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Meehan’s motion to dismiss ballot challenge is quickly made moot

Meehan’s motion to dismiss ballot challenge is quickly made moot

Former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan on Thursday sought the dismissal of a petition seeking to remove him from the GOP primary ballot for Congress—but his motion was almost immediately made moot by an order from the state court hearing the ballot challenge.

A lawyer for Meehan filed a motion for dismissal on the grounds that Meehan had not yet been personally served with the 15-page complaint, filed by Republican supporters of Meehan’s likely Democratic opponent Bryan Lentz. The motion claimed that Commonwealth Court procedures required the petitioners to serve Meehan with the complaint by 5 p.m. Wednesday, but a court order also issued Thursday said that Meehan doesn’t have to be served until 5 p.m. on March 29. It was an early misstep in Meehan’s defense against the ballot challenge, one mocked by Clifford Levine, the lawyer handling the complaint on behalf of Lentz’s supporters.

“Mr. Meehan, in filing this motion, has had something of a premature experience,” Levine told Thursday evening. “It’s completely frivolous. Had he waited a few hours and actually read the Commonwealth Court order, he could have avoided this.”

James Collins, a former Commonwealth Court judge who now works at the law firm Cozen O’Connor and is representing the Meehan campaign, said he hadn’t yet seen the recent court order. But he acknowledged that it “would make my motion moot.”

“But it still doesn’t add any credibility to the petition to remove [Meehan] from the ballot,” Collins said.

However, Collins said he wouldn’t withdraw the motion—”I would expect the court will respond,” he said—a stance that would seem at odds with Meehan’s lament, in a letter to Lentz, that the complaint will waste court resources for “nothing more than a political sideshow.”

In a brief interview, Collins attacked the merits of the initial complaint, which was directly spearheaded by Lentz’s campaign (only registered Republicans can actually seek to keep a Republican off the primary ballot). Collins said he would likely seek a summary judgment—a ruling against the complaint that forgoes a full trial on the matter.

“[Lentz] has taken the fact that there may be two or three bad signatures on the page,” Collins said, “and taken the position that you should then strike the whole page. That’s not the law.”

He also took issue with the fact that Lentz also spurred ballot challenges against his two Democratic opponents, a move that would leave him as the sole candidate on the ballot of all three challenges succeed.

“What he’s saying to the court is ‘I don’t want to run against anyone, you should ordain me the congressman,'” Collins said. “It’s ridiculous. That’s an oligarchy. I’m looking forward to aggressively challenging these allegations.”

In response to Collins’ comments, Lentz campaign manager Vincent Rongione said “we simply ask that all candidates comply with the law.”

The court filing came in the midst of an action-packed afternoon. Four Republicans accused by the initial complaint of wrongdoing in how they gathered signatures held a press conference in Media, and the Lentz campaign quickly assembled a conference call for reporters with one 7th District resident who says her signature was forged on one of Meehan’s nominating petitions.

An initial hearing on the complaint is scheduled for April 14 in Philadelphia.

March 18, 2010 at 7:22 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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comments [10] | post a comment

  1. Woman Voter

    Mar 18th, 2010

    Lentz wishes to eliminate opponents before the voters have a say, a choice. Why attack members of your own party unless you wish to eliminate that choice?

  2. huw

    Mar 18th, 2010

    Meehan is allowing himself to be defined by his opponent. Whether he likes it or not Meehan is becoming the new Curt Weldon, the Delco gop incumbent candidate in a year not good for incumbents. The damage here is not whether the suit gets thrown out or not, it’s the association of Meehan to well known County Pols, Judge, Summers etc. Meehan has run a passive campaign and failed to rise to the early campaign challenges. He’s basically stayed in his corner and pooped his pants.

  3. David Diano

    Mar 18th, 2010

    If Collins doesn’t understand the conditions under which the entire petition page can be struck, then Meehan should really get a better lawyer.

    If there are forgeries, then the circulator’s affidavit is false, thus the entire petition is no good.

    I suspect that if the Lentz campaign compared the unmatched signatures of the circulators and their signatures appearing in the petition, that one scenario is very likely: The petitions were turned in without the circulator section filled in then someone else filled them out (which would be a no-no for the notary who is supposed to witness the signatures).

    I suggest that the Lentz campaign compare the signatures in the circulator section to one another to see if different names were signed by the same hand. Also, look at the address fields, particularly the numbers, for similarities.

  4. Woman Voter

    Mar 18th, 2010

    Meehan really wanted that other position–the Republican nomination for Governor, so he is perhaps displeased about being in the race he is in.

    Lentz doesn’t want Democratic Party voters to choose between himself and other candidates. He is not comfortable facing other Democrats.

  5. Brett

    Mar 18th, 2010

    What it shows is that Meehan’s heart in not in the race, which other than name recognition, may cause to him to lose, don’t fault Lentz for being on top of his game.

  6. whynotus

    Mar 18th, 2010

    Really odd for collins to make the mistake he did with the service issue…as a former judge on that court he should know better. also it is troubling that meehan’s team is looking to avoid an airing of the complaint in court and looking to use procedural trickery to get out from underneath scrutiny of the allegations…why?

  7. David Diano

    Mar 19th, 2010

    why? because it’s probably even worse than the complaint and may affect other petitions for other candidates.

  8. P. O'Neill

    Mar 19th, 2010

    Dan, your website is quickly becoming a tool for the Lentz campaign. Instaed of just regurgitating Lent’s mouthpiece’s attacks, why don’t you get some commentary from a credible election law attorney on this matter. If you did, you would find out that the attack is baseless.

  9. Woman Voter

    Mar 19th, 2010

    Lentz’s military background does not make his worldview complete. War over resources is not the path to follow.

    Attempting to remove other Democratic candidates in the 7th District may be within the law, but it reduces the choices available to voters and squelches necessary discussion.

  10. md

    Mar 20th, 2010

    If you don’t like the rules don’t play the game. I find it hypocritical for candidates to say we should allow EVERYONE to have a “voice” and run for elected office. You have a voice, it’s called voting. In order to be a canidate, you need voters to support you. The rules state that you must get a certain number of valid signatures to demonstrate that (1) you have support from actual voters in your district and (2) you can follow rules/laws. Don’t we have enough corrupt politicians who come to believe they are above the law, after gaining our trust and support, then betraying it. If you start off the process by breaking the law, how are the citizens supposed to fathom that you will abide by laws and ethics once a candidate secures the power of elected office. Get real and get valid signatures!

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