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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Plays Politics

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In a unusual decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invoked the ancient doctrine of “laches” to toss GOP Congressman’s Mike Kelly, congressional hopeful Sean Parnell, and six other GOP candidates’ lawsuit against the state.

Laches is a legal defense that stops a plaintiff from recovery because the plaintiff was too slow and careless in bringing his lawsuit.

A ruling from a lower court earlier this week barred the state from taking any further action to certify its election results pending a hearing in Kelly case.

But today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Congressman Kelly should have filed his lawsuit shortly after passage of Act 77, which vastly expanded the mail-in balloting to let all qualified voters cast ballots by mail without an excuse. Congressman Kelly filed suit after the election and argued Act 77 wrongfully overrode the stipulations for absentee balloting established by the state’s constitution.

In essence, the court told Kelly and Parnell they were too late — that they should have filed the suit well in advance of the election.

But one requirement in brining a constitutional claim is an “injury-in fact.” That means the plaintiff needs to show he has or will suffer a harm and the injury must be concrete. If Congressman Kelly had brought his suit before the election, the court could have easily (and likely would have) dismissed Kelly’s claim on the grounds that he had not suffered an injury yet.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is playing politics. The Kelly case is excepted to be appealed to the US Supreme Court for final resolution.

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