by Tom Fitton –
Put another check in the “win” column for Judicial Watch, True the Vote and election integrity. Because of our historic lawsuit, Indiana has now put into place significant protections to ensure free and fair elections in the state – protections so significant that JW and True the Vote declared victory and ended our legal fight there.
After two years of hard-fought litigation, Judicial Watch and True the Vote announced on Thursday that on June 4, 2014, a District Court judge approved our Motion to Dismiss the election integrity lawsuit against the State of Indiana. This signals a major victory in our efforts to force the state to clean up its voter registration lists and overhaul its list-maintenance procedures.
The Judicial Watch/True the Vote motion came within days after Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson conceded that, “at least one in eight voter registrations contains inaccurate information.”
To address the matter, on May 21, Ms. Lawson announced via a press release that her office would send out address confirmation postcards to 4.4 million registered Hoosier voters in order to “identify outdated and inaccurate voter registration information to improve the accuracy and integrity of Indiana’s voter registration list.” The mailing will cost an estimated $2.1 million and will be followed by a second mailing if necessary according to Ms. Lawson.
In our Motion to Dismiss we applauded the state’s actions and indicated the lawsuit was no longer necessary:
Plaintiffs were pleased to learn that Defendants’ most significant act of NVRA [National Voter Registration Act] Section 8 compliance in several years – the statewide address confirmation mailing to all voters – is now underway. In light of this, Plaintiffs now believe there are more productive uses of their time and Defendants’ time than continuing to litigate the Count I claim over Indiana’s Section 8 maintenance efforts.
In addition to these new efforts by the Secretary of State, the Indiana Legislature has also taken action. After we filed our lawsuit in June 2012, the Indiana legislature passed an election reform law incorporating a number of measures the suit had sought. The July 2013 measure included:
• A provision empowering the Indiana Secretary of State to break ties and decide matters whenever the Election Division Co-Directors “are unable to resolve a dispute between themselves regarding” the Indiana Election Division’s budget, expenditures, or contracts.
• A provision specifying that county officials could remove the names of deceased persons from the voter rolls “after receiving a copy of an obituary, notice of estate administration, or other notice of death” published in a newspaper.
• A provision requiring the Indiana Department of Health to obtain out-of-state citizen death information monthly from the State and Territorial Exchange of Vital Events (STEVE) System and the Electronic Verification of Vital Events (EVVE) System, both administered by the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS).
• A provision requiring the state to obtain the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) on a monthly basis to remove voters who have died and to provide deceased registered voters to counties each month, tasks to be performed by the Secretary of State if the Co-Directors fail to do so.
• A provision requiring the state to provide counties with the names of voters who move each month so they can be removed from the rolls or updated as appropriate.
• A provision requiring the state to use the U.S. Post Office’s National Change of Address (NCOA) Service to identify registered voters who have moved, and requiring the state to enter the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck (IVRC) Program to identify and remove registered voters who have moved from Indiana to other states.
These actions by the legislature followed a precedent-setting December 2012 decision by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Lawrence finding that Judicial Watch and True the Vote members had standing to challenge Indiana’s alleged violations of the voter list maintenance requirements of the NVRA.
Eventually Judge Lawrence ruled that the lawsuit had effectively been mooted out by Indiana’s election integrity reforms that came after the lawsuit’s filing. This decision, coupled with the Indiana Secretary of State’s voter registration list clean-up moves prompted Judicial Watch and True the Vote to dismiss their lawsuit, concluding the litigation.
JW’s lawsuit may no longer be necessary. But it certainly was historic. Our lawsuit led to the first federal court decision granting citizens and non-government groups the ability to sue in federal court to enforce Section 8 of the NVRA.
And why was all of this effort necessary? Why did Judicial Watch and True the Vote have to go to such extraordinary lengths, including filing lawsuits, in order to clean up voter registration rolls?
First, because a Judicial Watch investigation had unearthed a massive problem with fraudulent registrations. Judicial Watch’s examination of data published in 2013 capturing 2012 voter rolls and population data showed that at least 11 states plus DC had substantially out of date voter rolls, with multiple counties where the number of registered voters exceeded the total voting age population.
Second, because the corrupt Obama Justice Department, in collaboration with its radical leftist allies, has ignored provisions of the NVRA requiring that lists be clean. And administration officials have been outright hostile to any attempt to protect election integrity.
On that point, Robert D. Popper, Judicial Watch’s senior attorney who served as deputy chief of the voting section at the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that during his tenure the George W. Bush administration in its final three years filed five lawsuits over improper maintenance of voter rolls. By comparison, Popper said, “There’s been not a single lawsuit” from the Obama administration.
You know what Obama has done in terms of nullifying and violating federal immigration law. So I trust you don’t need any more convincing how the Obama administration has been damaging the rule of law on election integrity.
Judicial Watch lawyers stepped into the gap and earned a significant victory in Indiana that can provide a model for the rest of the country.
It took a federal lawsuit to spur the state legislature to reform Indiana’s electoral process and force Secretary of State Lawson to finally clean the badly outdated Indiana voter rolls. Nonetheless, this is a major victory for Hoosier voters as well as voters nationwide.
Obviously, from the public interest perspective, it would have been counter-productive to continue to battle after Indiana gave us what we wanted. We will, however, remain vigilant in case Indiana officials again violate the law and put Indiana’s elections at risk.
And it is shameful that President Obama’s politicized Justice Department won’t do its job and force states to clean up voting lists. Instead, Eric Holder and his allies are fanatically focused on attacking commonsense election integrity measures such as voter ID.
What a disgrace it is that Judicial Watch and True the Vote are required to do basic law enforcement work to clean up elections that the Eric Holder’s Justice Department won’t do because of the administration’s cynical racial politics and radical ideology.
The Obama Justice Department is a clear and present danger to the integrity of our nation’s elections.
Here’s what True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht said in response to the court’s ruling: “Despite the length of time this litigation took to come to an acceptable close, Indiana voters can now rest assured that common-sense voter roll maintenance procedures are in place and working in the interests of all. True the Vote hopes this episode serves as a strong example for the power that regular citizens have in demanding their rights as voters be protected.”
But there is still much to be done.
According to the Pew Report published in 2012: “[N]early 2 million dead people are still registered to cast ballots, about 3 million eligible to vote in two or more states and millions more that are inaccurate, duplicate or out of date. The alarming figures were published this week in a report issued by the non-partisan Pew Center on States. It reveals that approximately 24 million active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or have significant inaccuracies. The problem, apparently, is an outdated registration system that can’t properly maintain records.”
We are pleased that our lawsuit forced the State of Indiana to fix its broken system for protecting the integrity of the electoral process. Leading Judicial Watch’s and True the Vote’s representations in court were Judicial Watch attorneys Paul Orfanedes and Chris Fedeli, and Election Law Center attorney J. Christian Adams. David Langdon and Joshua Bolinger of Langdon Law, LLC served as local counsel. All of them should be congratulated for their fine work. You should know that we have dedicated staff, brave clients (like True the Vote), and other partners who enable us to fulfill our mission to hold the government to account. I am privileged to be able to report the results of their fine work to you.
And, Judicial Watch wouldn’t have a dime to do any of our work on election integrity, immigration, the IRS, Benghazi, were it not for the voluntary support of hundreds of thousands of patriotic Americans. So I am happy and excited to ask for your support! Want to help us keep these election integrity successes rolling? Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution. Liberals will not stop their assault on clean elections, an effort aided by the president’s reckless disregard for immigration laws (more on that below). And we must man the legal ramparts for the rule of law. Click here to support our campaign.
Border Chaos Leads to Crime Wave
As the Obama administration continues to encourage, in a despicable disregard for human dignity, the herding of illegal aliens across the border, violent crime is exploding on the nation’s southern border, according to a new Department of Justice report. Our own Irene Garcia published the story on our Corruption Chronicles blog:
Crime is so high along the Mexican border that nearly half of all the criminal cases filed by federal prosecutors in the United States last fiscal year were concentrated in a handful of districts located in that region, according to the U.S. government’s figures.
It’s not as if this is new, but to see it spelled out in a government report with a detailed breakdown is truly alarming. The statistics illustrate that the Mexican-border region is a cesspool of crime that’s costing American taxpayers a chunk of change not to mention loads of grief. There are 94 federal court districts in this country and the five located near the southern border see a large portion of criminal cases, according to the Justice Department’s annual report on criminal prosecutions. The five federal districts also have the biggest number of defendants actually convicted of federal crimes.
Immigration crimes account for 38.7% of all federal cases. (The raw numbers: 23,744 criminal immigration cases were filed by the feds.)
While the nature of the crimes committed might not come as much of a surprise, Irene notes, “the problem has escalated at an alarming rate in the last few years. Last spring Judicial Watch reported that violence in the region has gotten so out of control that both Mexican and American journalists have largely stopped reporting it out of fear that drug cartels will retaliate against them and their families.”
There are some places where even Border Patrol has been told not to tread, lest they get shot and start an international incident.
No wonder Border Patrol morale is at an all-time low. National Review Online reported the spike in crime has decimated morale within our nation’s Border Patrol Agents, who must risk their lives arresting illegal alien criminals, and then watch helplessly as gang members leave their custody and enter American society.
Teenage criminals and gang members from Central America have been using “a loophole” to stay in the country, border agent Chris Cabrera revealed. Under current policy, unaccompanied minors are allowed to stay in the country if they have family in the United States and say they have none in their home country, regardless of their background.
“Even if he is a confirmed gang member, a confirmed criminal, even by self-admission, we for some reason don’t send them back to their home country – we release them into our country,” Cabrera said. [Emphasis added.]
Mr. Cabrera was being diplomatic. We know full well the “reason” for this nonsensical and dangerous “catch and release” policy, a policy that allows nine of every ten minors nabbed by Border Patrol to remain in the U.S. by Mr. Cabrera’s estimation. And he’s sitting in the White House.
A few years back, frustrated by his inability to shove amnesty through Congress, Barack Obama hatched a scheme to bypass Congress altogether and implement a policy of “selective deportation,” supposedly focusing the efforts of Border Patrol Agents on high priority targets – you know, the real dangers to society.
Well, JW uncovered through an investigation that the Obama administration had a very oddball perspective on the types of characters and crimes which present a danger to society. According to documents JW uncovered, among the crimes deemed non-threatening by the Obama administration: sexual assault, solicitation of murder, aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer, and kidnapping, as well as numerous drug charges.
This was back in the days when “amnesty” was a dirty word and these types of policies needed to be orchestrated through back channels.
Now, Barack Obama and his liberal allies in Congress are out in the open about their desire to effectively eradicate our borders and allow illegal aliens to flood across and take up residence in the United States.
“Our doors are open” proclaimed Democrat Rep. John Lewis. “These are not somebody else’s kids. These are our kids,” said Vice President Joe Biden.
Memo to Joe Biden: Your “kids” are out of control.
As anyone with half-a-brain would have been able to predict, these proclamations (with a little assist from Facebook) have precipitated an influx of illegal immigrants who are coming here to stay – 60,000 by year’s end according to the administration’s own count.
This has become a situation so dangerous that the Marine General responsible for cleaning up the mess said we now face an “existential threat” from the influx of illegals and has pleaded for help in confronting the crisis – to no avail.
This “policy of permissiveness” which started at the top with the President of the United States has since has trickled down to infect every aspect of the entire immigration enforcement infrastructure, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Breitbart.com had the story:
Samuel Nyanteng, 33, was arrested at his home in New Jersey on August 6 for filing false documents and making false statements to allow the Ghanaian, who is thus far unnamed in reports, to immigrate to the US.
Nyanteng, Ghanaian by birth and a naturalized U.S. Citizen, has been working as an immigration services assistant at the Newark office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for three years.
Nyanteng was about to be given a promotion until the arrest occurred.
This president has turned stewards of the law into lawbreakers. And this is perhaps the worst thing you can say about a man who put his hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States.
JW’s border investigations, meanwhile, remain full speed ahead. This lawlessness is killing innocents, undermining the rule of law (the precious glue that holds our nation together), and placing the public health at risk.
Not a day goes by that your Judicial Watch is not taking steps to combat this government-created illegal immigration crisis. We are planning new legal actions, in the midst of deep investigations, and are bringing educational and legal pressure to protect our nation as much as our capacity and resources allow.
Judicial Watch Victory! Ninth Circuit Orders 1st Amendment Lawsuit to Proceed
It takes a special brand of courage to file a lawsuit against judges. But that’s exactly what Emmy Award winning producer Leslie Dutton did in order to protect her First Amendment rights. And her courage was rewarded recently with a victory at the appellate court level.
On July 18, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a First Amendment lawsuit challenging a Los Angeles County Superior Court decision. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit and appeal on behalf of Ms. Dutton and the Full Disclosure Network. Ms. Dutton had been denied access to a courtroom to record footage for a documentary, while CNN was granted access to the same courtroom to record a news report on the same subject matter.
Why was Ms. Dutton shut out? Ms. Dutton and the Full Disclosure Network claim that the denial was based on “illegal viewpoint discrimination.” A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was persuaded that the case could proceed:
The empty courtroom that the plaintiffs sought to access to film their documentary is either a nonpublic forum or a limited public forum … Either way, speech restrictions are impermissible unless they are reasonable in light of the purposes served by the forum and viewpoint neutral … The plaintiffs’ complaint includes enough factual content to permit the reasonable inference that the defendants denied the plaintiffs’ request to access the courtroom because of the plaintiffs’ viewpoint.
It has been a while since I covered this lawsuit, so permit me to provide a little context and back story.
Ms. Dutton and Full Disclosure Network have been seeking access to the courtroom, located in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, since 2011. The documentary, entitled “The Cost of Courage,” features narration by Ed Asner and concerns Richard I. Fine, a 70-year old disbarred California lawyer who was held in solitary confinement for 18 months in Los Angeles County’s notorious Men’s Central Jail for civil “coercive” contempt stemming from his efforts to expose a “double dipping” compensation scheme involving Los Angeles County judges.
(Judicial Watch, you will recall, has also challenged Los Angeles County judges in court for receiving perks and benefits from the County that they are already receiving from the state – at a significant cost to taxpayers, some $24,661,923 in 2013 alone!)
Ms. Dutton and Full Disclosure Network sought access to the courtroom for approximately 30 minutes, “any day the courtroom is empty, at any time,” in order to record eye witness interviews and read from a transcript of proceedings in Fine’s civil contempt case, which took place in the courtroom.
Now, why do we say that the denial of access to the courtroom constituted “illegal viewpoint discrimination?” Because Ms. Dutton and the Full Disclosure Network had been highly critical of both Fine’s lengthy incarceration and the “double dipping.” How else to explain how CNN was allowed access by the courts and not our clients?
In March 2012, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Dutton and Full Disclosure Network in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
In the lawsuit, Judicial Watch argued that the Los Angeles County Superior Court “has a long-standing practice of making courtrooms available to members of the media for filming, including filming news reports about cases of public interest, when the courtrooms are not being used for public proceedings” and that the Dutton/Full Disclosure request had been rejected without explanation on multiple occasions even though a nearly identical request by CNN had been granted. The District Court dismissed the lawsuit on June 20, 2012.
As a result of the reversal, the Los Angeles County Superior Court will now have to defend its decision to allow CNN to report from the courthouse on Fine’s case, while barring Ms. Dutton and Full Disclosure Network from doing so.
This is a clear-cut victory for the freedom of speech. It’s rather extraordinary to have to file a lawsuit against a court, and this case shows that even courts are not beyond the protections of the First Amendment. Courts can’t arbitrarily pick and choose between news media outlets depending upon how they report on a story.
Ms. Dutton was obviously pleased with the court’s decision: “We are elated with the ruling. Not only will we have the opportunity to prove our case in court, but we are one step closer to completing the documentary we envisioned.”
This is an example of one Judicial Watch case that may not get a lot of media attention but deserves it. How wonderful it is live in a country where we can use our court system to hold the judiciary accountable to the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution. There is good reason to worry about the future of our country, but this one lawsuit in California (and, I proudly say, Judicial Watch’s record of achievement) shows that all is not lost and that there is a way forward.
Tom Fitton – President