Tomorrow marks the next stage in Ralph Nader’s quest for compensation for what his lawyer describes as a massive Democratic conspiracy to keep Nader and his late running mate, Peter Camejo, off ballots in the 2004 presidential election.
The parties named in Nader’s 2007 complaint include the Democratic National Committee, the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the Service Employees International Union and the law firm Reed Smith. According to the DNC’s brief, Nader alleges various people and groups “challenged” his attempts to access ballots by filing lawsuits in 18 states and complaints with the Federal Election Commission. Both sides can agree on that. What the two sides can’t agree on, is whether some of those lawsuits added up to an illegal conspiracy, or whether they were just a pricey political tactic.
Judge Ricardo Urbina granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss Nader’s November 2007 complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in May of last year. He agreed with the defense’s argument that the DNC and its allies had a First Amendment right to challenge Nader’s petitions to get on state ballots and that Nader had failed to articulate a valid legal claim.
Washington-based solo practitioner Oliver Hall, also the executive director of the Center for Competitive Democracy, will argue Nader’s side tomorrow in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
“The issue in this case is whether there are any limits on what the Democratic Party, or any other party, can do in an effort to exclude political competition from our electoral process,” Hall says.
He charges that the DNC and “its allies,” filed 29 complaints in 19 courts in an attempt to “drain, distract, and, ultimately, bankrupt” the Nader campaign. His brief argues that those lawsuits had “no real interest in the outcome” but were merely a coordinated effort to tie Nader up in courts and damage his chances in the election “by means of the process itself.”
The DNC, repped by Joseph Sandler of Sandler, Reiff & Young, argues in its brief that the allegations of conspiracy are “conclusionary, generalized assertions,” and fail to identify an agreement to take illegal actions. It also states that Nader can’t support his claims with facts that the lawsuits “were frivolous or abusive.”
“In 2004, the Democratic party made no secret of the fact that it was going to hold Nader to the legal requirements and to challenge his ability to appear on the presidential general election ballot when he didn’t meet the qualifications to do so,” Sandler says.
A three-judge panel made up of Chief Judge David Sentelle, Judge David Tatel, and Judge Thomas Griffith will hear arguments Friday morning.