Jurisprudence

SCOTUS Is Over It

Alito staring ahead, frowning
Justice Samuel Alito in the Oval Office on July 23, 2019. Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted yet another false claim that his election team had exposed mass voter fraud.

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It was unclear what the initial tweet by @MajorPatriot being amplified by Trump was meant to signify, but it clearly depicted Trump’s recent Supreme Court appointee Amy Coney Barrett appearing to shoot lasers from her eyes.

The implication, at least, seemed to be that Barrett and the Supreme Court’s conservative majority was on its way to bail Trump out of his disastrous postelection litigation strategy.

Within an hour of Trump’s tweet, Republican Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania submitted the final briefing in his request to the Supreme Court to have the presidential election results in his state tossed out—along with, presumably, his own election. Within an hour of that filing, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal, which had been joined by dozens of other Republican members of Congress, in a one-line order with no noted dissents.

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“The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied,” the order stated.

The curt denial was the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the ever-expanding pile of lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results. And, with that, Trump and his allies chalked up their 50th court defeat in the president’s desperate legal bid to overturn an election he lost by 7 million votes and in which he did worse than Mitt Romney and only slightly better than Michael Dukakis.

As election law expert and sometime Slate contributor Richard L. Hasen noted, the case was flawed on every level. “Anyone who thought that the Supreme Court was going to save Trump in THIS case has no experience with Supreme Court arguments or election law,” Hasen wrote.

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Or, as appellate lawyer and analyst Raffi Melkonian put it, the briefings demonstrated that the claims in the case “are beset by nearly every legal obstacle known to law. Bad facts, procedural problems, lack of a remedy, justiciability issues. It’s like a law school exam—but one that is too easy.”

Ultimately, the case was only notable because Justice Samuel Alito had taken it up, set a briefing schedule prior to Tuesday’s safe harbor deadline for states to submit their vote ascertainments to Congress, and referred it to the full Supreme Court to review. That makes it the only one of the dozens of Trump’s mad-dash postelection cases that the court has so far even been willing to consider.

There was little suspense to what the court would actually do with this absurd lawsuit, but in the end Trump’s latest humiliating defeat wasn’t even close.

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