DNC Lawsuit Recap: Democracy Averted

Sued for cheating Bernie Sanders out of the nomination, DNC attorneys argue neutrality is a ‘political promise’

In June 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz were served a class action lawsuit on behalf of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters for rigging the Democratic presidential primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton. It was initially filed in response to documents released by Guccifer 2.0 that corroborated Sanders supporters’ complaints throughout the primary that the DNC was working alongside the Clinton campaign, thereby violating Article 5, Section 4 of the DNC Charter.

One of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, Harvard Law graduate Jared Beck, cited six legal claims in the lawsuit including fraud, negligent misrepresentation, deceptive conduct from the DNC, seeking of monetary retribution for Sanders supporters who donated to his campaign, violation of the DNC’s fiduciary duties in failing to uphold neutrality in the primaries, and negligence for failing to protect donor information.

The lawsuit was initially tied up in court after the attorneys representing the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz affirmed that the suit was not properly served by process server Shawn Lucas, who served a DNC staff member at DNC headquarters in late July. In November 2016, Lucas unexpectedly passed away in an accidental death caused by mixing pain relief medications. The DNC attorneys succeeded in persuading the court that the suit was not properly served. On August 23, 2016, an evidentiary hearing was set for both sides to argue their cases for why the lawsuit should or should not be heard.

The court ruled in favor of quashing the server of process on August 30, but it was properly served on September 2. From that point, attorneys representing both sides argued their sides and the DNC attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Throughout the proceedings, the DNC argued that Sanders supporters were aware that the primaries were rigged and that neutrality is a political promise that cannot be enforced by a court. In October 2016, the court deliberated as Judge Zloch would announce a hearing to deliver his decision of the DNC’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

In large part, the mainstream media has not covered the lawsuit in the six months between the court’s initial hearings in October 2016 to its latest hearing on April 25, 2017. In the latest hearing, attorneys representing the DNC repeated the tone-deaf argument that neutrality is a political promise and that the DNC can do whatever it wants without being legally bound to the charter. The resulting message is that the Democratic Party serves the interests of itself and its wealthy donors and that its voters have no choice but to deal with their totalitarian authority and undemocratic processes.

For Sanders supporters, the lawsuit provides an opportunity for vindication for being cheated and attacked by the Democratic establishment. Now, the DNC is on record arguing that its voters have no reason to trust it to maintain free and fair elections. No matter what the judge ultimately issues in his pending written order on the motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the lawsuit has forced the Democratic Party and Debbie Wasserman Schultz to face responsibility for their actions and be somewhat transparent in how the Democratic Party operates. If the motion to dismiss is denied, the discovery process and testimonies of Wasserman Schultz and other party leaders will expose the Democratic Party’s corruption and the extent to which it provided Hillary Clinton with the party’s nomination. The result will be the Democratic Party will earn a reputation for being corrupt and undemocratic. If the motion is upheld, Democratic Party leaders will still need to provide an answer to their attorneys’ arguments in this case. If the judge rules in favor of the DNC, he will inherently rule that the DNC’s arguments qualify it as an inherently undemocratic institution—a definition Democrats will have to go far beyond symbolic gestures to change.