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U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear 2020 election case filed by Delaware County residents

Daily Times logo Daily Times 1/27/2023 Kathleen E. Carey, Daily Times, Primos, Pa.

Jan. 26—Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case against the Delaware County Board of Elections that originated with the 2020 election.

The court announced it would not hear the case of Gregory Stenstrom and Leah Hoopes v. the Delaware County Board of Elections. The case was among dozens of others that were also denied.

"The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not hear the case was entirely expected," Delaware County Solicitor William F. Martin said. "Every month, hundreds of parties file motions seeking their cases to be heard by the Supreme Court. Only a few, raising significant legal and public policy issues, are selected. There was no possibility this case was going to be heard. The county had been so confident that we formally advised the court that we would not be filing a legal response to the request."

Attempts to reach Stenstrom were unsuccessful.

The years-long case began when the Delaware County Republican Executive Committee filed an emergency petition Nov. 4, 2020, seeking increased access to ballot counting operations at a Chester facility where the votes for the 2020 presidential election were being tabulated.

Delaware County Court Judge John Capuzzi issued an order that same day allowing representatives from the Republican and the Democratic parties to observe the ballot counting. Two observers — one from each party — were also allowed to enter the ballot room in five-minute intervals every two hours under the order.

From that time, the Delaware County Republican Executive Committee has not raised any issue with how the Board of Elections handled that order.

On Dec. 22, 2020, Dasha Pruett, who had been a Republican candidate in the U.S. House 5th District race, and observers Gregory Stenstrom of Glen Mills and Leah Hoopes of Bethel Township filed an emergency petition in Delaware County Court. Among their claims was that they were given limited access to the observing and they also sought sanctions of $1,000 against election board members with one year in prison.

On Jan. 13, 2021, Capuzzi issued an opinion denying with prejudice the request for sanctions.

Stenstrom and Hoopes then took the matter before Commonwealth Court, where Judges Michael H. Wojcik, Ellen Ceisler and Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter affirmed Capuzzi's opinion 11 months later.

Stenstrom and Hoopes then petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear the case. That was denied June 22, 2022.

They then filed a petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is basically a request for the Supreme Court to have the case brought before it from the lower courts for review. The court itself said it has no obligation to hear these cases and will only do so if the case could have national significance, might harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal circuit courts, or could have precedential value.

Of the more than 7,000 cases it is asked to hear each year, the U.S. Supreme Court accepts 100 to 150 cases to be heard.

According to Martin, the petitioners have 25 days to petition for a rehearing.

"Given their penchant to use litigation as political theater and a tool for fundraising, I assume they may do so," the county solicitor said.

There are some matters outstanding.

There is a case pending before the Commonwealth Court, stemming from a petition filed by Stenstrom and Hoopes in February 2022 regarding the 2020 election.

Another case involves the 2022 general election in which Stenstrom, Hoopes and Nichole Missino, the Republican candidate for state representative in the 165th Legislative District, filed a petition in Delaware County Court to halt that election's certification. The day after the nine-hour Nov. 21, 2022, hearing, Common Pleas Judge Barry Dozor denied the petition and the election was certified.

Preliminary objections and a petition to have the case thrown out of court are pending at the county level.

Martin, who has challenged the petitioners to sue him personally, warned that the county may seek damages following the amount of litigation involved in these cases.

"As each case reaches its final disposition, the county will consider what next steps are appropriate," the county solicitor said. "Litigants and their counsel are cautioned that continuing to bring baseless law suits against Delaware County will not be without financial risk."

(c)2023 Daily Times, Primos, Pa. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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