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Hearing on Clark County GOP order reaches murky conclusion

Updated December 7, 2021 - 5:16 pm

The central issue in the case of two bickering factions of the Clark County Republican Party might remain in legal limbo, even after a judge decided on Tuesday to uphold a section of a previous order that sides with one of the groups.

District Judge Susan Johnson said at a hearing that she would consider striking from her previous ruling multiple portions, including one that names Jesse Law as the chairman of the Clark County Republican Party.

“I’ll look at it, but I’m not inclined to too many changes, guys,” Johnson told the lawyers representing the opposing factions, just minutes after saying her order that listed Law as the leader was right the first time.

It was a murky conclusion to a hearing that turned contentious with lawyers talking over each other in a heated exchange. The attorney for Law’s side told the judge that the lawyer for state Sen. Carrie Buck’s side was re-arguing his case on a decision Johnson had already made.

Ongoing dispute

The hearing was the latest legal turn in a months-long power struggle over leadership roles in the Clark County Republican Party.

In July, a party meeting went awry and ended without the election of a new leadership team. Days later, a group called the process back into order, and the people who attended the follow-up meeting elected Law as chairman.

At the time, acting party leadership considered the meeting fraudulent. They filed a lawsuit against Law and his team weeks later.

Ultimately, Johnson took over the case and threw it out with prejudice, saying she did not have the authority to rule in a political party’s internal dispute.

But the order that reached that legal conclusion also contained findings that Law was properly elected to lead the party. Both Law and Buck contend they are the rightful leaders of the Clark County GOP.

The order Johnson signed was written by the lawyer for Law’s faction, not by Johnson herself. Prevailing parties in lawsuits are typically responsible for drafting such orders.

Buck’s side accused Law’s group of taking advantage of Johnson’s overwhelming docket and lack of experience with the case to sign off on the section that names Law as the properly elected chairman, according to a motion filed with the court.

“This cunning strategy proved valuable as, weeks later, Defendants used the Order entered in the instant matter as a basis to initiate a separate (lawsuit) action against the (Buck faction),” the motion states.

The Buck faction’s motion sought only to strike the findings of fact from Johnson’s previous order, not the legal conclusion that she has no jurisdiction over the dispute.

In the other lawsuit referenced in the motion, Law’s side is seeking to have another judge force Buck’s side to hand over party assets, such as financial information and membership records.

Buck and Law respond

Reading from a prepared statement after the hearing, Buck said Johnson was not given all the facts.

“This case should have never been brought forward in the first place since Jesse Law is not a member and has no standing or claim here,” Buck said.

Her side, not Law’s, filed the lawsuit.

“Unfortunately, for everyone involved, he has successfully pulled a fraud on the court by hiding this key fact of not being a member the first time around,” she said. ”We are looking forward to (a hearing in the other pending case) next week, as that’s another clear attempt of (Nevada Republican Party Chairman) Michael McDonald and Jesse Law to brazenly attempt to try and trick the court into ruling on things they have no jurisdiction over, as every judge continues to state, and wasting everyone’s time and resources on frivolous lawsuits.”

McDonald said Buck has not done her homework on the other case.

“I’m not suing her,” he said. “Clark County’s (GOP) suing her.”

He said Buck’s side is desperate and has no argument to substantiate her alleged leadership of the party.

“They’ve lost every court hearing,” he said. “They’re going down in flames.”

The faction now led by Buck did have early successes in the case, with one judge granting a temporary restraining order and another granting a motion for preliminary injunction. But the group has been on a losing streak since Johnson overturned the preliminary injunction ruling in September.

Judges have only made rulings regarding a lack of jurisdiction on lawsuits filed by Buck’s side, which continues to seek an appeal of Johnson’s ruling with the Nevada Supreme Court.

“They’re delusional,” Law said. “They continue to be delusional, and that’s it.”

He said the Clark County GOP has been successful under his leadership, and that Johnson ultimately ruled in his side’s favor, despite the final arguments from his opponent’s lawyer.

The Nevada Republican Party and its members have recognized Law’s group as the legitimate Clark County Republican Party.

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

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