Judge tells Utah GOP to get another lawyer in SB54 case

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has told the Utah Republican Party to hire another lawyer to ensure deadlines are met in the ongoing lawsuit over Senate Bill 54, the so-called “Count My Vote compromise” law.

In an order issued Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer said he was not dismissing Utah GOP lawyer Marcus Mumford from the case, but ordered the party to hire additional counsel.

“This is not a punitive measure. Rather, this is a remedial measure to help Mr. Mumford meet future deadlines. Mr. Mumford has carefully analyzed the situation, and makes it abundantly clear that he faces a significant work load and a demanding set of family circumstances,” the judge wrote. “He is simply being stretched too thin and has many urgent matters that require his attention. Mr. Mumford’s multiple obligations, demonstrated to be unmanageable with the present staffing in his office, require that new counsel to appear to ensure that the URP meets deadlines.”

The judge threatened Mumford with contempt earlier this month, claiming more than a dozen deadlines had been missed. Mumford adamantly denied missing so many deadlines, and pointed to ones he said the Utah Attorney General’s Office had also missed in the case.

The Utah GOP is suing the state of Utah over SB 54, which changed how political candidates get on the ballot. The law, a political compromise in the legislature after the ballot initiative known as “Count My Vote,” allows candidates to get on the ballot if they gather enough signatures — skipping the caucus and convention system some parties, like the Republican Party, prefer.

The Utah GOP is suing claiming the new law infringes on its right to free association. The judge noted the lawsuit is moving forward, writing in his order:

“There is a potential that SB54, or provisions of SB54, could be found unconstitutional. If so, such a decision needs to be rendered before the next legislative session in Utah, otherwise there is a risk that elections held in 2016 will be interrupted, litigated, or invalidated.”

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