Judge threatens contempt in Utah GOP lawsuit over ‘Count My Vote’ law

Posted at 2:11 PM, Oct 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-18 16:15:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge is threatening to hold an attorney for the Utah Republican Party in contempt over missed deadlines in the ongoing lawsuit over the so-called “Count My Vote compromise” law.

However, the Utah GOP points out the state is missing deadlines in the case, too.

In an order issued last week, U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer gave Utah GOP attorney Marcus Mumford a Tuesday deadline to explain why he should not be held in contempt or be disqualified from the case, claiming there have been 17 missed deadlines.

Read the judge’s order to show cause:

But in his own filing, the Utah Republican Party’s attorney said lawyers for the Utah Attorney General’s Office “are shameless in seeking to have this Court enforce a 4:30 p.m. deadline on certain filings that they themselves have violated, repeatedly, without leave of court, and without even acknowledging those matters to the Court in their motion to strike.”

Mumford said he agreed to allow the state to extend deadlines in the lawsuit, but the favor has not been returned.

“The Court must also realize how Plaintiff’s counsel has been constrained by the different incentives at play from engaging in tit-for-tat. But this cannot continue. Plaintiff Utah Republican Party (the “Party”) urges the Court not only to deny Defendants’ motion to strike, but to sanction (assistant Utah Attorneys General David) Wolf and Parker (Douglas) for their lack of candor and gamesmanship, all put forward for the purpose of misdirecting the Court’s attention from their own more serious and substantive violations of the rules,” he wrote.

Read the Utah GOP’s response:

Court records show that in an order issued Friday afternoon, Judge Nuffer rejected the state’s motion to strike the Utah GOP’s most recent filings. Nuffer did stick with the Tuesday deadline for the Republican Party to explain missed deadlines.

The Utah GOP is suing the state over Senate Bill 54, known as the “Count My Vote compromise” law, that changes the way political candidates can get on the ballot in the state. In response to a ballot initiative known as “Count My Vote,” lawmakers created the law that allows candidates to get on the ballot if they gather enough signatures — skipping the caucus/convention system preferred by the Utah GOP and other political parties.

The Utah GOP sued the state, contending the new law violates its rights to freedom of association and its ability to nominate its candidates. At one point, the GOP claimed it would not be able to have candidates on the ballot in 2016 if it were forced to comply with the law. The party ultimately did decide, but its lawsuit will continue.