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Perry County Ground Zero, Round II

Perry County Ground Zero, Round II

By Josh First

Perry County, Pennsylvania, may be a deeply rural and tranquil place with just two traffic lights, but it is Ground Zero for the latest battle over your Constitutional gun rights.

The results of this battle have enormous implications for all Pennsylvanians, irrespective of where they live, because any legal holding will eventually apply not just to one county, but all counties and all citizens.

Unquestionably acting on political goals, the three county auditors recently sued the county sheriff, Carl Nace, demanding that he provide the names and addresses of concealed carry permit applicants his office processes. Nace refused, citing state law which seems crystal clear on the subject.

Much has been written here and elsewhere about this lawsuit and its genesis, so I will not re-trace those steps, but it is valuable to report back on where things stand as of yesterday.

Yesterday a hearing was held in New Bloomfield, Perry County’s seat of local government, on the auditors’ lawsuit against Nace. The hearing was intended to give both parties an opportunity to argue their case before a judge. The three county auditors are the plaintiff, and Sheriff Nace is the defendant.

I sat literally front and center in the court room, accompanied by Carl Fox and Jim Lucas, among many other wonderful citizens, activists, and concerned citizens. Carl Fox is president of the Duncannon Sportsman’s Association, and Jim Lucas is an engineer and well known political activist. Both Carl and Jim are involved in supporting Sheriff Nace and determining the background to the lawsuit. Both men believe the lawsuit has political purposes and goals, and is not some innocent procedural cause in the interest of perfect auditing everywhere.

Attorney Joshua Prince represented Nace, and attorney Craig Staudenmaier represented the three county auditors. The auditors were not present, either at the court house, nor at the hearing. Nace sat with his attorney in the court room.

Judge George Zanic sat directly in front of me with a clear line of sight between us, and I hope he wasn’t put off by my large prescription sunglasses, which I wear to keep summertime migraine headaches at bay, even inside. With my new, white, grizzled beard, wrap-around sunglasses, and unkempt end-of-summer hair, several people I already know approached me to learn who I was. One asked me if I was there for “the opposition,” and then laughed out loud when he realized who I was. That beard is coming off today! And yes, this is an indication that I am having a hard time letting go of the fantastic, if exhausting, summer I spent with my wife, kids, and friends.

Judge Zanic boiled down the entire argument to two points, one in each set of motions filed by each party. Zanic appeared most curious and skeptical about attorney Craig Staudenmaier’s assertions and claims about the need for the information, and the deficiency he says the county audit suffers from without the applicants’ names and addresses. More questions were asked of Staudenmaier than of Prince, and those questions for Staudenmaier were more pointed than those posed by the judge to Prince.

The judge was clearly having trouble understanding the plaintiff’s demand, or the need for the demand in the first place.

Citing general auditing standards, Judge Zanic referred to his own experience as a professional and as a former district attorney. Zanic disagreed with Staudenmaier about what information is necessary for any audit, let alone a county audit that was successfully completed by another firm when the auditors failed to do their own.

Prince did an excellent job in all respects, demonstrating a clear and quick knowledge of the governing statute, related laws, and the facts. Prince was articulate, clearly well prepared, and he stayed with Nace after the judge departed; both men answered questions from citizens and reporters.

Staudenmaier was often halting in his explanations, seemingly confused at times, and he argued in circles, often failing to directly answer the judge’s pointed questions. Some of his answers were rudimentary and elicited grumpy mutters from the audience. As soon as the judge left, Staudenmaier shot out of his seat, grabbed his papers, and fled out the back of the court house, through a hallway and door off limits to the audience. He took no questions from anyone in the court room, nor from anyone outside the court house.

Channels 43 and 27 were there, as was the Patriot News. Kudos to reporter Dennis Owens for pointing out that the auditors were not present at their own hearing, which is unnecessarily costing the county taxpayers a lot of money.  Their absence raises questions about just how seriously they take all this mess they have created.

Uniformed sheriffs and deputies from at least 15 counties were in attendance, in support of Sheriff Nace.

The court room was about 85% full.

“I hope to have a decision for you very soon,” said Judge Zanic.

Here is my take-away:

1) A person can draw their own conclusions about the quality or necessity of elected officials who take taxpayer money, who initiate unnecessary and expensive litigation, and who then do not show up in public or even at their own hearing. You cannot kick the hornet’s nest without getting stung, and then complain about it, but that is what these three auditors are doing. What they have said, and what their spokesman attorney Craig Staudenmaier has said, is that these three feel unhappy about the negative reactions their citizens have had over this lawsuit. Some counties do not have auditors, and it seems that the three in Perry County have proven they are either unfit or not needed. Perry County should either eliminate the office of county auditor, or vote these three out of office.

2) Perry County should do everything it can to determine who is behind the auditors’ lawsuit, including determining who paid Staudenmaier. This should be done to determine what political forces are in play (CeaseFirePA? Bloomberg? Soros? The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania? A local elected official?), and why they are present, and also let’s see if the people who started this expensive mess can then be held accountable and pay for it out of their own pockets.

3) Perry County should prepare to recover any costs or legal fees associated with this lawsuit, whether from the three auditors or from someone else who may be accountable. I think that Joshua Prince is representing Sheriff Nace for free, but no one should have to spend time defending someone from a frivolous lawsuit at their sole expense.

 

 

Court testimony proves criticism of Corbett natural gas policy is partisan, unfair

If you have been following the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund lawsuit against the Commonwealth, over its natural gas policies on public lands, then you’ve no doubt been reading the testimony of former political appointees from the Pa Gov. Ed Rendell administration.

The lawsuit is being ably reported in the Patriot News.

Former DCNR secretaries DiBerardinis and Quigley have testified that their boss, Governor Ed Rendell, was the one who dropped the natural gas extraction bomb on the State Forests in his gluttonous rush to gain as much money as he could to fund his wild history-making over-spending.

I won’t bother to repeat their testimony here, but it is not pleasant.  They are not covering up for their former boss.  Instead, they are laying it all out there, describing how the public interest was subverted by greed and political malfeasance.  These are two good men, devoted to the public interest.  Kudos to them.

Here’s the thing: Rendell is a Democrat.

Here’s the thing: Then, and now, Rendell was not roundly criticized for his public land gas drilling policies by the very environmental groups who represent themselves to the public to be non-partisan, fair-minded, honest brokers on environmental policy and issues.

Instead, in extreme contrast, since even before his first day in office, Governor Tom Corbett has been vilified, excoriated, badmouthed, cussed, maligned, and blamed for everything that is wrong, and right, with the public policies he inherited from the Rendell Administration.

And this gets to the point here: A lot of the heat that is created around environmental policy issues is accompanied by very little light.  That is because most environmental issues are innately politicized, and partisan, before a valuable discussion about their merits can be had, in the public interest.

In other words, the by-now old narrative goes like this: Republicans always stink on green issues, and Democrats are always blameless little innocent blinking-eyed babes on environmental issues, even when they are wearing the red devil suit and sticking Satan’s trident deep into the public’s back.

In the interest of good policy, this partisanship must end.  The mainstream media, run by liberals, is only too happy to carry on this unfair, inaccurate narrative.  But conservatives can overcome that if only they will cease ceding the battlefield to the partisan groups who roam it at will.

Instead of cavalierly writing off everyone who cares about environmental quality as an “environmental whacko,” which is the standard conservative reaction, and it is wrong, recognize that environmental quality is important, but what is also important is how one goes about achieving that goal.  This critical policy nuance seems to be lost on most conservatives.

Also, call out the Statists/ Socialists who mis-use environmental policy as a means to achieve their larger Marxist goals of wealth redistribution.  These people are not ‘environmental whackos’, they are anti-American socialists who have hijacked an important issue and commandeered it to suit their larger purposes.

Want to win?  Want good government?  Want fair coverage of political issues?  Then fight back!  Meet these folks on their own battlefield, and defeat them using good policy that is grounded in science and public-interest goals.  The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund lawsuit court room testimony is an excellent place to begin this fight.  It is loaded with ammunition in the interest of honesty, accuracy, and fairness.

 

PA GOP squashes buzzing gnat candidate with atomic bomb

Governor Tom Corbett’s campaign had nothing to fear from primary opponent Bob Guzzardi, a political activist, commentator, business owner, gadfly, and apparently super annoying buzzing gnat, too.

Running on a minimalist platform of leaner and more transparent government, Guzzardi succinctly represents the “Tea Party” damn-the-torpedoes attitude in his $400.00 (yes, that was his campaign war chest) run up the middle against a hulking incumbent’s campaign.  Guzzardi had racked up just one Big Media interview that I know of.  He struggled for traction in political circles.  The likelihood of Guzzardi actually denting Corbett’s armor, much less beating him, was as high as your likelihood of winning the big jackpot lottery – zip.

But that did not stop the incumbent governor’s campaign from doing all it could to get Guzzardi removed from the primary ballot, using PA’s awful election laws.  The first attempt failed, as perhaps the only merciful judge on Commonwealth Court held weeks ago that Guzzardi’s purported bureaucratic red tape filing misdeed was de minimus, and that he would remain on the ballot.

Courts are statutorily directed to try to keep candidates on the ballot, because democracy is best served by voters having choices.  Disqualifying candidates should be a significant hurdle.  Well, as has been increasingly seen in Pennsylvania, knocking candidates from ballots is very easy, too easy.

Today the PA Supreme Court voted Guzzardi off the ballot in what sure looks like a politicized decision that relies on the de minimus crap the lower court did not take seriously.  For those who think Pennsylvania has truly independent courts, stop deluding yourself.

Critics of Guzzardi’s nomination papers mishap need to acquaint themselves personally with this deliberately arcane and completely politicized PA process.  PA’s election laws are a black hole spider web designed to keep people out of the political process.  Look no further than Harrisburg mayoral candidate Nevin Mindlin last year, whose entire candidacy was tossed on the most ridiculous, manufactured, and picayune of excuses.

Mindlin was an independent -minded Republican who had the audacity to buck bi-partisan parasitic politics, and thus was ensnared in faux Red Tape, as anyone in his role was bound to be under the current election laws.

I don’t know Guzzardi. But I do think he’s entitled to run if he wants, and many other states make it much easier to run for elected office, which is good for democracy.

Pennsylvania’s bipartisan establishment deliberately makes independents/ outcasts/ gadflies/ charismatics getting on the ballot either legally impossible or impossibly expensive (the high cost of successfully defending an otherwise legally sound filing).

What Pennsylvanians have now seen is that no matter what a “threatening” candidate does when filing – following the written rules or following the directives of the local elections staff – he is bound to be challenged by his party, and he will probably be DQ’d.  Worse, there’s no disincentive for this behavior (for example, challengers who lose, could be required to pay the candidate’s legal fees).

Ballot challenges delay fundraising, delay volunteers, delay interviews, and cast a shadow over a candidate, irrespective of how cheesy the challenge is. This is bad for the citizens, bad for democracy, and frankly, it is un-American. It is, however, good for insulated party establishments that have turned politics into a self-serving financial enterprise. This has to change.

If I am elected to the state senate in two years, better election law will be a priority. There – that just earned me a 2016 ballot challenge! :-D Bring it, boys! We will be ready and waiting for ya….

p.s. I do not know Bob Guzzardi, despite trying to meet him.  I do know people who know him, or who have met him. Some say he is a valuable muckraker who elevates key issues into the public square.  Others say he is a bored troublemaker who vents his personal dissatisfactions into the political arena.  Either way, I say politics should be “Bring All Comers, and may the best candidate win.”  Guzzardi should have stayed on the ballot; he was no threat to Gov. Tom Corbett.

409

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno won 409 genuine college games.  No one can take that away from him, the players, the team staff, or the proud PSU alumni, like me.

Child molester Jerry Sandusky is a scumbag, but the football program had zero to do with his crimes.  But it was the football program the NCAA punished, disproportionately to any other football program in American history.  Using Sandusky’s association (not employment) with the PSU football program, and Louis Freeh’s horrendously unprofessional report (analyzed in detail on this site) to support its blitzkrieg assault on Penn State, the NCAA coerced PSU trustees and incompetent, spineless top PSU staff to sign the consent decree that unfairly punished the football program.

Enter the courts, where facts actually can matter.  And thus we have courts that are correctly beginning to cast doubts on the entire NCAA punishment of PSU football.  This week a court held that further inquiry is necessary to determine if the NCAA not only operated consistent with its own charter, but also consistent with the facts of the Sandusky case vis-a-vis PSU football.

Daylight is seeping in, and I do not believe that the NCAA will survive the exposure, or the application of basic logic and rules of fairness.

Joe Paterno, my hero, had 409 Wins to his credit.  Those wins remain, no matter what, but hopefully they will soon be reinstated after basic due process for ALL of the victims of Sandusky’s crimes.

Senate ceding its role to president: Chaos

The US Senate has recently changed rules that have helped maintain America’s checks-and-balances system of government for over 150 years.

In the interest of bolstering the executive branch’s incredible reaches for off-limits power, the senate has ceded its role as being a legislative check.  The senate is now an adjunct of the executive branch.

Recent senate rules change allowed radical, far out of the mainstream federal judges to be confirmed.  They in turn go on to help the executive branch implement its unconstitutional actions.

Assuming we get through this crisis without a civil war, what happens if a new president is elected from the other party, and he or she wants to correct the damage done to America, liberty, and democracy over the past five years? When that president employs the same exact methods, will the current party cede the field, acknowledge that politics is a two-way street, and relinquish their rights?

No, they won’t.  They will fight like hell, use their media allies to bolster them in the public eye, and accuse the new party in power of all kinds of contraventions.  Hypocrisy? Yes.  It is the norm in politics, apparently.

If amnesty is granted to 8-10 million illegal immigrants, and they become voters, then the two-party system is over.  America will become artificially dominated by a single party bent on controlling the citizenry through gun confiscation, NSA spying, and more onerous socialism designed to end our capitalistic system.

I, for one, will go down fighting, if necessary.  I hope you, too, will join your liberty-loving fellow citizens and either prevent the country from descending into chaos through successful political work, or prepare to meet that chaos in an organized way.

Nevin Mindlin Endorses Dan Miller for Mayor of Harrisburg

Yesterday, one-time Independent candidate for Harrisburg City mayor, Nevin Mindlin, endorsed one-time Democratic candidate Dan Miller.

Miller is now running as the Republican-endorsed candidate, because he collected over 300 Republican signatures for that position on the ballot. Just in case.

Miller is a strong threat to the Papenfuse campaign that was literally measuring the draperies and assigning executive positions a day after winning the four-way Democratic primary, assuming they had de facto won the general election.

This race is a rare toss-up. What role the elected mayor has vis-a-vis the state-appointed Harrisburg Receiver (Gen. Lynch) is unclear, but at least it is a bully pulpit. The mayor can call for criminal investigations into the Harrisburg Debt Debacle, or he can not do so. Dan is likely to call for investigations, Papenfuse is disinclined.

With just weeks to go until Election Day, it is hard to know how this will end. One thing for sure I do know, and that is how politics makes for strange bedfellows….

Patriot News Editorial on Mindlin’s Toss from Ballot

“Infrequently” best describes how often an editorial by the local newspaper, The Patriot News, would appeal to me on logic, principle, or understanding of the facts. However, independent candidate Nevin Mindlin’s political assassination by both Democrats and Republicans is so notoriously egregious that the Patriot News stated the case pretty well, so here it is:

Commonwealth Court sides with mystery challengers to Mindlin’s candidacy: Editorial
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Patriot-News Editorial Board By Patriot-News Editorial Board
on October 07, 2013 at 10:59 AM, updated October 07, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Nevin Mindlin, the one-time independent candidate for Harrisburg mayor, is a candidate no more. He has been knocked off the November ballot by court rulings based on the mindlessly literal application of a nonsensical state law. With little time for an appeal to the state Supreme Court, he has decided against waging a write-in campaign.

Nevin Mindlin went to Commonwealth Court in September, seeking to get back on November’s mayoral ballot. Friday, the court turned him down.

Though Mindlin was an independent candidate, not affiliated with any party or organization, state law requires him to name a committee that would replace him should he leave the race. That requirement makes sense for a political party, but it makes no sense for an independent candidate. By definition, an independent candidate is independent of organizational structures that would be entitled to claim an independent’s slot on the ballot.

Knowing all that, Mindlin did not name that committee. The Dauphin County elections office accepted his petition, without any warning that his petition had any fatal defect.

None of that mattered to the lower court that knocked him off the ballot earlier this summer. And it didn’t matter to Commonwealth Court, which last Friday upheld the dubious ruling.

Commonwealth Court used a legal technicality to dodge the heart of Mindlin’s case. He said that the state law in question violates a right enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — freedom of association. In this case, the law forces Mindlin to associate with a “committee” empowered to choose some undetermined future candidate who could replace him, when the whole point of his candidacy is that he is independent of backroom-type arrangements like that.

Mindlin’s case is an example of the sleazy, insider political game-playing that fuels public disillusionment with elected officials and government.

The court’s hostility to Mindlin’s arguments also contradicts a well-established principle set by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in election cases. Courts in the commonwealth, when applying the election code, are supposed to construe the requirements liberally, “so as not to deprive an individual of his right to run for office, or voters of their right to elect a candidate of their choice.”

Again, the Commonwealth Court used a technicality to completely ignore those claims under the state Constitution.

Mindlin’s campaign is the latest casualty of ballot bounty hunters, ordinary citizens who mysteriously come forward, armed with expensive lawyers, to press a legal challenge to a candidate’s filing papers.

Hired guns parse signatures for the slimmest possible rationale to disqualify them: using a first initial instead of full name, women whose maiden name and married name are different, imperfect handwriting, stray marks in the signature block.

Even if the candidate survives the challenge, (as third-party Allegheny County council candidate Jim Barr did earlier this summer), he or she has to expend precious time and money fighting in court.

These often-shadowy court challenges to candidates’ paperwork have a corrosive effect on public confidence in the integrity of the election system.

In a comment on PennLive, one reader said Mindlin “must have stepped on the wrong toes.” Another announced, “I won’t be voting for anybody; the best candidate just got bounced.”

Many have wondered who paid the legal bills for challenging Mindlin. But without any public disclosure requirements, the mystery money can remain secret.

All in all, Mindlin’s case is an example of the sleazy, insider political game-playing that fuels public disillusionment with elected officials and government.

Pennsylvania’s legislature could rewrite election law to strike the nonsensical provision that kept Mindlin off the ballot. The legislature could require those filing challenges against candidates to identify how they are paying for all that expensive legal work. The Legislature could lower the unreasonably high barriers now imposed on third parties seeking to get on the state’s ballot.

But as with so many dysfunctional aspects of Pennsylvania’s laws affecting politicians, those who get to make the rules are content with the status quo. After all, they got there by playing by the rules as they are – why would legislators want to change them?

From their selfish perspective, it makes political sense. But from the perspective of the citizen whom elected officials are supposed to serve, allowing ballot bounty hunters so much room to squelch candidates is nonsense.
(from http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/10/mindlin_off_ballot_commonwealth_court_bad_ruling.html#comments)

Sad day for Harrisburg City

Nevin Mindlin will NOT be appearing on the Harrisburg mayor ballot. He issued a press release that took to task the establishments of both parties. Nevin is a threat to the system that fed off of Harrisburg City and the surrounding area. So he was artificially squeezed out in an unprecedented legal move that contradicted established law. Very sad day for democracy and the forgotten taxpayer…

Nevin Mindlin for Mayor files appeal

In a show of strength and commitment, Nevin Mindlin filed an appeal today, challenging last week’s politicized court holding that threw him off the ballot.
If there’s one thing Harrisburg needs now, it’s a strong leader like Mindlin.

Press Release from candidate Mindlin

Harrisburg Mayor Candidate Nevin Mindlin Disappointed but not Daunted
”I will not go away,” he says.
HARRISBURG: Despite a ruling by Dauphin County Common Pleas Court Judge Bernard Coates that strikes Harrisburg Mayor independent candidate Nevin Mindlin’s name from the general election ballot, the candidate vows to stay in the fight to secure a positive future for Harrisburg.
“My supporters and I are disappointed that the court found in favor of a challenge to the validity of my nominating petitions,” he says, “but our energy and enthusiasm have not waned.”
“The resurrection of the old Harrisburg political regime that took our campaign into court does not intimidate us,” he says. Mindlin avers that his main opponent, after winning the Democratic primary in April, is trying to coast to victory. “Instead of campaigning on the issues, behind-the-scenes operations came into play,” which, says Mindlin, “is an effort to divert attention from the need to debate critical issues facing the city, such as crime, blight, high taxes, jobs and education.”
“I have hundreds of supporters who believe I speak for them and who have confidence that I will provide strong, honest and accountable leadership for the City of Harrisburg,” he continues. “They want me to succeed and I want them to be assured that I will stay involved.
In an effort to open the electoral process and to assure voting rights for every citizen, Mindlin is considering an appeal to Judge Coates’ decision. In addition, he will confer with his advisors concerning how to position himself in the upcoming November election. No matter the final outcome, he will continue to demand transparency and meaningful discussion about Harrisburg’s future, going forward.
Nevin Mindlin has a thirty-five year track record of managing large organizations with complex budgets. Active in a number of civic and religious organizations, including Rotary, and Rabbi David L. Silver Yeshiva Academy, he is also a founding member of Debt Watch Harrisburg. Mindlin is an honorably discharged veteran of the U. S. Navy and holds a Master of Arts degree in government with a concentration in urban studies and public policy analysis.