On June 7, Robby Starbuck's legal team answered the Tennessee Republican Party's (TRP) Jun. 7 appeal of the Jun. 3 ruling by Chancery Court Judge Russell Perkins ordering Starbuck to be restored to the Aug. 4 Primary ballot. Their appeal requested in part that the Supreme Court assume jurisdiction over the case. On Wednesday, the state intervened, sending the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court for expedited review because of upcoming ballot scheduling deadlines. Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Mark Goins, Coordinator of Elections for the State of Tennessee, are now petitioners in the case.
The responding brief from Starbucks' lawyers' most prominent argument reiterates the unlawful actions on the part of the TRP concerning the Tennessee Open Meetings Act (TOMA) highlighted by Judge Perkins in his ruling on Jun. 3. Starbucks lawyers contend that Perkins' decision was a "straightforward application of Tennessee statutes."
"Does the Republican Party have to follow the law? That is the fundamental question in this case. Under the plain and unambiguous terms of Tennessee's Elections Code (Title 2 of the Tennessee Code Annotated) and the Tennessee Open Meetings Act ("TOMA"), when the Tennessee Republican Party's state executive committee exercises the statutory powers granted to it under Title 2—as Defendants (collectively, "the Party") admit happened here—it is subject to TOMA and must act in the public eye. The Chancery Court ruled that the statute means what it says and granted Plaintiff Robby Starbuck's motion for a temporary injunction because actions taken at meetings in violation of TOMA are void and of no effect."
Hargett and Goins, in their Petition-for Writ of Certiorari, argue that Perkins' ruling was "without authority to enjoin them" to restore Starbuck to the ballot because they were not named initially as parties who were "served with process in accordance with Tenn. R. Civ.P. 4 in the chancery court case."
The state also puts forward several other objections to Starbuck's arguments, including the fact that the TRP did not remove their determination of Starbuck's "disqualification prior to the close of business on Apr. 21, 2022." Petitioners Hargett and Goins also contend that Starbuck did not properly serve or give notice to the state when "he was seeking injunctive relief requiring the state to reinstate Mr. Starbuck's name on the ballot." However, Starbuck's lawyers argued that no action was needed by the state but rather the relief could be performed by the TRP "without any action by the state." Perkins was ironically somewhat confirmatory of the state's argument, however, when he ordered that all "other appropriate public officials are expected to immediately take steps to treat the Defendants Apr. 11, 2022 decision as a nullity and to restore" Starbuck to the ballot.
The state also argues Perkins did not issue any injunctions against the Defendants but merely declared the TRP's decision "of no effect" and then proceeded to issue an injunction against public officials. The state, therefore, contends the Chancery court did not have personal jurisdiction over Petitioners (public officials) that were not named in the case, "and so its order directing Petitioners to restore Plaintiff Newsom's name to the ballot was clearly in excess of its jurisdiction." The Petitioners believe the Supreme Court is the best remedy to determine whether the chancery court exceeded its jurisdiction in its ruling.
A decision from the Supreme Court could come as soon as Thursday or Friday due to its mandate to review the case expeditiously. Robby Starbuck appears below on Bannon's War Room to explain his perspective on the case and the timeline for a decision:
EDITOR'S NOTE: The author of this column is a member of the Davidson GOP Committee and vouched for Starbuck to be placed on the ballot under GOP rules.