WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected a Texas lawsuit to invalidate the Nov. 3 presidential election results in four battleground states that President Donald Trump lost to his Democratic rival Joe Biden, all but ending Trump's effort to overturn the election outcome through the courts.
In a brief unsigned order, the Supreme Court said Texas does not have "standing" to sue Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, adding that the state "has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections."
"All other pending motions are dismissed as moot," the order said.
Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas – the two most conservative members of the court – said they would have allowed Texas to file its complaint but that they “would not grant other relief.”
The lawsuit, filed Monday by Trump ally and Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and backed by other GOP state attorneys general and 126 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives, asked the Supreme Court to delay the Electoral College vote and to prevent the four states from casting their electoral votes on Monday.
In a statement, Paxton said, "It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court decided not to take this case and determine the constitutionality of these four states’ failure to follow federal and state election law."
In a late-night tweet, Trump, who for days had pressed the Supreme Court to deliver him "a victory," expressed disappointment in the decision, writing: "The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!"
Some of Trump’s most ardent backers are urging fellow loyalists to march in the nation’s capital later Saturday. A post from Twitter handle calling itself “Million Maga March” reads, “THE FIGHT IS NOT OVER! TOMORROW IN WASHINGTON D.C. — MASSIVE TRUMP RALLY — WE NEED TO TAKE A STAND FOR THE PRESIDENT NOW!”
“MAGA” is Trump’s signature slogan “Make America Great Again.” Clashes between Trump backers and opponents in Washington last month led to fisticuffs, a stabbing and multiple arrests.
The 154-page lawsuit, rehashing previously discredited allegations of massive voting irregularities, charged that government officials in the four states used the COVID-19 pandemic as an "unconstitutional" justification to loosen voting requirements. The alleged malfeasance, according to the lawsuit, opened the door to millions of illegally cast mail ballots that should be tossed aside.
The Supreme Court’s widely expected dismissal of the suit comes after state and federal courts across the country have rejected more than three dozen GOP-led challenges to the election results since Nov. 3 and after Trump implored the justices to show "Wisdom and Courage" and deliver him a victory.
"This is almost certainly the end of the line for the president's legal challenges," said Andrew Hessick, a professor of law at the University of North Carolina. "At this point there is not really time to file new legal challenges."
Rick Hasen, a prominent election law expert at the University of California in Irvine, said the decision was “never in serious doubt given how weak the claims were both legally and factually."
"A Supreme Court decision to hand the election to Trump on the flimsiest of legal and factual foundations would have been the end of modern American democracy and sparked widespread unrest,” Hasen wrote on his blog.
Lawsuit was unprecedented
Friday's ruling comes five days after the Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected a separate Republican bid to prevent Pennsylvania from certifying its results.
The back-to-back dismissals reflect the court's aversion to being drawn into inherently political fights over elections, Hessick said.
"They could have taken these cases and heard them on the merits and then said the Trump campaign was not going to prevail, but instead they opted not to hear the cases at all," Hessick said.
The rulings are also a testament to the court's independence, showing how the justices, despite their popular image as "politicians in robes" and sometimes controversial rulings, remain committed to the law, Hessick said.
The order did not make clear whether the court’s newest member, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, recused herself from the case.
During her confirmation hearing in October, Barrett, who was nominated by Trump to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, refused to commit to recuse from election dispute cases.
Jonathan Turley, a conservative law professor at George Washington University, tweeted that “an apology might be in order after Democrats claimed that she would join the other conservatives in overturning the election.”
Biden has won 306 electoral votes – 36 more than he needs – to Trump’s 232 votes, and without a court-sanctioned delay, the presidential electors are expected to approve Biden’s victory Monday.
Trump has refused to concede the election and has been slow in accommodating Biden’s transition to power.
Trump also made support of the Texas challenge a litmus test of sorts for Republican lawmakers and state officials – many of whom fear invoking his wrath. Attorneys general from 17 Republican-led states and 126 Republican House members of the 196-member GOP House caucus – signed their names to amicus briefs in support of the Texas petition.
With Biden set to take office on Jan. 20, “it is much easier for the Supreme Court of the United States to follow the Constitution and do what everybody knows has to be done,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.
While there is still a handful of lower-court decisions to be resolved – including one in Wisconsin that has been granted a hearing before the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Saturday, as a practical matter Trump’s legal quest to reverse the popular vote has come to an end.
The Texas lawsuit was unprecedented. While states can take intramural disputes directly to the Supreme Court under a doctrine known as original jurisdiction, never before has a state asked the high court to invalidate the result of another state’s elections. Allowing it to go forward would have effectively disenfranchised more than 10 million people who voted for Biden in the four states, critics said.
The four states named in the lawsuit assailed it as an invitation to judicial overreach and urged the Supreme Court to dismiss it.
Georgia’s Republican attorney general, Christopher Carr, wrote in a brief that “Texas asks the court to transfer Georgia’s electoral powers to the federal judiciary” while Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, urged that the court not "abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated."