Nader loses election tampering lawsuit

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 17, 2010, at 8:35 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — The election tampering lawsuit filed by national activist and 2004 presidential candidate Ralph Nader was dismissed Wednesday by Washington County Superior Court Justice Kevin Cuddy.

Cuddy heard arguments in the case in August and on Nov. 9 before issuing his 20-page decision on Wednesday.

Nader and three Maine election workers sued the Maine and national Democratic committees, among others, alleging abuse of process and wrongful use of civil proceedings.

Nader alleged that the Democrats launched a nationwide effort to use litigation to neutralize his 2004 presidential campaign.

The lawsuit alleged that baseless lawsuits were filed against Nader — 29 lawsuits in as many states, including Maine — that challenged the validity of petitions to place Nader and his running mate, the late Peter Camejo, on the ballot. Nader did not attend any of the hearings and could not be contacted through his attorney Wednesday.

Stephen Langsdorf of Preti Flaherty argued the case against Nader, and defended the Democratic National Committee and The Maine Democratic Party, the primary defendants.

Langsdorf’s defense centered on his clients’ constitutional rights to petition the government and on the federal Anti-SLAPP statute, which gives protections to anyone who petitions the government, including to challenge a candidate’s right to be listed on a political ballot.

In his decision, Cuddy ruled that the Democratic National Committee and the Maine Democratic Party made appropriate challenges after inspecting Nader’s petitions during his 2004 run for president.

“The defendants have satisfied their initial burden of showing that their activity of challenging nomination petitions in several states is activity manifesting their right of petition under the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Maine and is protected,” his ruling stated.

The suit was originally filed in District Court in Washington, D.C., but the court tossed it out because the three-year statute of limitations had expired. Nader then refiled the suit in Maine where the statute of limitations is six years. He was seeking punitive and compensatory damages.

“The ability to petition the government is an important Constitutional right,” Langsdorf said. “The Democratic Party made legitimate arguments about Nader’s campaign, and they should not have been sued for it. I’m pleased to see that the court agreed there was a constitutional basis for my clients’ arguments and that the politi-cal process was upheld.”

When reached at his Washington, D.C., office Wednesday afternoon, Nader’s attorney, Oliver Hall, said he was unaware of the decision and would not comment.

In court in November, Hall argued that there was a pattern of abuse used in Maine, one of the 29 states where lawsuits challenging the petition process were filed.

In Maine for instance, Hall said the Democrats based the brunt of their challenge of Nader’s nomination on the misspelling of a single elector’s name on some of the 479 petitions.

The elector, J. Noble Snowdeal of Jonesboro, had his name written in on some petition forms as John Noble Snowdeal, when his first name is actually Joseph.

The Maine secretary of state ruled in 2004 that the Snowdeal name mistake was a “good faith error,” and dismissed a move to disqualify the petitions. The Democrats challenged the secretary of state’s ruling all the way to the state supreme court, before the appeal was rejected and the Nader-Camejo ticket was allowed on the Maine ballot.

Hall said that of the 29 lawsuits filed around the United States by the Democratic National Committee, 24 were similarly dismissed.

Joining Nader in his suit against the Democrats were his 2004 Maine electors Christopher Droznik, Nancy Oden and Rosemary Whittaker.

Langsford said Wednesday’s decision essentially dismisses all Nader’s claims.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/11/17/politics/nader-loses-election-tampering-lawsuit/ printed on August 22, 2014