US Supreme Court shoots down case Donald Trump described as ‘the big one’ in election fight

Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the result of the US election has suffered its worst blow yet, courtesy of a ruling from the Supreme Court.

The US Supreme Court has promptly rejected a lawsuit President Donald Trump described as “the big one” in his effort to overturn his defeat to Joe Biden.

In a brief decision on Friday night, US time, the court ruled that the state of Texas, represented by Republican Attorney-General Ken Paxton, did not have standing to file a lawsuit against four of the swing states that voted for Mr Biden – Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“The state of Texas’s motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution,” the court’s order says.

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognisable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections. All other pending motions are dismissed as moot.”

The court’s ruling includes a dissenting statement from Justice Samuel Alito, backed up by his fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas.

“In my view, we do not have discretion to deny the filing of a bill of complaint in a case that falls within our original jurisdiction,” Justice Alito writes.

“I would therefore grant the motion to file the bill of complaint, but would not grant other relief, and I express no view on any other issue.”

So essentially, Justices Alito and Thomas believe the court was obliged to hear the case, but they would not have granted Texas’s requests for legal relief.

There are currently six conservative Justices on the Supreme Court and three progressives. Three of the conservatives were appointed by Mr Trump.

RELATED: ‘The big one’: Trump hypes new election case

The US Supreme Court. Picture: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images/AFP

The US Supreme Court.

Mr Paxton’s lawsuit was supported by 17 Republican attorneys-general from other states, along with more than 120 Republican members of Congress – about two thirds of the party’s caucus.

It also had the explicit backing of Mr Trump, who hailed it as “the case everyone has been waiting for” earlier this week.

In short, Mr Paxton alleged that the four states in question had illegally changed the rules around mail-in voting too close to the election, meaning their results could not be trusted.

Ultimately, he wanted the Supreme Court to order that all four states ignore their popular vote totals, which showed Mr Biden winning, and choose their electors via their respective state legislatures instead.

Incidentally, the legislatures in the states Mr Paxton chose to sue - ignoring others that changed their rules in similar ways due to the coronavirus pandemic - are all controlled by Republican majorities.

Mr Paxton’s full motion, which you can read here, contained many of the same debunked allegations about voter fraud that had already been made by Mr Trump’s own legal team and thrown out of courts across the country, at both state and federal level.

In a statement explaining his filing, Mr Paxton said “trust in the integrity of our election processes is sacrosanct”.

“Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin destroyed that trust and compromised the security and integrity of the 2020 election,” he said.

“The states violated statutes enacted by their duly elected legislatures, thereby violating the Constitution.

“By ignoring both state and federal law, these states have not only tainted the integrity of their own citizens’ vote, but of Texas and every other state that held lawful elections.

“Their failure to abide by the rule of law casts a dark shadow of doubt over the outcome of the entire election. We now ask that the Supreme Court step in to correct his egregious error.”

President Trump. Picture: Saul Loeb/AFP

The Supreme Court is usually an appellate court, meaning the only way for a case to end up before it is if that case gets appealed through the lower courts first.

There is an exception to that rule. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over legal disputes between states – i.e. the American equivalent of New South Wales suing Victoria. These cases start at the Supreme Court level.

That is the route Mr Paxton was trying to take.

However, the court is not obliged to hear such cases. So, the first step was for Texas to seek leave to file a complaint – in essence, to convince a majority of the nine Justices they should indeed take the time to hear its lawsuit.

Mr Paxton failed in that regard.

Legal experts were always quite certain the lawsuit would end up that way.

Professor Rick Hasen, an election law expert from the Irvine School of Law, called it “the dumbest case I’ve ever seen filed on an emergency basis at the Supreme Court”, “a press release masquerading as a lawsuit” and “utter garbage”.

Professor Steve Vladeck, from the University of Texas School of Law, said it was “insane”, “offensive” and “wasteful”.

“It looks like we have a new leader in the ‘craziest lawsuit filed to purportedly challenge the election’ category,” he quipped, going on to describe Mr Paxton’s arguments as “utter and indefensible nonsense”.

Writing for Bloomberg, Harvard University law Professor Noah Feldman said the lawsuit was “a piece of theatre, not a credible legal strategy”.

“The Texas lawsuit is literally asking the court to disqualify the electors from the four swing states that went to Biden. That would plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. It would be the end of democracy in the United States,” Prof Feldman said.

“In Trump’s fantasy world, apparently shared by Paxton, the Supreme Court will engage in a constitutional coup d’etat and give Trump a second term. This idea is based on a view of the court as entirely partisan. It’s disrespectful of the rule of law.”

And Professor Eugene Mazo, from the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, told Law & Crime Mr Paxton’s lawsuit was the “craziest case” of the post-election period.

“This is the dumbest case any lawyer has ever seen, and the Supreme Court won’t touch it. Really, this is the craziest case of them all. Unbelievable,” he said.

The one fundamental problem with the case, according to these experts, was that Texas had no standing to raise Mr Paxton’s claims in court, because it has no say over how other states choose their presidential electors.

You’ll recognise that as the same logic the Supreme Court used in its decision.

Under America’s electoral system, each state sets its own rules. Texas decides how it wants to run its election, Pennsylvania chooses how to run its election, and so forth. Pennsylvania does not get to sue Texas if it doesn’t like how that state’s system works, and vice versa.

So, what next? It would be an understatement to say Mr Trump is running out of legal options.

The Electoral College will meet on Monday, officially making Mr Biden the president-elect. Then, on January 6, Congress will meet to count the electoral votes.

That just leaves January 20, when Mr Biden will be sworn in as president and Mr Trump will become a private citizen.


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