A federal court in Pennsylvania categorically denied President Donald Trump the legal victory and relief his campaign legal team was desperately searching for in a scathing opinion issued Friday.
Lawyers were quick to respond with rhetorical bombast of their own–and some verbal high-fives as well.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the 45th president’s efforts to stop the certification of the Keystone State’s 2020 election results. In an opinion penned by Trump-appointed U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, the three-judge panel upheld a prior ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann which castigated the president’s attempt “to disenfranchise almost seven million voters” under the cover of “strained legal arguments without merit.”
Using equally cutting rhetoric, Judge Bibas excoriated the Trump campaign’s continued efforts to throw out valid ballots and swing the election for the current occupant of the White House.
“Charges of unfairness are serious,” the judge wrote. “But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”
The legal community broadly praised the acute, no-nonsense ruling as a testament to the federal judiciary–while also getting in a steady stream of potshots at the president’s unsuccessful legal strategy.
“So, we have been deprived of the opportunity to have Rudy argue in the Third Circuit,” wryly observed Fifth Circuit-focused appellate attorney Raffi Melkonian via Twitter. “But on balance, it’s much better this way.”
“I dunno, I was here to see Rudy practice his craft again,” tweeted Arizona-based defense attorney and legal blogger bmaz in response. “But this is a far sounder way.”
Many observers focused on the paucity of sound legal arguments from Trump legal gurus Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis:
One of many indications throughout the opinion of the abysmal legal services the Trump campaign received. The case never should’ve been brought, of course, due to the lack of evidence, but this reflects an even more basic failure of blocking and tackling. pic.twitter.com/56upJg8f4u
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) November 27, 2020
The case was as weak and conclusory in its allegations of wrongdoing as it was spectacularly antidemocratic in seeking to disenfranchise all of Pennsylvania’s voters by putting the matter after the fact into the hands of the state legislature. https://t.co/80b8j9WJbe
— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) November 27, 2020
— Adam Steinbaugh (@adamsteinbaugh) November 27, 2020
Bibas’s relatively brief 21-page opinion was also joined by George W. Bush-appointed Judge Michael Chagares and Third Circuit Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith, compounding the Republican Party’s loss because each judge’s political and ideological bent would typically suggest a win here since U.S. federal judges are, at root (and more often than not), political actors that dance with who brought them.
Multiple legal commentators picked up on the partisan implications:
Understand this: I don’t think you could script a more devastating way for Trump to lose in the Third Circuit than Brann affirmed by Bibas with Smith and Chagares.
— Matthew Stiegler (@MatthewStiegler) November 27, 2020
Melkonian also praised the opinion’s formal clarity:
New York-based attorney Luppe B. Luppen enjoyed some schadenfreude on the subject of attorneys’ fees:
a beautiful end to the third circuit docket sheet — the Trump campaign will have to pay Pennsylvania’s costs for the appeal pic.twitter.com/7rcAzSePiw
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) November 27, 2020
Trump and his team are still hoping above all else to get a case before the U.S. Supreme Court—where the 45th president and his allies have long-salivated about the prospect for the conservative majority to tender an opinion that rhymes with the controversial Bush v. Gore ruling that handed the 2000 election to the younger president Bush. Legal experts, however, insist that such a situation is entirely unlikely.
California-based attorney Ken White was adamant:
For anyone who entertains SCOTUS worries – or fantasies — about the Trump litigation, it’s notable that the Trump legal team has done every possible thing to make SCOTUS review (let alone success) less likely. I’d be hard pressed to imagine how better to avoid review.
— Don’tEverTalkToTheHatThatWay (@Popehat) November 27, 2020
A similar bird’s-eye-sentiment was expressed by Civil Rights attorney and administrative law expert Sasha Samberg-Champion:
Just to get this out of the way, no, the Supreme Court is not going to reverse the Third Circuit’s decision rejecting the Trump campaign’s frivolous claims in Pennsylvania. I’m sure we’re in for the worst cert petition of the year, though.
— Sasha Samberg-Champion (@ssamcham) November 27, 2020
[Image via BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]