Leahy: Thomas Lawsuit Takes Up House of Delegates Election Challenge

A week ago in this space, I wrote that the U.S. District Court in Richmond had left the door open to a new lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2021 House of Delegates elections. Specifically, the court said author Jeff Thomas, who tried to join Paul Goldman’s lawsuit in October but was denied, had the opportunity to pick up where Goldman left off.

And that’s exactly what Thomas did. As the Virginia Mercury’s Graham Moomaw reported, Thomas’s lawsuit says:

Plaintiff respectfully submits that there are no facts actually in dispute in this case … and that the facts giving rise to this case would never have come to pass if there were attorneys independently representing the people beyond the reach of politics,” Thomas wrote. “The current unconstitutional scheme benefits 100 incumbents and their political dependents.”

Indeed it does. All the more reason to cheer Thomas’s effort to hold them accountable. Another possible good development: It appears that District Judge David J. Novak isn’t in the mood for any more rope-a-dope strategies from the attorney general’s office. Or so Novak says, according to Richmond ABC affiliate WRIC:

Novak has given the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, now under Republican Jason Miyares, until June 24 to file its planned motion to dismiss Thomas’ lawsuit. But the judge called on the state’s attorneys to share why the state is not to blame for the delay.

It is really just not appropriate, the way they handled this case,” Novak said of Herring’s office’s motions to appeal Goldman’s challenge. “But you’re still one AG’s office, one commonwealth, so I need to know why the delay is not your fault.”

Spreading the scolding around, Novak also criticized Thomas for not filing his own lawsuit much earlier, rather than seeking to join Goldman’s:

“I could’ve handled two lawsuits at the same time,” Novak said, adding that the effort “never would have been in this predicament” had Herring’s office not appealed Goldman’s lawsuit before the issue of standing was resolved and if Thomas filed his lawsuit earlier. Novak said it could have been settled last November.

Setting that bluster aside, what will Novak do now?

The District Court took weeks to decide that Goldman, my former writing partner, had no standing to sue because he could not show the 2021 House elections hurt his voting rights — hardly the sign of a court in a hurry, let alone one really interested in getting at the facts of the case.

Thomas has a much different situation, living in a district that “is overpopulated and results in a 31% population deviation compared to the smallest House district,” as WRIC reported. That’s in line with what a Richmond federal court ruled more than 40 years ago was a “facially unconstitutional” situation that only special House elections could fix.

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