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 pa2010.com 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