Last Tuesday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared in federal court for the first time in 30 years, representing the Trump campaign in its efforts to prevent Pennsylvania from confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in that state.
It was a disaster for Giuliani. The former mayor and chief prosecutor tried to articulate exactly what Trump’s legal claims were based on. And he admitted that he was unfamiliar with basic legal terms like “tight control,” one of the rudimentary vocabulary that every law student was taught when they were introduced to constitutional law.
On Saturday night, Judge Matthew Brann released his opinion on that lawsuit, Donald J. Trump for President v Boockvar, and the judge did not strike. Not only did Brann reject the Trump campaign’s legal arguments, he also mocked the campaign for failing to come up with a coherent argument – or to support legal elements for crucial elements of its claims.
Regarding the Trump campaign’s primary legal argument, Brann writes, “Like Frankenstein’s monster, this claim was arbitrarily pieced together from two different theories to avoid scrutiny of precedents.” And that’s just one of many scathing lines from a judge who is clearly frustrated with the incompetent legal profession on display in his courtroom.
It is worth noting that while Brann was appointed to the Bundesbank by Democratic President Barack Obama, the judge held several leadership positions within the Republican Party. Obama often had to do business with Republican Senators to appoint GOP judges to keep those Senators from blocking Obama’s other candidates.
One person who seems particularly impressed with Brann’s conservative Street Cred is Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), who released a statement shortly after Brann’s decision congratulating President-elect Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris. “With today’s decision by Judge Matthew Brann, a longtime Conservative Republican who I know is a fair and unbiased lawyer, to dismiss the Trump campaign suit,” Toomey said in his statement, “President Trump has all plausible ones legal possibilities exhausted to bring the action. ” Result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania. “
Trump could potentially appeal against Brann’s decision, claiming that he will. However, given the weakness of the arguments of his campaign, which Brann repeatedly points out, such an appeal is unlikely to prevail.
Trump wanted millions of voters disenfranchised
The Trump campaign’s main argument questions an email that Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar sent to county election officials. So that these voters can be notified that they made a mistake in filing these ballots and have the opportunity to correct that mistake.
As it turned out, not all counties have followed this advice. The Trump campaign claims that Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold, told voters that they needed to fix bugs on their postal ballot papers, while district officials in Republican counties did not. The campaign therefore alleged that postal votes cast in Biden-friendly Philadelphia were counted earlier than ballots cast in more Trump-friendly areas of the state – and this discrepancy leads to unconstitutional discrimination.
However, the campaign is looking for an extreme remedy to this alleged violation: it called on Judge Brann to ban the state from confirming the results of his 2020 election. With a few Trump voters reportedly having a harder time voting than some Biden voters, the Trump campaign is effectively asking Brann to disenfranchise the entire state of Pennsylvania – something Brann specifically opposes.
Brann writes: “The ban on certification of election results would not restore the right to vote for individual claimants. It would simply deny more than 6.8 million people the right to vote. “
If the Trump campaign was correct that Pennsylvania violated the Constitution by informing just a few voters of the need to heal bugs in their postal ballot papers, then the right remedy is to give all voters who need to heal their ballots the chance to give. It’s not about disenfranchising millions. “The answer to invalid ballots,” writes Brann, “is not to invalidate millions more.”
Brann’s opinion repeatedly criticizes Trump’s lawyers for incompetence
Court judgments are usually solid documents that avoid direct criticism of lawyers – both for professional reasons and because judges usually want to avoid creating the impression that their disregard for a particular lawyer may have influenced their decision. However, Judge Brann firmly believes that Trump’s attorneys behaved inappropriately in his courtroom and that he believes that behavior should be mentioned repeatedly.
At the beginning of his statement, Brann sums up the lawsuit in ten damned words: “The plaintiffs are asking this court to disenfranchise nearly seven million voters.” The mere fact that Trump’s lawyers would even demand such a thing is bold. As Brann notes, “this court has not been able to find a case in which a campaigning plaintiff sought such a drastic legal remedy over the sheer volume of votes that is to be invalidated.”
Yet Trump’s lawyers did not come to court with evidence or legal authority to justify such a result. “One might expect a plaintiff to be mightily armed with compelling legal arguments and factual evidence of rampant corruption in search of such a surprising result,” writes Brann. But “that didn’t happen. Instead, strained legal arguments of no merit and speculative allegations that are not contained in the operational complaint and are not supported by evidence have been presented to that court. “
Brann also spends an entire section of his mind describing the game of musical chairs that Trump’s lawyers appeared to be playing while actively litigating the Boockvar case. “Plaintiffs made several attempts to change the pleadings and had attorneys appear and withdraw within seventy-two hours,” he writes. On the eve of the hearing, Trump tried to replace his entire legal team. Giuliani joined the team on the same day as the hearing, during which the former New York City mayor appeared unfamiliar with the fundamental aspects of the case.
Elsewhere in his opinion, Brann points to the Trump legal team’s inability to explain substantial parts of their legal reasoning. For example, in order to take a case to federal court, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he has been injured in some way by the defendant – a requirement known as “standing.” However, Brann writes: “The ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign is particularly nebulous because neither in the [campaign’s amended complaint] Even in its briefing, the Trump campaign does not clearly state what its alleged violation is. “
This prompted Judge Brann to “embark on a major project of examining nearly every case cited by plaintiffs to compose the theory of that plaintiff’s reputation – the Trump campaign.
Despite the harsh rhetoric, Brann was, in his opinion, extraordinarily generous towards the Trump campaign and its lawyers. Rather than simply taking the incompetent arguments presented to him and rejecting them immediately, the judge took the time to create a coherent version of Trump’s arguments – and then rejected that better version.
I could go on beating that horse, but it’s already dead. Suffrage professor Rick Hasen said of Giuliani’s appearance in Brann’s courtroom: “I’ve never seen a worse legal profession in an electoral case in my life.” And Brann’s opinion makes it clear how bad the Trump campaign’s advocacy was.
Are you helping keep Vox free for everyone?
Millions of people rely on Vox to understand how Washington policy choices, from health care to unemployment to housing, can affect their lives. Our work is well-sourced, research-oriented, and thorough. And that kind of work requires resources. Even after the economy recovers, advertising alone will never be enough to support it. If you’ve already contributed to Vox, thank you. If not, help us keep our journalism free for everyone by contributing as little as $ 3 today.