A federal appeals court has rejected the Democratic National Convention’s legal challenge against its Republican counterpart, in which it argued GOP operatives worked with the Trump campaign to suppress minority votes in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a New Jersey federal judge’s determination that the Republican National Convention had not violated a 1982 consent decree, established to resolve a lawsuit in which the Democrats accused the GOP of intimidating minority voters in the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election.
In its 2016 lawsuit, the DNC alleged that the RNC should be held in contempt for coordinating ballot security efforts with then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. A federal judge held that the DNC had not shown a violation of the consent decree by a preponderance of the evidence.
The DNC argued that the court abused its discretion by limiting the amount of discovery in the case and by also declaring that the consent decree was expired.
“The district court reasonably limited the scope of the DNC’s individual discovery requests. The DNC isolates instances where discovery was denied as evidence of an abuse of discretion. For example, it highlights the court’s refusal of its request to depose Reince Priebus,” Third Circuit Judge D. Michael Fisher wrote in the court’s Monday opinion. “But in denying that request, the court concluded that Priebus’ statements about knowing the Trump campaign’s position on voter fraud did not suggest any discussions of ballot security efforts. After the court allowed the DNC to depose then RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer, the DNC requested to depose Mike Roman, the alleged ‘front man for the Trump Campaign’s efforts against voter fraud.’ In denying that request, the court determined that there was no evidence from Spicer’s deposition or at any point on the record that the RNC was working with Roman.”
The DNC also argued that the court did not carefully consider the issues before it, but the Third Circuit rejected that contention as well.
“The district court’s handling of discovery on the whole suggests anything but ‘arbitrary, fanciful, or clearly unreasonable’ decision making. In total, the court reviewed more than 30 filings in 15 months,” Fisher said. “It heard on-the-record argument in nine separate instances, issuing nine written orders in response. The court afforded the parties the opportunity to be heard, thoughtfully considered their arguments, and provided detailed explanations of its decisions.”
The DNC is represented by Bruce Spiva of Perkins Coie, who did not respond to a request for comment.
Bobby Burchfield of King & Spalding represents the RNC and did not respond to a request for comment.