Supreme Court slams the door on another 2020 election challenge
WASHINGTON (CN) — Turning down a protest over Pennsylvania’s deadline extension for 2020 mail-in ballots, the Supreme Court instructed the Third Circuit on Monday to dismiss the case as moot.
Jim Bognet and four Republican voters framed the challenge as a constitutional one, saying the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had usurped legislative authority by extending the deadline for three days due to concerns about Postal Service slowdowns last year as well as the raging pandemic.
Bognet had appealed immediately when the Third Circuit denied him an injunction on Nov. 13. In the intervening months, however, several similar challenges to the 2020 election have met their demise, culminating in the inauguration earlier this year of President Joe Biden. Calling the issue now moot, the Supreme Court directed the Third Circuit on Monday to dismiss Bognet’s case.
Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state, said Monday that her team is pleased that “yet another court ruling has affirmed the accuracy and integrity of Pennsylvania’s November 2020 election.”
“Pennsylvanians can be proud of the work done in every county election office to ensure that every voter’s ballot was cast and counted fairly,” Murren added.
Only around 10,000 ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 arrived at Pennsylvania Board of Election offices in the three-day window following Election Day. As President Biden secured the state with 81,000 votes over Trump, the number was too few to affect the election’s outcome.
David Thompson of Cooper & Kirk, an attorney for Bognet, meanwhile took the outcome as a win.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has vacated the decision below so that any future disputes can be litigated on a blank slate,” Thompson said.
The acting secretary of state for Pennsylvania was represented by Robert Wiygul of Hangley Aronchick.
Monday’s order list included dozens of denied cases, including one from Tennessee inmates at risk of liver damage because the state did not administer expensive antiviral drugs to treat their hepatitis C.
The Sixth Circuit ruled against the inmates led by Gregory Atkins in a 2-1 decision last year, saying that the Tennessee Department of Corrections’ allocation of limited resources did not amount to deliberate indifference.
Michael Wall, an attorney for the inmates with the firm Bransetter Stranch, did not return a request for comment Monday, nor did the Tennessee attorney general’s office.
Another case that the Supreme Court declined Monday involves the government’s three-year seizure of a Kentucky man’s pickup truck.
Gerardo Serrano had been crossing the border from Mexico at Eagle Pass, Texas, to visit relatives in 2015 when federal agents stopped him. He said he angered the agents as they searched the vehicle by taking photos on his phone, and that as a result they seized the truck citing findings of five bullets in the vehicle.
Only after filing a federal lawsuit did Serrano get his truck back. He asked the Supreme Court to require a prompt court hearing when federal officials seize a person’s property under civil forfeiture law.
The case debated would have taken up the issue of whether federal, state and local officials have to prove someone’s property has been used for illicit purposes before seizing it.
Robert Everett Johnson, an attorney for Serrano, said that while he and his client are disappointed about the denial they will continue the fight against civil forfeiture in the lower courts.
“The nation’s civil forfeiture laws cannot be reconciled with Supreme Court precedent, historical practice, and basic ideas of justice, and the day will come when courts step in to enforce the Constitution,” Johnson said, also calling for action from Congress on the matter.
“If the Supreme Court is not going to act, Congress needs to step up,” he said. “Under the so-called ‘customs carve-out,’ Customs and Border Protection can hold seized property without any statutory time limit. Congress needs to close that loop-hole, and Congress needs to pass comprehensive forfeiture reform.”
Representatives for the Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.