Updated 5:04 p.m.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has denied former presidential candidate Ralph Nader's latest attempt to set aside a Pennsylvania court's judgment against him related to his 2004 run for president.
During Nader's campaign, a group of Pennsylvania voters challenged his eligibility to be on the ballot, claiming he failed to get enough valid signatures supporting his candidacy. After a lengthy court battle in that state, Nader and his running mate, Peter Camejo, lost and were ordered to pay $81,102 in legal fees.
To enforce the judgment, the Pennsylvania group went after assets Nader held in D.C.-based banks. A District of Columbia Superior Court judge approved enforcement, and Nader appealed. In an opinion (PDF) published this morning, the appeals court found that under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, the trial judge was right to order enforcement of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's judgment.
Nader is trying to recover $34,218 that was disbursed from one bank account and stop the disbursement of $22,710 from another account. Camejo previously settled with the Pennsylvania group, which has been represented by Reed Smith, to pay $20,000 of the total judgment.
According to today’s opinion, Nader argued that the Superior Court judge erred in not allowing him to introduce new evidence that the Pennsylvania judgment “was unlawfully procured.” The Superior Court judge found that the evidence wasn’t “new” and had been available for Nader to use had he pursued a motion for a new trial in Pennsylvania. Judge Vanessa Ruiz wrote the opinion for a three-judge panel.
“Even if we assume that Nader’s claims, if proven, would constitute fraud in the procurement of the cost judgment, however, challenges in the receiving court are generally not permitted because of the strong presumption of the validity of a final decision by a sister state which resolved the merits of the controversy,” Ruiz wrote.
Nader’s attorney, Washington solo practitioner Oliver Hall, said today that “the legal fight is not over.” He said the appeals court got it wrong because there was evidence that was never considered by a Pennsylvania court, related to Nader’s claims that the challenge to his ballot eligibility was improperly prepared by Pennsylvania “state employees working at state expense.”
“Reed Smith’s actions in challenging the Nader petitions and then attempting to collect $80,000 from a candidate simply because he had the temerity to run for public office outside of the two-party system, has had a hugely detrimental effect on the democratic process in Pennsylvania,” Hall said.
Reed Smith associate Nathan Fennessy, who argued for the Pennsylvania group on appeal, said today that he and his clients “are pleased with the result.”
“We think the court properly applied the Full Faith and Credit analysis and reached the proper result,” he said.
Judges Stephen Glickman and Phyllis Thompson joined in the opinion.