final opportunity" to amend their complaint.
Paul's supporters had claimed that the Republican National Committee and state GOP operatives violated the Voting Rights Act by misusing state bylaws, threatening voters, and using election fraud to prevent voters and delegates from casting their votes for the libertarian icon.
They claimed that a gun had been used to "threaten a plaintiff to vote as ordered" and that "bones have been broken," among other allegations.
In his 20-page order, Carter granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, saying the claims were unintelligible and lacked plausibility under the Voting Rights Act -- the same law Paul voted against reauthorizing six years ago.
"[P]laintiffs' vague reference to 'state bylaws' gives this court no inkling as to which of the 50 states and which of the millions of pages of bylaws plaintiffs refer," Carter wrote. "Similarly, plaintiffs' use of the passive voice renders it impossible to discern who broke the bones of whom, who pointed a gun at whom, and whether any of the more than 100 defendants were even involved. Finally, plaintiffs' vague allegations of voting ballot fraud occurring somewhere at sometime and apparently committed simultaneously by all 'defendants' lacks plausibility. While plaintiffs make an oblique reference to a voting machine somewhere in Arizona, the lack of clarity in this allegation is insufficient to raise it to a level above mere speculation."
Carter said the only intelligible claim was the allegation that the Republican Party of Massachusetts excluded 17 elected state delegates for the national convention because they refused to commit to a "particular nominee."
But that claim also failed, Carter ruled, because political parties have a First Amendment right to "exclude people from membership and leadership roles."
He said Paul's supporters had also misinterpreted the phrase "intimidate, threaten, or coerce" in a section of the Voting Rights Act "to include a political party's conditioning of delegate status on a promise to vote for a particular nominee."
But Carter cautioned that his dismissal without prejudice should not be misused or "refashioned into a weapon" to suppress voting rights.
"[T]he court's extremely narrow holding in this case leaves unscathed both the Voting Rights Act and political parties' First Amendment right of association," Carter wrote.
The delegates' attorney, Richard Gilbert with Gilbert & Marlowe, told Courthouse News that he had filed an amended complaint on Wednesday and was looking forward to a "historic decision" in the delegates' favor.
"At the hearing, the judge agreed that the Voting Rights Act did apply to the convention, which is the crown jewel of our case," Gilbert told Courthouse News.
"If anybody had said that to me six months ago, I would have jumped 20 feet into the air yelling hallelujah," he said.
Neither the Republican National Committee nor Ron Paul immediately responded to requests for comment.
Congressman Paul is not a party to the lawsuit.