WASHINGTON — Texas’ effort to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory has prompted a legal war between the states, as Supreme Court filings poured in on Thursday.
Six fellow Republican attorneys general asked the court to let them join Texas’ Ken Paxton in challenging the outcome in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Paxton and the others joined President Donald Trump at a private lunch in the Cabinet Room. Trump has also asked to join Texas as a plaintiff in the effort to nullify 10.4 million votes in states he lost.
Paxton filed the lawsuit late Monday and by Thursday afternoon, 21 states – including four led by Republican governors – had filed objections with the Supreme Court arguing that it would be unconstitutional, unfair and outrageous to disenfranchise tens of millions of voters who cast ballots under procedures they’d been told were perfectly valid.
Texas’ allegation is that the governors or courts in the four states at issue had unlawfully expanded mail-in voting, usurping a power reserved solely for legislatures. Paxton, who co-chaired Lawyers for Trump for the president’s reelection campaign, asked the court to let the legislatures substitute their choice of electors for the 62 collected by Biden as a result of winning more votes in each of those states.
Since Republicans control those four legislators, that would presumably turn Trump’s decisive ouster into a court-ordered victory and a second term.
“Texas’s request to disenfranchise tens of millions of voters who reasonably relied upon the law at the time of the election does great damage to the public interest,” Pennsylvania argued in a response filed Thursday afternoon. “Nothing in the text, history, or structure of the Constitution supports Texas’s view that it can dictate the manner in which four sister States run their elections, and Texas suffered no harm because it dislikes the results in those elections.”
The Supreme Court has not decided whether to hear the case yet.
Constitutional scholars and experts in election law view Texas’ arguments as outlandish.
But Paxton got reinforcements on Thursday when the attorneys general of Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah – all Republicans – asked the court’s permission to join Texas as a plaintiff.
All six were among the 17 GOP-controlled states that filed a friend of the court brief supporting Texas’ allegations on Wednesday.
“The joining states agree with Texas: the defendant states exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to justify unlawfully enacting last-minute changes and ignoring both federal and state election laws, thus skewing the results of the 2020 General Election,” Paxton’s office said.
States are nearly evenly divided: 20 states and the District of Columbia filed a motion opposing Texas’ lawsuit, including three led by Republican governors, Maryland, Vermont and Massachusetts. Ohio, also led Republicans, filed a separate objection.
Ohio attorney general David Yost – like Trump and Paxton, a Republican – filed a motion Thursday urging the Supreme Court to reject Texas’ request, saying it twists the meaning of the Constitution’s “Electors Clause” that empowers state legislatures to decide how electors are chosen. Ohio agreed that courts and governors could, in theory, go too far interpreting or implementing such edicts.
But, Ohio argued, “the relief that Texas seeks would undermine a foundational premise of our federalist system: the idea that the States are sovereigns, free to govern themselves. ...The courts have no more business ordering the People’s representatives how to choose electors than they do ordering the People themselves how to choose their dinners.”
Republicans are sharply divided about the effort, too.
U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Austin, a conservative Republican who served two years as first assistant attorney general in Texas, issued a scathing denunciation of Paxton’s lawsuit Thursday, calling it a “dangerous violation of federalism” that would set “a precedent to have one state asking federal courts to police the voting procedures of other states.”
A number of House Republicans intended to file a friend of the court brief siding with Texas. Roy said he could not in good conscience sign on because it “is inconsistent with my beliefs about protecting Texas sovereignty from the meddling of other states.”
Paxton, appearing on Fox Business News, argued that the only way to protect American democracy and ensure that the will of voters is respected is to invalidate millions of votes.
“Whether it’s Donald Trump or whether it’s Joe Biden, I just want to make sure that the right person gets elected, based on what the voters did in this country,” he said.
Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who served as the state’s attorney general before his election in 2002, reiterated his opposition to Paxton’s lawsuit.
“It’s a little frightening to think about the implications” if one state can challenge actions taken by other states, he told Texas news outlets on a weekly call.
Election procedures are controlled state by state. The rules changes that Texas and its allies are challenging now, five weeks after Election Day, were upheld in state courts. Allegations of fraud in Texas’ complaint have been tossed out of dozens of state and federal courts for lack of evidence.
Many of the 18 GOP-controlled states trying to overturn the outcome in the four states Trump lost implemented similar voting rules in response to the pandemic, making their argument hypocritical in the view of University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck.
“The factual allegations Texas makes in its filings are both preposterous on their face and have been soundly discredited by every court that has considered similar allegations to date,” he wrote in an analysis for NBC News. “The notion that it is appropriate for one state to sue another because of dissatisfaction with the results of the election in that state is not just offensive; it is belied by at least one prior case in which the court refused exactly that relief. And allowing Texas to bring a suit like this would inevitably open the floodgates — to California suing Texas over its environmental regulations; to New York suing Florida over its Covid-19 response; and so on.”
“All of this may help to explain why the Texas solicitor general — the state’s leading advocate before the Supreme Court — did not sign onto any of the filings in this new suit,” Vladek wrote.
The attorneys general in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, all Democrats, issued a joint statement denouncing Texas’ effort, calling it an attempt to “disregard the will of the people in our three states.”
Pennsylvania’s filing accuses Texas of holding off on its challenge until it knew the outcome, and that’s too late.
“While Texas waited to see the results, millions of voters relied on the settled rules. Those voters should not be punished for not choosing Texas’s preferred candidate, and Texas should not be rewarded for its unreasonable delay in bringing this action,” the commonwealth argued in its Supreme Court response.
Their counterpart in Georgia, Chris Carr, who chairs the Republican Association of Attorneys General, has likewise blasted the Texas challenge, calling it “constitutionally, legally and factually wrong about Georgia.”
The co-chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Aaron Ford of Nevada, also took Paxton to task.
“This latest lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General, which seeks to undermine the will of voters in states that are not Texas and that will have absolutely no impact on the outcome of the election, is meritless and desperate,” they said in a joint statement.
The remedy that Texas and Trump seek would require the Supreme Court to invalidate millions of ballots cast by voters who followed the instructions given them by state and local elections officials. Disenfranchising voters after the fact on such a massive scale would be unprecedented.
“This is beyond laughable, it is so ridiculous,” said Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens and a former city councilman and state legislator from Dallas. “What makes this so hypocritical is that this desperate grandstanding move is coming from one of the most corrupt politicians not just in Texas, but the country. The move reeks of a blatant attempt to get a presidential pardon.”
Paxton is the subject of an FBI investigation into allegations by former senior staffers that he used the attorney general’s office to benefit a campaign donor. He also has been under indictment for more than five years on state criminal charges involving securities fraud, though presidents can only issue pardons for federal crimes.
All 17 states that joined Paxton’s bid at the Supreme Court are represented by Republican attorneys general: Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.
Trump’s guests at lunch, according to the White House, are attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, along with Indiana’s attorney general-elect. Arizona did not join the amicus filing but in a separate motion, asked the Supreme Court to rule quickly to end any uncertainty hanging over the election.
Biden collected 7 million more votes than Trump nationally. The Electoral College meets Dec. 14 – next Monday – to certify the results. Biden’s electoral margin is 306-232, the same margin Trump collected in the 2016 election and described as a landslide.
(Elizabeth Thompson of the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.)
A 15-year-old boy was killed by his mother’s boyfriend late Wednesday, according to reports from The Summerville News.
Andy Roque Espinosa, 29, of Summerville is accused of attacking the teen with a knife.
Espinosa had been in an altercation with the juvenile, the son of his girlfriend, and stabbed him. When deputies arrived at 23 Williams St. in Lyerly, Espinosa was attempting to render aid to the youth — who had numerous injuries.
The juvenile was transported to Floyd Medical Center by Redmond EMS where he succumbed to his injuries.
The Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are investigating the incident.
MARIETTA — On Monday, one of the most notorious murder cases in recent Cobb County history will be back in the spotlight as Justin Ross Harris begins his quest for a new trial.
Over four years ago, Harris was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of his 22-month-old son, Cooper Harris. Cooper died after being left in the back seat of his father’s car for over seven hours, while his father worked at a Home Depot office on Cumberland Parkway.
Now, Harris and his attorneys will appear at a three-day hearing for a new trial starting Monday. It’s set to be heard in Cobb Superior Court by Judge Mary Staley Clark, who presided over the initial trial.
Out of an abundance of caution as COVID-19 cases spike nationwide, both the prosecution and defense will be appearing in court via webcam. The Cobb District Attorney’s office will be represented by Senior Assistant District Attorney Linda Dunikoski of the Appeals Unit, with Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans assisting if needed.
Harris, meanwhile, will be represented by a team of lawyers led by Cobb attorney Maddox Kilgore, who represented Harris in the original trial. Harris has maintained since his son’s death in June 2014 that the incident was a tragic accident.
Harris’ attorneys initially filed a motion for a new trial early in 2017, saying that the court made a number of errors that prevented Harris from receiving a fair trial. Among those errors, they say, were that Harris was tried for separate charges related to allegedly sending explicit photos to a minor.
The hearing is scheduled to take place from Monday to Wednesday. Sources familiar with the case suggested Judge Staley Clark may not issue a ruling Wednesday, citing the length of the hearing and high-profile nature of the case.
Staley Clark has already met with parties several times over the last few years, most recently in March, when the hearing date was set.
The original murder trial was held in Brunswick, after Harris’ attorneys successfully argued that he could not receive a fair trial in Cobb County.
Since his conviction, Harris has been housed at Macon State Prison.
Dozens of children die from heat stroke while in a car each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A recent documentary claiming to share the untold story of the case, titled ‘Fatal Distraction,’ calls for legislation that would require auto manufacturers to install rear seat passenger detection in cars to prevent children from being left behind.