Federal judges dismiss Goldman’s lawsuit seeking 2022 House of Delegates election

There are 518 days until the next time voters will decide on who will sit in the Virginia House of Delegates. That’s a year later than the 154 days that Richmond attorney Paul Goldman had wanted, but a panel of three federal judges have ruled that he did not have standing to bring the lawsuit either as a voter or a potential candidate. (read the opinion)

In his original complaint filed June 28 of last year, Goldman alleged that the legislative boundaries at the time of the 2021 House of Delegates elections scheduled for that November would be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He argued the population of some districts were much larger than others due to the outdated districts.

(read the opinion)

The case made its way up to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals before being sent back to the lower court this past March.

Attorneys for the state filed a motion to dismiss the case on April 1, 2022, and yesterday’s opinion granted their request.

“The current Motion to Dismiss follows a convoluted, months-long procedural history involving multiple complaints, motions to dismiss, motions to intervene, various hearings, as well as the appointment of a three-judge court and an interlocutory appeal to the Fourth Circuit of Appeals on sovereign immunity,” reads the introduction to the opinion. 

The opinion is also a history of the delays experienced by the U.S. Census Bureau in delivering data from the 2020 count due to pandemic-related issues as well as the failure of the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission to reach consensus last October. 

The opinion notes that Goldman opted to not file paperwork to actually run in 2021, and notes Goldman resisted proving that he even voted that year. That means he could not prove he personally suffered an “injury” that would grant him the right to sue. 

“Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that he has standing, but he has not properly supported his assertion that he voted in November 2021,” the opinion continues. “If Plaintiff did not vote in November 2021, he lacks standing, as he cannot claim injury to a right that he voluntarily failed to exercise.” 

Goldman later did file an affidavit stating he did vote, but the opinion notes this was filed improperly. Still, the ruling goes on to state Goldman had not sufficiently explained why he was personally disadvantaged by voting in 2021 in the older district. 

“Virginia has 100 House of Delegates districts, making the ideal district population 86,314,” Judge Novak writes in the opinion. “Plaintiff’s House of Delegates District, District 68, had an adjusted population of 85,344.” 

The case is now closed, according to the order, with no possibility of appeal. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the June 7, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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