By Mollie Young
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A federal judge in Florida dismissed a fraud lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee involving former Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz and the DNC’s favoring of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primary election.
On Friday, Judge William Zloch for the Southern U.S. District of Florida dismissed a class action lawsuit brought against the DNC by supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, claiming that the political committee and their leader violated the DNC charter by swaying the public primary system toward the candidate of their choice.
Filed in June 2016, the lawsuit was prompted by the WikiLeaks release of a trove of emails from top DNC officials that revealed a significant bias toward Clinton. Wasserman Shultz, a Florida congresswoman, resigned from her post as chair of the committee just days after the emails went public and took on a role within Clinton’s failed presidential bid.
The lawsuit was an effort to get Democratic officials to admit their wrongdoing and reimburse Sanders supporters for campaign donations.
“People paid money in reliance on the understanding that the primary elections for the Democratic nominee — nominating process in 2016 were fair and impartial,” Jared Beck, one of the attorneys representing Sanders supporters, said during the proceedings.
However, lawyers representing the DNC claimed that Article V, Section 4 of the party charter — which states that DNC staff must ensure neutrality during the primary process, was a simply a “discretionary rule” that the court had no right to interpret or rule on.
After months of litigation, Zloch said he found it difficult to contend that the case was within his jurisdiction or that Sanders or his supporters suffered “concrete injury” traceable to the DNC or Wasserman Shultz.
The ruling; however, appeared to reaffirm that the Democratic primary was stacked toward Clinton, while also demonstrating the court’s limited ability to intervene in the operational decisions of a political committee.
“The court thus assumes that the DNC and Wasserman Schultz preferred Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president over Bernie Sanders or any other Democratic candidate. It assumes that they stockpiled information useful to the Clinton campaign. It assumes that they devoted their resources to assist Clinton in securing the party’s nomination and opposing other Democratic candidates. And it assumes that they engaged in these surreptitious acts while publically proclaiming they were completely neutral, fair and impartial,” the final order read.
“This order therefore concerns only technical matters of pleading and subject-matter jurisdiction.”
The court also signaled that Sanders supporters had an opportunity to air their grievances about the candidate selection process “through the ballot box, the DNC’s internal workings, or their right of free speech — not through the judiciary.”