What is the cause of action?
November 11, 2020 6:44 AM   Subscribe

I am new(ly returned) to AskMetafilter so this question will be brief in hopes of not getting deleted. What possible causes of action are there in U.S. law -- statutory and case law -- for what is happening right now in our country? Any standing for democracy-lovers? YANML, but you have some knowledge about U.S. law.
posted by ponibrown to Law & Government (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Mod note: To possibly add some context, from an email exchange, I think ponibrown is looking for info on ways to use the legal system to oppose the Trump team contesting/sowing doubt about the election results.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:08 AM on November 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am an attorney, but I am not your attorney. This is not legal advice. If you want to exhaustively explore your options in this regard, you should hire an attorney with experience in election law.

I believe Biden is the only party with standing in most of these cases.

One exception would be that if the Trump campaign (or anyone, really) made baseless accusations of voter fraud or election fraud against a specific person, then that person might be able to sue for defamation, depending on state law. See, for example, this case in North Carolina earlier this year.
posted by jedicus at 7:19 AM on November 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I can't answer your question but saw someone mention sedition in another thread re Pompeo's comment about a "smooth transition to a second term." Maybe someone else can explain how a sedition charge could work (especially if the sedition is coming from the highest levels of the federal government...).
posted by pinochiette at 7:44 AM on November 11, 2020

This question is too broad to answer with anything concrete. Very generally, to sue you need standing and a cause of action. Standing requires some type of specific harm to the plaintiff, not a generalized grievance. So, in most election-related cases the plaintiffs are political parties or candidates or perhaps interest groups that have members who vote in particular states where the allegations relate to that state/jurisdiction. So, if you were in state X and you had a complaint that the voting rules in state X were being applied in a way that denied your constitutional rights or violated state law, you might have standing. But, if you are a citizen of some state where there isn't any voting dispute (say, CA or NY or IL regarding the presidential election), you can't sue because you generally disagree with what is happening in some other place.

You also need a cause of action - e.g., the person you are suing violated some law or constitutional provision that is enforceable in a civil lawsuit. Again, a generalized complaint about what someone is doing is not necessarily a cause of action. Are your civil rights being violated? Your state laws? That's the kind of thing you need.

Personally, if you are interested in this type of thing, I would suggest you explore supporting the ACLU or the Democracy Docket folks or others who are active in this type of litigation.

There is no sedition charge that a private litigant can bring.
posted by Mid at 8:22 AM on November 11, 2020 [4 favorites]

Bringing suits in federal courts is expensive and requires expertise. Marc E. Elias, @marceelias(via Heather Cox Richardson ), is worth following, along with his org @DemocracyDocket(high-fives Mid). Example. Follow those folks, and I think they will lead you to other effective people and organizations. The Democratic National Committee, DNC, should have a leadership role here; I am not seeing it. Biden is a fighter, and I am sort of trusting that while he spouts unity, he's fighting the lawsuits.

At current results, the Senate is 49R, 49D (2 Independents caucus and mostly vote D). There are 2 Senate seats in Georgia that are required to have runoff races. Heather Cox Richardson does videos on fb; she described the Georgia Senate candidates yesterday. This GA Senate runoff is going to be a huge battle, a Helm's Deep-scale event. Many Millions of dollars will be spent. One of the most effective organizations in Georgia is is FairFight, founded by Stacey Abrams because Brian Kemp abused his power as Secretary of State of Georgia to basically steal the election by suppressing voters and votes. Pay attention to them, consider donating. FairFight and other organizations turned Georgia blue by registering voters and fighting back on every Voter Suppression front. I am in awe of Abrams, have heard her speak, she should be DNC chair.

You can also check out Protect the Results, they are planning actions.
posted by theora55 at 12:07 PM on November 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is not an answer to your specific question, but it is important for one aspect of our current controversy.

Every four years commentators blame the Electoral College system enshrined in the Constitution for this sort of problems. It puts the focus on a relatively few voters in a few or even one state. It has resulted in several recent instances where a candidate who lost the popular vote was elected because of the Electoral College (Trump and Bush II's election against Gore.)

Historically, the Electoral College was a compromise because states with small populations feared being shut out of the vote by the impact of larger states voting rolls. Now, it acts to hinge the outcome on a few or even one state, generally larger ones with highly polarized voting pools.

As citizens, we need to continue between presidential elections to campaign for a Constitutional amendment that will abolish the Electoral College.

This doesn't do anything about the wanton choices of our current Executive Branch but I think it will help make the presidential election more representative --- albeit in the long run.
posted by tmdonahue at 12:12 PM on November 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

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