Judge orders Libertarian Party of Washington State to repay over $16k in legal fees

Posted in the Seattle Times by Mike Carter:

The Washington state Republican and Libertarian parties have been ordered by a federal judge to repay more than $70,000 in fees they were awarded years ago during the litigation over the state’s two-party primary.

The Libertarians, the GOP and the Democrats had joined to sue the state over the “top-two” primary system implemented with the passage of Initiative 872. The parties argued the system was unconstitutional.

Initially, the parties prevailed in trial and at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the state was ordered to pay their lawyers’ costs: $55,097 to the GOP, $37,673 to the Democrats and $16,301 to the Libertarians.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the lower courts and determined the primary system was constitutional.

It remanded the case back to U.S. District Judge John Coughenour. In August, the state asked the judge to recover the fees it had paid out, and Coughenour agreed.

Although the judge granted the motion, he did not set a deadline. Coughenour noted in a ruling Tuesday that the Democrats had paid back their share but the GOP and Libertarians had not. At the state’s request, Coughenour issued a formal judgment against those two parties, which means interest will begin to accrue on the owed amounts until they are paid off.

“The state is merely asking for funds back — funds that it already paid to the Republican Party, and to which the party is no longer entitled,” the judge ruled.

Telephone requests for comment left Wednesday for GOP Party Chairman Luke Esser and attorneys who represented the Libertarian Party were not returned.

19 thoughts on “Judge orders Libertarian Party of Washington State to repay over $16k in legal fees

  1. Thomas L. Knapp

    The Libertarian Party’s reply should be that it will happily give back the $16k … just as soon as the state of Washington gives back all the taxes it has collected from Libertarian voters since it disenfranchised them.

  2. Mik Robertson

    Galileo should know what happens when the judgment goes against you (but it does move).

  3. Rorschach

    Perhaps if the Washington party hadn’t somehow managed to squander over sixteen thousand dollars so quickly this wouldn’t be such an issue. Has it ever occured to a Libertarian organization that money can be used to MAKE MORE MONEY?

    This is a valuable lesson that can be applied at all echelons of the Party and all levels of income and spending. Supporting the party with happy thoughts and wishes with a couple bucks thrown in – such as the fundraising requirement of National Committee members being met out of pocket rather than by any true lucrative activity – is certain to bring doom and failure. The Party is bankrupting itself.

    To the points of the State returning taxes to Libertarians, I wish people were smart enough to simply acknowledge the phrase “Come on, gimme a break!” Your proposed solution is to ignore the ruling of a mutually agreed arbitrator. Sorry, but them’s the facts: You took part in a process, and when it worked against you, you throw a tantrum? Grow up.

    Meanwhile, the tantrum has caused the Court to allow INTEREST to be collected on the unpaid funds. OUTSTANDING. Good work there.

    So now the plan is to involve the State Party in a lengthy and expensive process fighting appeals and contempt of court charges instead of focusing on effective, lucrative actions that might actually gain the movement power, influence, and votes enough to not be “disenfranchised”.

    I can feel people taking us more seriously already.

  4. Thomas L. Knapp

    Rorschach,

    You write:

    “Perhaps if the Washington party hadn’t somehow managed to squander over sixteen thousand dollars so quickly”

    This is the first time I’ve seen the claim that any such thing happened. How do you know that that $16k isn’t just sitting in the party’s bank account, collecting interest?

    “Your proposed solution is to ignore the ruling of a mutually agreed arbitrator.”

    I’d be interested in seeing documentation for the claim that the courts were a “mutually agreed arbitrator.”

  5. Michael H. Wilson

    @ 5 we get “So now the plan is to involve the State Party in a lengthy and expensive process fighting appeals and contempt of court charges instead of focusing on effective, lucrative actions that might actually gain the movement power, influence, and votes enough to not be “disenfranchised”.”

    Please let’s not spread rumors. While I don’t know everything that goes on at least from what I do know no decision has been made and some people are actually trying to improve the situation in the state.

    Thank you,

    Michael Wilson; editor LPWA News & Views and Representative on the State Executive Committee

  6. Rorschach

    @6

    If the money isn’t there, what’s the hold up? As for the arbitrator, seems that as one of the Plaintiffs bringing suit they agreed to have the Judicial system arbitrate, and you would be hard pressed to demonstrate otherwise.

  7. Rorschach

    @7

    What is the plan, then? Obviously you’re not in any position to do something honest. The vast majority of cases that turn out like this end up involving lengthy, expensive litigations. Sorry for my lack of faith in your organization, but you have yet to give me ANY reason to assume otherwise.

    I am hardly requesting to see your financials, but the course of action thus far demonstrated does not befit an organization with either A) the money to pay or B) the intent to do so. In the first case an admission of such would likely have alleviated a goodly portion of the difficulty. In the second, well, that’s contempt of court, pure and simple. And that leads to more court fees, because it would hardly be sporting or in character to simplify the process and reduce costs by honestly admitting guilt.

    So, which is it? Bankruptcy or Contempt?

  8. Carolyn Marbry

    Seems fairly simple and straightforward to me. If the money really IS just sitting in the bank account (which I can’t imagine since the lawyers don’t usually like to wait to be paid), then it shouldn’t be difficult to pay it back.

    In fact, if the party ran up those costs in the lawsuit, it should have had enough in its coffers to cover it anyway.

    In fact, I wonder that the financial nonsense is even news at all. Of more concern to Libertarians, I would think, is this top two nonsense because that really puts us at a disadvantage.

    Just out of curiosity, did national give any support on this, or was this strictly the state party handling this?

    ~~ C

  9. Rorschach

    @10

    Seems to be a problem over there. If you’re not sure about whether or not you actually have the money to do the responsible thing, I recommend flipping a coin to choose a course…

    …then handing it to your lawyer. Better late than never to start a payment plan, and prison wages suck.

  10. Richard Winger

    The Seattle Times story is factually wrong. No one has told the Washington Libertarian Party to repay any money. The Washington Libertarian Party never received any money from the state.

    The money was paid to the party’s attorney. It was never party money. Furthermore, the Washington Times story is also wrong when it says the US Supreme Court upheld the top-two primary. The Court only said the law isn’t unconstitutional on its face, but it might be as applied. That’s why the US District Court in Washington is holding a trial starting in October 2010.

  11. Carolyn Marbry

    That sounds MUCH more likely than the original story, which seemed a bit… vindictive? on the part of the second judge.

    Did the Democrats actually pay for something, then, or is that also in error?

    So you’re saying that all this is essentially fabrication, then:

    “It remanded the case back to U.S. District Judge John Coughenour. In August, the state asked the judge to recover the fees it had paid out, and Coughenour agreed.

    “Although the judge granted the motion, he did not set a deadline. Coughenour noted in a ruling Tuesday that the Democrats had paid back their share but the GOP and Libertarians had not. At the state’s request, Coughenour issued a formal judgment against those two parties, which means interest will begin to accrue on the owed amounts until they are paid off.

    “The state is merely asking for funds back — funds that it already paid to the Republican Party, and to which the party is no longer entitled,” the judge ruled.”

    Good grief, the Seattle Times used to be a good and reputable newspaper back when I lived up there… what happened?

    In any case, looks like all this discussion is for naught until we know more facts.

    ~~ C

  12. Richard Winger

    The state of Washington stupidly paid attorneys fees to the attorneys who represented the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian Parties, before the case was over! This money went straight to the attorneys. No money went to the parties. The payment was crazy because the case wasn’t over. The parties had won in the US District Court and the 9th circuit, so the state just assumed it was not going to get the US Supreme Court to reverse those courts, and paid the money. Much to everyone’s surprise, the US Supreme Court not only took the case, it reversed the lower courts.

    So, the state said to the attorneys, “We want our money back”, and the Democratic attorney gave it back. The Libertarian attorney and the Republican attorney said, in effect, “Let’s wait until the case is completely over; the as applied challenge still lies ahead.” But now the court is saying to those attorneys, “No, pay the money back.” None of this is party money. It’s a dispute solely between attorneys and the state government.

  13. Michael H. Wilson

    Richard thank you for the clarification. I certainly don’t know all the details and I just hope we can avoid rumors.

  14. Marc Montoni

    Rorschach what “mutually agreed arbitrator are you talking about?

    The state effectively put it boot on the neck of the LP with the Top Two law.

    What in the hell other arbitrator was the Party supposed to go to that the state would agree to?

    Professional Arbitrator: “Excuse me, Mr. Governor, I’m Well-Qualified Professional Arbitrator with the long-established Executive Arbitrator Service, and the Libertarian Party is requesting you come to the table to listen to its grievance that you’ve essentially outlawed it.”

    Statist Governor: “Well, I’m Statist Governor and before I even give you a chance to remove yourself from my office, I’m going to have my Capitol Police beat you to a pulp, and then drag you away after Tasering you for at least 60 seconds. Any other stupid questions? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!”

    Only by going to court could the state be challenged. The Party chose to use the only available option.

    As Mr Winger has demonstrated, perhaps you’re a bit too eager to jump on the LP.

  15. John P. Slevin

    Unless it’s been added quite recently, in WA. one doesn’t register to vote by party.

    So, there really is no way to say how many dollars Libertarian taxpayers have paid.

    Whoever represented the LP probably earned that money (though I wouldn’t know).

    I’d suggest you keep your attorneys whole; you never know when you’ll need them but you know you will need them.

    So you make sure the attorneys don’t take it in the shorts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *