The Libertarian Party’s Judicial Committee meets tomorrow in a virtual meeting to discuss whether they will overturn the prior Judicial Committee’s decision from 2011 regarding the ongoing, complicated matter of who the legitimate affiliate for the Oregon LP is.
IPR has written at length about the dispute, and the reader can learn about the 2011 events from this article. There are links in the article to provide history on the dispute prior to the September 2011 Judicial Committee (which I’ll now call JC) decision. The decision wasn’t well received by the members of Libertarian National Committee (which will be referred to from now on as the LNC). Here is an article discussing that.
Moving forward to 2015, much has happened in the interim. The leaders of the losing group, which for now will be referred to as the Reeves group, filed a lawsuit to the Oregon Secretary of State to prove that they are the legitimate affiliate, not the other group, for now called the Wagner group. In May of 2013, a judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying in essence (to this layperson) that the LP should settle its own issues. The decision was then appealed, which is where we are now. The appeal is currently awaiting a decision by a judge.
During the period of time between the 2011 JC opinion and now, much was written on IPR. An interested reader can put “Oregon” in our searchbox, and spend the entire weekend reading about the legal actions, and also the activities of both affiliates. Most of the articles have multiple links within them. Both groups held conventions and recruited candidates. The Wagner group, who had and still has ballot access, ran a record number of candidates in the past couple of elections.
The Judicial Committee elected at the national convention in 2014 recently announced that they would review the decision from 2011. That meeting is scheduled for tomorrow. Both groups have elected new leadership since 2011, and the chair of the Reeves group is now Ian Epstein. The new chairman of the Wagner group is Lars Hedbor.
The chairman of the Judicial Committee is M Carling, a longtime member of the Libertarian Party. He has been part of the Oregon dispute since at least 2011 and is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit which is currently under appeal. There has been discussion among many LP members that Mr. Carling should recuse himself because of what some people perceive to be a conflict of interest. IPR has covered many of the emails and discussions, either in the recent thread about Oregon, or in the thread about George Phillies’ August 2015 edition of Liberty for America. I’ll list them here to continue telling the story.
I may have been the first person who asked Mr. Carling to recuse himself. Here is the email I sent on August 11:
Since you have been involved in the Oregon lawsuit from the beginning, I’m sure you can see that it would be conflict of interest for you to vote in the meeting on Saturday. I’m requesting that you recuse yourself.
Regional Chairperson for the Libertarian Party,
Judicial Committee LPCA
Judicial Committee LP Los Angeles County
Mr. Carling responded fairly quickly:
1. The three lawyers on the Judicial Committee are of the unanimous opinion that I do not have a conflict of interest in the case of Ian Epstein vs. the Libertarian National Committee, either in the legal sense or in the RONR sense.
2. In the hypothetical case that a member of the Judicial Committee would have a conflict of interest, there is no requirement in our Bylaws, in the Judicial Committee’s Rules of Appellate Procedure, or in Robert’s Rules of Order which would require a member of the Judicial Committee to recuse herself.
3. There seems to be no precedent in the history of the LP of a member of the Judicial Committee ever recusing herself.
Despite the foregoing, I will take your request under advisement.
It is unknown whether anyone else wrote to Mr. Carling. However, we know that Nicholas Sarwark, the chairman of the Libertarian Party, sent this email:
From: Nicholas Sarwark
Date: Tue, Aug 11, 2015 at 9:40 PM
Subject: Judicial Committee Meeting to be held on August 15th
To: (List of Judicial Committee members)
Dear Mr. Carling and other members of the Judicial Committee,
I recently received notice that there will be a meeting of your
committee held on August 15th to “consider the case of Ian Epstein vs.
the Libertarian National Committee and to consider rescinding or
amending something previously adopted in the related case of Wes
Wagner vs. the Libertarian National Committee.” This was the first I
had heard that your committee had agreed that Mr. Epstein’s petition
was valid and fell under the specifically enumerated list of matters
the Judicial Committee could consider pursuant to Article 9, Section 2
of the Bylaws, which states:
“The subject matter jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee is limited
to consideration of only those matters expressly identified as
a. suspension of affiliate parties (Article 6, Section 6),
b. suspension of officers (Article 7, Section 7),
c. suspension of National Committee members-at-large (Article 8, Section 5),
d. voiding of National Committee decisions (Article 8, Section 12),
e. challenges to platform planks (Rule 5, Section 7),
f. challenges to Resolutions (Rule 6, Section 2), and
g. suspension of Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates
(Article 15, Section 5).”
The only previous communication I had received regarding this issue
was on July 23rd, when I received the following email:
“Dear Mr. Sarwark,
You are named as a potential respondent in the attached appeal to the
LP Judicial Committee. Please also find attached a copy of the
current LP bylaws and the rules of appellate procedure of the Judicial
Chairman, LP Judicial Committee”
I would note that the email copied verbatim above did not include,
“notice that if the prospective respondent(s) desires to respond to
the petition(s) the prospective respondent(s) must do so in writing
within seven days (or promptly, if the request is received during a
National Convention) (“response”)” as is apparently required by the
Judicial Committee Rules of Appellate Procedure, section 2. As I was
not noticed that I was to respond, I did not do so.
If I had been noticed, I would have responded that Mr. Epstein’s
demand that I recognize his group as the affiliate of the Libertarian
National Committee in Oregon and my subsequent declining to accede to
that demand was not a suspension of an affiliate party, since his
group was not currently the affiliate pursuant to the prior decision
of the Judicial Committee. Him sending an email does not magically
make his group the affiliate and then suspend that affiliate, creating
standing to appeal to the Judicial Committee and force a change in the
affiliate party out of whole cloth. There needs to be an action of
the LNC that falls under the specifically enumerated list of Judicial
Committee subject matter jurisdiction to have an appeal, not the
routine email correspondence of the Chair. As to the substance of Mr.
Epstein’s demand, my response speaks for itself.
If the Judicial Committee does intend to consider Mr. Epstein’s
petition and/or to reopen the decision from two terms ago, I would ask
that Mr. Carling recuse himself from any consideration.
As I am certain all members of the Judicial Committee are aware, Mr.
Carling is a member of Mr. Epstein’s group. Mr. Carling acted as
Chair Pro Tem during the 2013 convention of Mr. Epstein’s group. Mr.
Carling was elected as a member of the Judicial Committee of at the
2013 convention of Mr. Epstein’s group. Mr. Carling was elected as
Chair of the Judicial Committee of Mr. Epstein’s group after the
adjournment of their 2013 convention. Mr. Carling was re-elected to
the Judicial Committee at the 2014 convention of Mr. Epstein’s group.
Mr. Carling again acted as Chair Pro Tem at the 2015 convention of Mr.
Epstein’s group at which Mr. Epstein was elected Chair. Mr. Carling
is a named plaintiff in the case of Reeves et. al. v. Wagner et. al.,
County Circuit Court No. CV12010345) and is an appellant in the
pending appeal of the dismissal of that case by the circuit court (CA
As a member of Mr. Epstein’s group who has previously acted in
leadership roles at convention and presently is a member of that
group’s Judicial Committee, as well as a plaintiff in a lawsuit
against Mr. Wagner’s group that was dismissed and is presently on
appeal, Mr. Carling would benefit from a Judicial Committee ruling in
favor of Mr. Epstein’s group or a reconsideration of the previous
Judicial Committee ruling that recognized Mr. Wagner’s group. His
position as plaintiff and appellant would be improved by a ruling from
the Judicial Committee that would strengthen his case.
For the above reasons, I ask Mr. Carling to recuse himself from any
decision on whether Mr. Epstein’s petition is valid and falls under
the specifically enumerated list of subject matter jurisdiction of the
Judicial Committee, and also ask him to recuse himself from
consideration of Mr. Epstein’s petition or reconsideration of the
petition from Mr. Wagner from two terms ago.
Yours in liberty,
Nicholas J. Sarwark
Chair, Libertarian National Committee
cc: members of the Judicial Committee; the LNC Business list.
I received another email from Mr. Carling on the evening of the 12th:
Ms. Pyeatt and fellow members of the Judicial Committee:
I owe all of you an apology. I did not recall correctly the details of an email sent more than a year ago, when there was discussion during the election for Chair of the Judicial Committee about the possibility of a case concerning the ongoing dispute in Oregon.
One of the lawyers serving on the Judicial Committee only opined regarding the second numbered point below (that recusal is not required) and has not opined on the first point (whether or not a conflict of interest might exist). I should have re-read that email before answering Ms. Pyeatt.
With my sincere apologies,
I was unable to determine who the attorneys were who do not think Mr. Carling has a conflict of interest, and as a result, was unable to ask for comment.
As of this writing, it appears the virtual meeting will go on as planned.
Update: The draft minutes of the Judicial Committee meeting held on August 15, 2015 were posted by George Phillies in an IPR comment written on August 15, 2015 at 6:39 pm:
The draft minutes, all committee members being present.
Rule limiting debate to speaking twice per day on the same topic suspended by unanimous consent.
Moved and seconded to Rescind the Judicial Committee decision issued on August 25, 2011, including the amendment issued on September 23, 2011, in the matter titled Wes Wagner vs. the libertarian National Committee.
A point of order was raised on whether or not the motion to Rescind is order. The Chair ruled that Rescind is in order. The ruling of the Chair was appealed. The ruling of the Chair was sustained 4-2, with the Chair abstaining.
A question of parliamentary inquiry was raised on the vote required to Rescind. Because notice was given in the call to meeting and because no member of the Judicial Committee voted in the majority (either of these two reasons sufficing to require a majority vote), a majority vote is sufficient to Rescind.
The votes on the motion to Rescind are 4 in the affirmative and 2 in the negative. Carling: Abstain, Latham: Yes, Linnabary: No, Power: No, Sink-Burris: Yes, Visek: Yes, Wolf: Yes. The motion to Rescind carries. Wes Wagner vs. the Libertarian National Committee, and as amended, is rescinded.
Moved and seconded to dismiss the petition of Ian Epstein vs the Libertarian National Committee. The votes are 6 in the affirmative and 0 in the negative. Carling: Abstain, Latham: Yes, Linnabary: Yes Power: Yes Sink-Burris: Yes, Visek: Yes, Wolf: Yes. The motion to dismiss carries. The petition of Ian Epstein vs the Libertarian National Committee is dismissed.