MACHIAS, Maine — After just an hour of actual courtroom arguments Friday, the attorneys on both sides of former presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s lawsuit adjourned to Justice Kevin Cuddy’s chambers to determine a schedule for a September trial.
No action was immediately taken on motions to dismiss the case, although Cuddy admonished the attorneys no less than three times to stick to arguments on the motions only and not to argue positions on the overall case.
Nader is suing a variety of defendants and accusing Democratic leaders of conspiring to use the courts to sabotage his independent campaign for president in 2004. Nader, whose running mate was the late Peter Camejo, is seeking punitive and compensatory damages.
Nader did not attend the hearing, but in a statement released earlier this week he said, “This lawsuit was filed to advance a free and open electoral process for all candidates and voters. Candidates’ rights reinforce voters’ rights, by giving voters more voices and choices, for a more open and competitive democracy, in which the people, rather than private political parties, determine who our elected leaders will be.”
When the lawsuit was tossed out of a district court in Washington, D.C., in June 2009, because the three-year statute of limitations had expired, Nader refiled it in Washington County Superior Court. He chose Washington County because Maine’s statute of limitations is six years and because two of his electors in Maine — Nancy Oden and J. Noble Snowdeal — were from here.
Nader’s co-plaintiffs are Nancy Oden, Christopher Droznick and Rosemary Whittaker, who each served as a Maine elector in the Nader-Camejo campaign.
In arguments Friday, Nader’s attorney, Oliver Hall of Washington, D.C., maintained that the Maine and National Democratic parties, The Ballot Project, and others attempted to sabotage and bankrupt the Nader-Camejo campaign by filing 29 complaints and lawsuits against it in 18 state courts. At least 95 lawyers from 53 law firms nationwide joined the Democrats’ litigation against the Nader-Camejo campaign, Hall said.
“This is a textbook case of abuse of process,” Hall told the judge. “This was baseless and repetitive litigation that interfered with a presidential campaign. By the time the plaintiffs could prove the allegations were false, the election was over and the damage was done.”
In the end, the legal maneuverings were unsuccessful in most states, including Maine, but they did drain the campaign of the time and money needed to get access in several states, according to the suit. Nader and Camejo, running as independents, appeared on the ballot in 34 states.
George W. Bush won the election, and many Democrats blamed Nader for siphoning away votes from Democrat John Kerry.
The defendants’ attorneys, however, maintained that the suits were legitimate challenges of the validity of Nader-Camejo nomination petitions and urged Cuddy to dismiss the Maine lawsuits.
“Sooner or later, you have to bury a corpse,” Lewiston defense attorney Stacy O. Stitham said.
Cuddy set Sept. 27 for the trial and he told the parties involved that it likely would be held in Machias.