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Judge overturns ruling that voided Clark County GOP election

Updated September 9, 2021 - 5:53 pm

A District Court judge on Thursday overturned a previous court order that voided an election of a new leadership team for the Clark County GOP.

District Judge Susan Johnson also dissolved a temporary restraining order, dismissed the case and said she questioned whether she had jurisdiction over a battle between factions of the Clark County Republican Party.

“And you guys can all have a nice life deciding your intra-party disputes,” she said from the bench Thursday morning.

The ruling is a major victory for a group that contends it was rightfully elected to lead the county GOP. A dispute over who is in charge of the party ignited a legal fight last month, one that will continue in the wake of the court fight.

After a July 20 meeting to choose new party leadership went awry and did not end in an election, a faction of the party set up another meeting to finish the process.

That July 28 follow-up meeting was conducted on four days’ notice and ended with a faction led by Republican Jesse Law claiming to be elected as the party’s new leadership team.

But the acting party leadership at the time said the follow-up meeting was fraudulent. Last month, they filed a lawsuit against Law and the rest of the group that argued it had been elected.

District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ruled last week that the follow-up meeting was improperly noticed and that the election did not count. She said a new election would be held during a party meeting on Sept. 21.

After that ruling, Law said in an email to supporters that his side was working to “correct the court’s decision.”

“Flies at the picnic, everybody,” he wrote. “Just be patient and remember: everything happens for a reason and God is in charge. The path and the victory are Always His. The actions are ours, so let’s keep up the pressure and the fight.”

Law’s faction has said the terms of the outgoing executive board had expired, and that at least 10 percent of the central committee had to meet to elect new officers.

Party lawyer disagrees

But Mitchell Bisson, a lawyer for the party, has said the belief that all of the terms had expired is misguided, and that the party’s leadership succession plan was followed when former Chairman Dave Sajdak resigned after the July 20 meeting.

This week, the defendants filed a motion to reconsider the ruling that voided the July 28 election. They argued that they had the ability to reconvene the July 20 meeting under party rules because that meeting was recessed.

They also argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over party matters.

Gonzalez ruled that police ended the July 20 meeting amid chaos, but the defendants contend her ruling was based on a misrepresentation by Bisson. The Metropolitan Police Department did not force the meeting to end, according to a letter from Metro lawyer Matthew Christian.

Johnson ultimately ruled Thursday that the meeting was recessed.

Happy with ruling

“We’re happy with the court’s decision,” said David O’Mara, the attorney for the defendants. “We believe that if Judge Gonzalez was told the true facts of the case last week, she would have ruled the same way.”

O’Mara said Law and the slate of officers who were chosen on July 28 were validly elected and will conduct the party’s next regular meeting, but the acting party leadership that filed the lawsuit said Law is not in charge of the party.

On Wednesday, Bisson called the defendants’ argument against him an attempt at misdirection. He said whether the July 20 meeting was recessed or terminated by police was a “distinction without a difference.”

Under either circumstance, he said, the July 28 meeting was improperly set.

In a text message after Johnson’s ruling, Bisson said his side was disappointed with the court’s decision and is considering its options.

“What is important to note, is that the judge dissolved the injunction on the basis that she doesn’t feel she has jurisdiction, not because we are wrong on our position or analysis,” he said.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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