Judge Slammed for Delaying Ballot Appeal

     (CN) – Nevadans can pick “none of the above” on Election Day, the 9th Circuit ruled while blasting a federal judge who tried to delay the appeal.
     The ruling marks a setback for Republicans who hoped to remove the unique option so that dissatisfied voters would pick Mitt Romney if forced to make a choice.
     Eleven voters from all parties, including former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury and the state’s Republican Party Secretary James DeGraffenreid, sued Nevada and its secretary of state in June. The Republican National Committee sought to remove the option that has been on all Nevada ballots since 1976. Nevada is the only state to offer such an option.
     U.S. District Judge Robert Jones ruled in August that the state’s “none of these candidates” ballot option is unconstitutional and must be removed.
     But a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit entered an immediate stay late Tuesday. On Wednesday, the court amended the three-page order and the lengthy concurring opinion from Judge Stephen Reinhardt.
     “Plaintiffs’ arguments offer inadequate basis for this court to conclude that Nevada’s 37-year-old statute providing for ‘None of these candidates’ ballots is contrary to the Constitution or to any federal statute,” Reinhardt wrote.
     “A failure to stay forthwith any injunction issued by the district court would accordingly result in irreparable injury to the state of Nevada and its citizens, and would be directly contrary to the public interest,” he added.
     Election officials need to start printing ballots by Sept. 7, yet Jones intentionally dragged his feet on the issue to mire an appeal, the opinion states.
     “Although the district judge acknowledged his awareness of these facts, he has deliberately attempted to avoid entering any order that would allow an appeal before that date,” Reinhardt wrote. “His dilatory tactics appear to serve no purpose other than to seek to prevent the state from taking an appeal of his decision before it must print the ballots.”
     Jones caused “numerous and substantial delays,” which “can only be explained as a deliberate attempt to evade review by higher courts,” the judge added.
     One example of delay is apparent in how it took Jones nearly a month to reassign the case when the first presiding judge withdrew on June 11. On July 3, Jones reassigned the case to himself.
     Jones then waited another three weeks to schedule a hearing on a preliminary injunction. His choice of Aug. 22 resulted in another month-long delay in the resolution of this proceeding.
     Reinhardt also slammed Jones for refusing to issue a fully reasoned explanation for his preliminary injunction, “a precondition, under his view, for appellate review.”
     “Despite his promise to rule ‘quickly,’ more than a month has passed since the completion of briefing on that issue – and 13 days have passed since the Aug. 22 hearing – without such a reasoned ruling,” Reinhardt wrote. “It is now three work days before the printing of ballots must commence, and the district judge has exhibited no signs of issuing the written explanation that he believes is essential for appellate review.”
     When the appeals were filed, Jones “immediately sought to frustrate our ability to entertain a stay pending appeal, denying that he had issued an order but scheduling a hearing on whether he should grant a stay of that order for Sept. 14 – fully a week after the state’s deadline for printing the ballots – a hearing that he deemed a precondition to this court’s ‘entertainment’ of a stay motion,” Reinhardt wrote. “This last action by the district judge is particularly egregious in light of that fact that he swiftly denied oral motions for the precise same stay (made by both sets of defendants) during the Aug. 22 hearing.” (Emphasis and parentheses in original).
     “When a decision on our part is necessary in order to permit the losing party below to obtain review by our court and the Supreme Court, we have the ability to act in order to preserve the jurisdiction of the appellate courts,” Reinhardt added. “In this case, that authority would permit us to decide the stay motion before us, even if the district court had not issued the injunction on August 24. Refusal to exercise our jurisdiction would frustrate not only our appellate authority, but also that of the Supreme Court, and would allow the district court to erroneously invalidate Nevada’s long-standing election process and to deprive its citizens of their right to participate in Presidential elections in the manner that the law prescribes. Such arrogance and assumption of power by one individual is not acceptable in our judicial system.”
     “None of the above” has been on ballots since 1975, and was an effort to allow voters to express dissatisfaction with the candidates. The vote is counted but doesn’t affect the final outcome.
     It’s a close race for the presidency in Nevada; voters will choose between Romney or President Barack Obama on Nov. 6.

%d bloggers like this: