President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Trump’s attempt to block Michigan from counting votes was tossed out by the court. Here’s what Judge Cynthia Stephens said about his lawsuit.

LANSING, Mich.—Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens threw out a lawsuit filed by the campaign of President Donald Trump attempting to prevent the counting of Michigan’s absentee ballots. 

Stephens didn’t find the lawsuit didn’t have merit. 

She pointed out that the strongest evidence of impropriety the Trump campaign presented was hearsay separated from any witness by at least two degrees—no one who actually observed impropriety was testifying to it. Hearsay is largely inadmissible in courts because the farther removed a witness is from an action the less reliable the information, susceptible as everything is to a game of telephone.

Beyond that, she rejected both that the claims the campaign presented had any merit at all, and even if they did there were no ways for the court to intercede in a count that was already completed meaning there was no equitable relief the court could grant. 

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Stephens pointed out that the core thrust of the Trump campaign’s argument—that they didn’t have fair access to observe the counting process in polling places—was untrue on its face and no specific examples were presented that showed otherwise. 

“The bases for denial are these,” she told the parties in a hearing held on Zoom Thursday. “First, that the Secretary of State as the supervisor of elections provides direction to local officials as to how they can comply with the laws of the state of Michigan. She has issued such directives.”

Stephens explained that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has clearly explained the rights and responsibilities of election observers and election challengers and explained them both to the election workers on the ground and the political campaigns. 

“Additionally, even if this relief were available, as opposed to when this suit was announced yesterday and the count was beginning, it was filed at 4 o’clock,” Stephens explained. “As of this point, the essence of the count is completed and the relief requested … is completely unavailable.”

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But Stephens didn’t just dismiss the case because it was trying to undo a count that was already done. She outright rejected the argument presented. It simply didn’t have the factual basis to proceed to trial, she concluded.

“On this factual record I have no basis to find there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits,” Stephens said. “We will adjourn this matter where I believe everyone here seeks to have a full and fair election process.”

The determination if something has the likelihood of success is part of a court process called summary judgement. Summary judgement is designed to catch cases that are essentially legally without merit and prevent them from taking up the resources and time of either party or the court system itself. In this case, Stephens found the outcome of a case with the facts as the Trump campaign was presenting would be a foregone conclusion and the case was dismissed.

Stephens said her full written orders will likely be issued Friday afternoon or evening.