And How Do I Teach My Students About ‘The Rule of Law’

Jeb Bush and his minions just announced they will act preemptively to put Nader on the Florida ballot because hurricane Ivan might make it impossible for an appellate court to hear their appeal against a lower court order forbidding it. Note that currently the odds of the hurricane actually striking where the relevant courts sit is actually very low.

How am I supposed to teach a class about the Rule of Law in the face of this? Bush v. Gore already made me decide it would be a long time before I taught Constitutional law again, but am I to be reduced to teaching Law and Film, where at least everyone agrees the representations are fictions?

[Revised Update: This account at Jurist suggests the ruling may only apply to overseas absentee ballots, not all ballots. Since those have to be mailed by this weekend, and presumably cannot be printed instantaneously, the state may have at least an arguable case for its actions since the injunction against it was stayed by the appeal.

Although Reuters's account of the decision buries this fact, having now re-read it, I think that's all that is going on. The questions, then, are (1) how long it actually takes to print the ballots, (2) whether the state informed the courts of the practical deadline, (3) how quickly the Florida courts can act and (4) whether the State's case has a leg to stand on — for if it doesn't then this action is still pretty rank. My sense of the trial court action was that the challengers had a very strong case under Florida law that Nader did not meet the legal requirement to be on the ballot because his party nomination was a sham.]

Politics News Article | Reuters.com

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials on Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state.

The Florida Democratic Party reacted with outrage, calling the move “blatant partisan maneuvering” by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, and vowed to fight it.

In a memo to Florida's 67 county supervisors of elections, Division of Elections director Dawn Roberts said the uncertainty of Hurricane Ivan, which could hit parts of the state by week's end, forced her to act.

The action came in an ongoing legal battle over whether Nader should be allowed on the Florida ballot as the Reform Party candidate.

Nader, an independent nominated by the Reform Party, was a presidential candidate in 2000 when Bush won Florida, and the White House, by 537 votes over then-Vice President Al Gore. Analysts said most of the nearly 98,000 votes Nader got in Florida would have gone to Gore had Nader not been on the ballot.

Florida Circuit Court Judge Kevin Davey issued a temporary injunction last week preventing the state from putting Nader on the 2004 ballot, siding with a Democratic challenge that the Reform Party did not qualify as a national party under state law.

A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for Wednesday. But Roberts said Hurricane Ivan, which is headed for Florida's Gulf coast, had raised “a substantial question as to when such a hearing” will be held.

'PARTISAN MANEUVERING'

As a result, she said, Florida's Department of State had filed an appeal against the temporary injunction. The appeal application automatically lifts the injunction, allowing the counties to put Nader's name on overseas absentee ballots, which must be mailed by Saturday.

“I'm in disbelief,” said Scott Maddox, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. “This is blatant partisan maneuvering on the part of Jeb Bush to give his brother a leg up on election day.”

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7 Responses to And How Do I Teach My Students About ‘The Rule of Law’

  1. Dem says:

    It’s simple really. Jeb Bush is applying the “Scalia Doctrine”, as introduced in Bush v. Gore. You remember: “due to the complexities … blah blah blah … this case cannot be used as a precendent.” Translation: the rule of law applies except when there is a threat of a Republican losting an election to a Democrat.

  2. Gibbs says:

    Does the hearing to make the injunction permanent go ahead on Wednesday if the weather is good? Is an immediate decision possible or does the Florida Department of State’s appeal complicate matters?

    If overseas ballots with Naders name on them go out — will that affect legal decisions about putting his name on the rest of the ballots?

  3. norbizness says:

    Your honor, I believe there is precedent for this decision… see also Hurricanes v. Gators and Titans v. Dolphins. Also, we’re moving the entire judicial branch to Mobile.

  4. Bricklayer says:

    As a teaching tool, wouldn’t this situation be a great opportunity to discuss separation of powers? Or were you just being sarcastic?

  5. Mojo says:

    In other news, Jeb Bush announced today that he is directing the Florida Supervisor of Elections to add several other names to the ballot because “it’s not completely impossible that they might have qualified for the election at some point and we just misplaced the paperwork or something.” The additional candidates are Bob Kerrey, John K. Kerry, Tim Currey, Karey Johns, the late Harry Karey, and Hillary Clinton. In order to accomodate the large numbers of candidates, Florida intends to use the “Centipede Ballot” format with Republican candidates on one side and other candidates “all scrunched together on the other side since there’s really no difference between Democrats and Greens and Socialists, and all those other so-called parties anyway”. In a related story, the US Supreme court took the unusual step of upholding the Florida Governor’s decision prior to anybody challenging it. Justice Scalia spoke for the majority in the five to “just shut your faces” decision when he said, “In a post-9/11 world, we need to be prepared to be preemptive in our justice.”

  6. Brett Bellmore says:

    I agree that it’s dirty pool, but I get a lot more pissed when the law is violated to keep somebody off the ballot, than to let them run. And Democrats are in no position to whine about ballot access laws being violated for partisan gain, after the hijinks of two years ago.

  7. Well, to teach the rule of law you’ll have to teach about those who flout it, as well…and who knows. Maybe America will wise up and impeach in response to the obvious and constant ignorance of this family to the federal law, and then you have the perfect example of law’s supremacy…did I mention I’m an optimist?

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