Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) online interview with Washington Post reporter Cat Zakrzewski took a contentious turn when she asked him about his objection to certifying the 2020 election, and he retorted that she shouldn’t try to cancel or silence him.
“Senator, we’re hosting you here,” was Zakrzewki’s memorable reply.
Hawley, along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), was one of the Republican Senators who voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral college win against former President Donald Trump, and was one of the most vocal proponents of the efforts to challenge the election.
“I do,” said Hawley, giving the correct answer — but then he kept talking. “But let me go back, for just a second,” he began, bringing up Pennsylvania, which he called “the heart of my objection” that he had filed.
Hawley said that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not hear the merits of the claim that the Pennsylvania legislature had violated the state constitution by allowing universal mail-in balloting, describing it as “declin[ing] to hear it, they dismissed it, on a procedural ground called laches, and they violated their own doctrine in doing so.”
To clarify, “laches” is a defense to a plaintiff’s lawsuit that the plaintiff showed a lack of diligence and unreasonably delayed in bringing their claim, and to allow them to pursue it now would be unfair or unjust to the defendant. It’s a basic concept taught during the first year of law school. Common reasons to invoke laches are because witnesses or evidence are no longer available, circumstances have changed, or the defendant has made economic decisions relying on the status quo.
In the specific example of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, the state supreme court ruled unanimously that if the plaintiffs wanted to object to the expansion of mail-in voting, the time to do so was when the bill was originally passed, or, at minimum, before the election was conducted.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court (among multiple other courts on this specific issue and other similar challenges arising from other states) ruled that the lawsuit filed after the election had already taken place (and about a year after the bill became law) was just far too late, and the plaintiffs would never be able to show why they should be granted such an extraordinary remedy as tossing out the votes of millions of Pennsylvanians.
“They have failed to allege that even a single mail-in ballot was fraudulently cast or counted,” wrote Justice David Wecht in a concurring opinion.
“Senator, Senator, I just want to step in here,” Zakrzewski interjected, “if you’re going to challenge this on saying they didn’t hear the merits of the case, because there was an appeals court that ruled that the case lacked merit, so it’s difficult for a court to rule on the merits when they don’t exist.”
She then attempted to turn the conversation back to Biden being legitimately elected, but Hawley cut her off. “No, no, no, no, you can’t have it both ways, Cat…you can’t say they heard it on the merits and dismissed it, that’s wrong, that’s wrong –”
Again, to be clear, the court did not hear the case on the merits, because once they decided that laches applied — that the plaintiffs had delayed far too long to bring their claim — that meant that the lawsuit was dead on arrival. Laches essentially says that a claim is so unfair and without merit that it shouldn’t even be allowed in the courthouse door.
“No, no, I said the Third Circuit Court of Appeals –” Zakrzewski started.
“Listen, it’s an important point,” Hawley cut her off. “Don’t try to censor, cancel, and silence me here. You raised the issue–”
“Senator, we’re hosting you here,” Zakrzewski replied.
“If you raised the issue, you’ve got to listen to the truth,” Hawley continued, undeterred, “and the truth is the Supreme Court did not hear the merits of the case, they dismissed the case on laches grounds, that’s in violation of their own precedent.”
Once again (sigh), Hawley is just flat out wrong. He’s wrong about what Zakrewski said, he’s wrong about the law, he’s wrong about what the precedent says, and he’s wrong about what the court actually ruled.
Laches means the court tosses the whole complaint in the garbage and there’s no need to even debate the merits of the case.
Seriously, students at every law school in America are expected to know this by the end of their first year. Why can’t this Ivy League-educated Senator figure it out?
“Senator, we’re going to move on,” said Zakrzewski.
Watch the video above, via The Washington Post.
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