Thursday, December 25, 2014

Supreme Court won't hear Ralph Nader's challenge to litigation fees in Pa. ballot case

Former presidential candidate still owes about $60,000 to Pa. law firm

Ralph Nader ran for president as an independent in 2004. (Jonathan Wilson/Inquirer)
Ralph Nader ran for president as an independent in 2004. (Jonathan Wilson/Inquirer)
Story Highlights
  • The Supreme Court has ruled that Nader still owes $60,000 to the lawyers who got him kicked off the Pa. ballot.
  • Nader’s name didn’t appear on the 2008 Pa. presidential ballot after the validity of signatures on his nominating papers was challenged.
  • Nader says such rulings pose a burden on minor-party candidates.

Nearly a decade after the 2004 presidential election, Ralph Nader is still on the hook for about $60,000 owed to the lawyers who got him kicked off the Pennsylvania ballot.

That's the effect of a Supreme Court order this week. The high court declined to hear Nader's challenge to the fees.

Nader ran for president as an independent in 2004, but his name didn't appear on the Pennsylvania ballot after the validity of signatures on his nominating papers were challenged.

The candidate fought the challenge in court, lost and was ordered to pay $81,102.19 in litigation fees to the firm that handled the case, Reed Smith.

Nader's running mate, Peter Camejo, reached a $20,000 settlement and Nader was to pay the balance.

Nader tried in Pennsylvania courts to get the litigation-fee judgment set aside, but the award was repeatedly affirmed. Reed Smith pursued Nader when he refused to pay the costs and went after assets he held in D.C.-based banks.

Last May, the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that enforced the Pennsylvania judgment. Nader appealed to the Supreme Court, which denied his writ of certiorari earlier this week in an unsigned order.

Nader contends that Pennsylvania court decision ordering him to pay the fees was the first time in U.S. history a political candidate was ordered to pay such costs.

He says such rulings pose a burden on minor-party candidates.

"Requiring candidates to pay litigation costs to private parties who challenge their nomination petitions is no different from requiring voters to pay poll taxes," Nader said in a statement this morning. "Time and again, the Supreme Court has held that states may not impose mandatory financial burdens on candidates or voters as a condition of their participation in elections."

The Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to take up his case: It declined to hear Nader's appeal of the decision concering the signatures' validity, and also declined to hear Nader's appeal of the $81,000 award to the law firm.

Nader had argued that he should have been allowed to introduce evidence that the judgment was "unlawfully procured," court records say.

He claims public money was used in the effort to get him off the Pennsylvania ballot. During the Bonsugate investigation of state workers misusing taxpayer money, testimony emerged that a Reed Smith attorney knew state employees were involved in the effort to challenge Nader's nominating petition, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette account of a hearing in the D.C. court.

He also asserted that he should have been allowed to show that Reed Smith made contributions to five of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices who voted to affirm the award and that the law firm was representing the state high court's chief justice in an ethics investigation while Nader's case was before the court, among other claims.

Nader says he should have been allowed to present that evidence in his defense. Courts rejected that arguments, however.


Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or ebabay@philly.com. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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