March 17th, 2008
04:45 PM ET
10 years ago

Attorney: DNC violating Constitution

ATLANTA (CNN) - The Democratic National Committee is violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by allowing only four states to hold caucuses or primaries before the first Tuesday in February, a Florida attorney argued Monday before a federal appeals court.

Attorney Michael Steinberg filed suit in August on behalf of Democratic Party activist Vincent Dimaio after the DNC said it would not seat Florida delegates at the national convention because the state party defied party rules and scheduled its primary for January 29.

A federal judge in Florida dismissed the lawsuit in October, but Dimaio appealed.

"You can't treat the citizens of some states differently than other states," Steinberg told reporters after the hearing. "What I tried to assert is that the DNC has the right to make rules ... but the rules have to be the same for all the states."

According to party rules, only Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire can schedule their primaries or caucuses prior to the first Tuesday in February. Steinberg argued that the 14th Amendment, which bars states from denying individuals equal protection under the law, should prohibit the DNC from creating rules that make the votes of the citizens of those four states "paramount to the rights of the voters in Florida."

Joe Sandler, attorney for the DNC, told the three-judge panel that the committee is a private entity and "is actually exercising its own constitutional right by not seating delegates."

"The point we were trying to make in court today is that it's up to the parties themselves to determine the best means of selecting delegates to the convention, and it's not really a matter for a court to resolve," he told reporters later.

Dimaio, who referred to himself as the "little guy" who speaks for Floridians, told reporters that it is unfair for only four states to be allowed to hold primaries or caucuses in January.

"If you go before February 5, you're basically screwed because you get no delegates," he said. "We've lost 210 delegates. We're the fourth largest state in the nation and we have zero delegates."

"I'm not asking for a penny, I'm not asking for a dime in this action," Dimaio said. "I'm just asking for my vote to count."

The appellate court is not expected to deliver a decision until next month. Steinberg, who is handling the case pro bono, said that if the ruling goes against Dimaio, he will appeal to the Supreme Court.

- CNN Correspondent Rusty Dornin

Filed under: Florida
soundoff (179 Responses)
  1. mimi de la cruz


    March 17, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  2. Jackie

    lets get this right. GORE won the popular vote in 2000 that means more people voted for him than BUSH. remember 2 is great than one
    and one person one vote is still there FL and MI just don't get to decide who runs against McCain. They agreed to the rules then broke then. don't do the crimeif you can't do the time

    March 17, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  3. Vince Los Angeles, CA

    GEEZ!!!! HERE WE GO AGAIN!!! What the heck is wrong with the people in Florida...?? Why can't they get something SO SIMPLE?

    March 17, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  4. Vig

    Our fore fathers must be turning over in their graves – between the Bush administration's tramplings on the constitution and now the Democractic party trying to get it's head out of it's buttocks – just light a match and torch the constitution.

    March 17, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  5. NickNasc

    If the People of Florida and Mich are so mad then WHY aren't they mad at their OWN POLITICIANS who PUT THEM IN THIS POSITION!!

    All we hear is CRYING about not being fair when it is EXACTLY what their ELECTED representatives did on THEIR behalfs.

    Is Florida REALLY this inept and clueless that they can do ANYTHING right when it comes to an election?

    March 17, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  6. Grif

    She? And again? You must mean Hillary.

    I guess you have the floor.... Go for it Little Lady!

    mimi de la cruz.... Thankyou!!!

    March 17, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  7. Jean

    sorry I meant offended not affended. I do care about my spelling not like a lot of other people. All I can say is I feel sorry for you Obama lover because you are so blind with cult like following Of Obama it's really quite scary!!! Jean

    March 17, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  8. rusty

    Under no circumstances should a state be rewarded for violating agreed upon rules. It sets a precedent, and encourages more of the same behavior in the future. It isn't Barack's fault, it isn't Hillary's fault, it is the fault those party officials in Michigan, and Florida who were idiotic enough to break the rules in the first place. Blame them.

    March 17, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  9. Slap Stick, FLORIDA

    My Goodness, We have Snub Heads in Florida as leaders. Just split the delegates. Hillary should be happy about this because even though she won Texas, she still ended up with less delegates. Same thing could happen to her in Florida now that more people are watching Obama.

    March 17, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  10. Dave

    Michigan will be just like Ohio...the parts that go for Hillary are the same parts that go Republican in general elections. The urban centers that vote Democrat in November are Obama strongholds.

    So I don't get how Hillary figures that winning those state's primaries translates into a win in November.

    March 17, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  11. R

    Wow, are these guys lucid? The 14th Amendment does not apply to private organizations. A political party is a private organization. The Democratic and Republican parties are not in the Constitution. It doesn't apply to them.

    There is no case to be pursued here. Those state parties broke the rules knowing full well what would happen.

    March 17, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  12. Darrylm

    The rules was agree to by Hillary and Obama, however now Hillary wants them to count she don't care about the party. Hillary only care about herself.

    March 17, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  13. I used to be a Democrat

    The DNC sucks. Period. That is why I am not a member of the Democratic Party anymore. I hope they get there pants sued off them cause they sure have handed the general election to the Republicans.

    March 17, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  14. Scott (Florida)

    I really don't understand primary funding! Are Federal, State, Party (or combination of part or all) dollars used to fund the elections? If tax payers dollars, the argument of equal treatment and the DNC calling the shots changes...I would think if the DNC funded the state primary elections, they call the shots, otherwise?

    March 17, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  15. RightyTighty

    Ha Ha!!

    March 17, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  16. Old Dave

    Bayou Joe is a bigot. Not only that, he is a stupid bigot. And I am white. I am way more educated than that ignorant fool.

    March 17, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  17. Izdaman

    The interesting fact about this entire case is that the Attorney involved is the Chairman of the Hillsborough County (Tampa Area) DEC. The compliantant is a close friend of his and was his campaign manager when the attorney ran unsucessfully for State Representative and Judge. I wonder if this will cause more issues in an already screwed up Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee.

    March 17, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  18. Peter

    Look at the studies about how much more power the average Iowa or New Hampshire voter has than voters in other states and then claim that Floridians were wrong to move their primary up.

    March 17, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |

    Joke! It's a 'privat' nomination process of a party ... they could go by the alphabet of they wish.

    March 17, 2008 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  20. VMCal

    Florida and Michigan should have had the election when they where told to and none of this would have happened. It is shameful that these two states have caused even more drama in an election that is vital to our future as a nation.

    March 17, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  21. tony

    Here we go again.... every single one of these people questioning or making comments on what has happen to MI. & FL. should be a shame of themselves, these are the very same people who claim how great America is and how if you can't live by the rules then you should leave... the rules were in plays everyone that mattered knew the rules, those that didn't relied on their representative to look out for their best interest, it didn't happen and because of Billary, and her willing to destroy the foundation of democracy to suit her agenda, we have Americans, wanting to change the rules because it didn't fit in their perfect world, and the rules didn't work for them this time... well to bad, it is not the best thing to do and it is certainly not the right thing to do, but the rules in this case are the rules, experience is in play, the rules needed change, change before the game began not while the game is going on... that is what third world countries do, change the rules to fit desired outcome by the privileged. No new vote, the system failed but we have a chance to get it right before the next time, not this time, to do anything other than to just let things be would be un-American, and the anti-Americans will win and they will complain again and again when they feel the rules should be something other to better fit their agenda.

    March 17, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  22. BEBBLE

    The people who are spouting stupidity on how the people of Florida should have no voice because of politicians are definitely part of the Obama clan.

    He placed TV ads and his name was on the ballot. He was campaigning thru media.

    I am sure that if Obama took the state then there would be an outcry of MAKE IT COUNT or RE-DO.

    March 17, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  23. Jeff

    Okay, a Republican govenour and legislature belittle the Democrates. Oh, well it does happen. Next, Obama must be doing flips that he only has to woryy about losing in Michigan, if Florida had also figured out how to do it, the two states just might have cost him the election.
    If the rules are the rules, why did Howard Dean say the could press the reset button? You give me a mulligan and I'll take it.

    March 17, 2008 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  24. NotaDem AZ

    The Dems can't even run a fair primary election and they want Americans to trust them with the Nation's welfare and future. What a laugh.

    March 17, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  25. dAnnE

    I think that attorney should have paid more attention in his Constitutional Law seminar...the DNC is a private organization and has the right to make its own rules and guidelines. Take it to the Surpreme Court? Ha! What happened the last time the High Court got involved in political elections...Answer: We got stuck w/ Bush for eight years.

    March 17, 2008 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
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