A federal judge on Saturday dealt a blow to Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election, throwing out a lawsuit in Pennsylvania with an excoriating opinion that cast his legal arguments as shoddy, without evidence and contrary to the US constitution.
The dismissal of the Trump campaign’s lawsuit, which had sought to block the certification of Joe Biden’s win in the battleground state, was the latest courtroom defeat for the president in his unprecedented effort to cling to office despite losing the election.
Judge Matthew Brann wrote in a 37-page opinion that the Trump campaign had sought to disenfranchise almost seven million voters in Pennsylvania, but had presented only “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence”.
“In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more,” he added.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Judge Brann dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning it can not be refiled. The Trump campaign could appeal his dismissal.
The ruling came ahead of Monday’s deadline for Pennsylvania counties to submit their final certified vote totals to Kathy Boockvar, the Pennsylvania secretary of state. The milestone is one of a series that will make Mr Biden’s victory official.
Michigan may also certify its results on Monday, while Georgia, which has a Republican governor and secretary of state, confirmed Mr Biden’s victory in the state on Friday.
The Trump campaign had sued Ms Boockvar and several Democrat-controlled Pennsylvania counties to prevent the state certifying its results. They were joined by two individual voters who attempted but failed to vote in counties not targeted in the case.
Judge Brann had held a hearing on Tuesday where the Trump campaign was represented by Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, after two separate teams of lawyers had withdrawn from the case.
In his opinion on Saturday, the judge cited the case’s “tortured procedural history”, noting that “Plaintiffs have made multiple attempts at amending the pleadings, and have had attorneys both appear and withdraw in a matter of seventy-two hours.”
The Trump campaign’s lawsuit alleged that guidance Ms Boockvar had issued encouraging all counties to help voters correct errors with their ballots resulted in constitutional violations because it was followed primarily by Democratic-run counties rather than those run by Republicans.
Judge Brann dismissed the claim in his opinion, writing that “like Frankenstein’s Monster” it had been “haphazardly stitched together”.
He found that while the individual voters had suffered injuries that would allow them to file a lawsuit, they sued the wrong counties and that, in any case, blocking the certification of Pennsylvania’s presidential election was the wrong remedy.
“Rather than requesting that their votes be counted, they seek to discredit scores of other votes, but only for one race. This is simply not how the Constitution works,” he wrote.
He said the Trump campaign, by contrast, had no standing to sue at all. Judge Brann wrote that Mr Trump’s lawyers had failed to “clearly assert” any injury the campaign suffered, and said its “attempt to craft a legal theory” from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore in 2000 were similarly deficient. “They misapprehend the issues at play in that case,” he wrote.