Thursday, May 28, 2009

Timeline of Duesgate

November 2008:
Redpath reads the Bylaws, calls Starr to determine the membership status of all LNC members. This predates the December LNC meeting that became the kangaroo trial of Angela Keaton. Starr calls Kraus, who gives Starr a list of members and their sustaining expiration dates. (Source: Bill Redpath email, below)

December 7, 2008:
Wrights publicly questions Starr’s budget processes in the LNC Meeting. This continues long after the meeting and up to April 2009, including the next LNC meeting in Charleston in February 2009. Both meetings are broadcast live over the web. Haugh is terminated as LP Political Director due to budget cuts and allegedly his association with Wrights and Keaton. Kraus replaces him. Wrights defends Keaton, who resigns December 8 from the LNC for health reasons. (Source: LNC webcasts et al.)

December 10, 2008:
Wrights publishes an article written by Haugh detailing allegations of sexual harassment by Carling in 2004, Redpath’s awareness of it, and Redpath’s lack of sense displayed in the Keaton situation. (Source:

December 13, 2008:
Wrights publishes a follow-up article written by Haugh, which criticizes the due process followed in the Keaton situation, reiterating the points of the previous article about Carling and Redpath. (Source:

April 6, 2009:
Starr suddenly remembers that Wrights’ sustaining membership expires soon, and calls Kraus, who informs Starr that Wrights’ membership expires in two days. (Source: Bill Redpath email)

April 7, 2009:
Starr calls Redpath and informs him of the pending expiration. (Source: Bill Redpath email)

April 8, 2009:
Wrights’ sustaining membership expires. Sullentrup informed by someone (Starr? Kraus?) that the membership had expired. (Source: Bill Redpath email)

April 14, 2009:
Sullentrup notifies Wrights that Wrights is no longer an LNC member, citing Article 8, Section 4 of the Bylaws, but conveniently ignoring Article 8, Section 5, which details the removal process. Sullentrup bounces him off the LNC-discuss list, and removes his picture and contact info from Sullentrup confirms that Kraus informed him of the lapse. Word hits the membership an hour later. Wrights confirms that he never received the renewal mail notices or no notice via telephone or email. Redpath signs off on Sullentrup’s actions and announces the vacancy for the agenda for the July 18-19 LNC meeting in St. Louis. Fox and Ryan question the process, Porter calls for reinstatement and an apology. Wrights renews his membership. (Sources: Bill Redpath email,,,,,

April 15, 2009:
Lark weighs in, backing the interpretation of Starr, Sullentrup, Redpath, and Kraus. Later in the same day it is also mentioned that he would support reappointing Wrights and that a Bylaws change to address the situation would be in order. Knapp and Seebeck explain the correct Bylaws reasoning, including the necessary differentiation between membership in the LP and membership on the LNC. (Sources:,,,

April 17, 2009:
Porter moved to retain Wrights on the LNC and restore his access as a member, backed by Ryan, Fox, Hawkridge, and Ruwart. Redpath rules the motion out of order. Ruwart appeals the ruling of the Chair. (Source:

April 18, 2009:
Wrights appeals to the Judicial Committee. (Source:

April 19, 2009:
According to Eades, Flood defends Sullentrup and Redpath. (Source:

April 21, 2009:
Starr issues a detailed memo. According to the memo, Haugh paid Wrights’ sustaining membership dues in April 2008; FEC regulations prohibit contributions to a party on behalf of another; etc. Starr also claims that he didn’t know when Sullentrup was first aware of the membership lapse, meaning that he didn’t tell Sullentrup, confirming Kraus by implication. Starr also claims he asked Kraus to detail Wrights’s past dues record and attempts to claim that as LNC Vice-Chair, Wrights had dues lapse previously as well, and therefore he was not actually elected. (Source:, and

April 23, 2009:
Party membership launches dual petitions to Judicial Committee appealing the actions of the involved Party Officers. The petitions reach the minimum threshold on April 29 and are submitted to the Judicial Committee.

The donation form on is changed to reflect the claims of the Starr memo, as confirmed by Hogarth. (Source:

Wrights publishes an article written by Seebeck debunking Starr’s FEC claims. (Source:

Wrights publishes an article written by Haugh in which Haugh explains that improper recordkeeping is the cause of the mess, and that in fact the 2008 dues payment on Wrights’ behalf by Haugh was in fact repaying Wrights for a debt owed and reinforces the point that there is a vast difference between campaign donations and membership dues. (Source:

April 24, 2009:
Redpath issues an email giving his side of the story, including the explanation that he felt he didn’t need to tell Wrights about the expiration since Wrights did not deserve the courtesy since Wrights has been “rude” to LNC members and on the APRC email list (later debunked by Ruwart). Alleged rudeness to LNC members included the aforementioned commentaries written by Haugh. Redpath makes the same Bylaws allegations as Starr and Sullentrup, which have been by this time thoroughly debunked by the membership on April 14. (Source: Bill Redpath email)

April 25, 2009
Starr’s FEC claims are further debunked by a Michigan campaign finance attorney and LPMI member Leonard Schwartz. (Source:

Wrights speaks at LPTN convention and tells his side of the story, including the allegations of previous lapsed memberships. (Source:

April 26, 2009:
Wrights’ ex-wife weighs in and informs that she had his mail and that no renewal notices ever came in the mail. (Source:

April 27, 2009:
Hawkridge informs Starr via email that she talked with the FEC and they don’t care who the credit for the contribution goes to, so long as it is properly recorded. FEC says it was NOT an illegal contribution by Haugh on behalf of Wrights. This completely repudiates Starr’s FEC claims. Hawkridge follows up the email with a phone message. (Source: Anonymous from LNC email list, below)

April 28, 2009:
Starr returns Hawkridge’s call and denies any efforts to go through past records go and issue refunds, in direct contradiction to what he claimed in his FEC memo that he was required to do. (Source: Anonymous from LNC email list)

April 29, 2009
Ruwart debunks Redpath’s APRC email list claim of April 24 and offers comprehensive evidence to counter Redpath’s claim. (Source: Anonymous from LNC email list, via Phillies, below).

April 30, 2009
The Judicial Committee releases a statement that a LNC member can only be removed by consecutive absences or for cause by 2/3 vote of the, per the Bylaws, and that Wrights is in fact still a member of the LNC. This confirms the interpretations of Seebeck and Knapp. (Source:

Wrights publishes an article by Seebeck that purports to expose the full plan by Redpath, Starr, Carling, Sullentrup, Kraus, et al. to purge “undesirables” from the LP. (Source:

May 2, 2009
The LNC votes 10-5 to sustain the ruling of the Chair regarding the Porter motion being ruled out of order. Voting to sustain: Jingozian, Starr, Sullentrup, Dixon, Colley, Mattson, Sink-Burris, Flood, Lark, Karlan. Voting to overrule: Ruwart, Ryan, Hinkle, Fox, Hawkridge. Not voting: Redpath. (Source: Anonymous from LNC email list, below.)

The LNC votes 12-0 to reappoint Wrights to the LNC, with Starr, Mattson, Sink-Burris, and Karlan not voting. Wrights name, picture, and contact info are restored to the website. This vote also has the unintended impact of validating Sullentrup’s actions. (Source: Anonymous from LNC email list, below.)

May 8, 2009
The Judicial Committee issues a statement on the Wrights appeal in which says the Committee lacks jurisdiction to decide if a lapse in sustaining membership constitutes a resignation as claimed by Sullentrup, by a 4-3 vote (Bennett, Hacker, Sarwark, Stevens no, Cobb, Nolan, Nicks yes). It also agreed by a 6-1 vote (Bennett, Cobb, Hacker, Nicks, Nolan, Sarwark yes, Stevens no) that they do have jurisdiction to interpret the question of whether a dues lapse is a “for cause” removal under the Bylaws. The Committee then voted 5-2 (Bennett, Cobb, Nicks, Nolan, Sarwark yes, Hacker and Stevens no) to accept the Wrights appeal on that one question, with responses or briefs sent to the Committee NLT 5PM PDT May 15. (Source: Judicial Committee statement, below)

The Judicial Committee issues a statement on the delegates appeal in which says the Committee by a 6-1 vote (Bennett, Cobb, Hacker, Nicks, Nolan, Sarwark yes, Stevens no) has jurisdiction, but by a 5-2 vote (Bennett, Cobb, Hacker, Nolan, Stevens no, Nicks and Sarwark yes) decline to accept the petition, claiming that because the relief requested was reinstatement of Wrights that the appeal is moot. (Source: Judicial Committee statement, below)

May 9, 2009
Seebeck issues a statement to the Judicial Committee explaining that the Committee’s decision on the delegates appeal is in error because the Committee is required per the Bylaws to accept the delegates appeal, and that the issue is not moot because the relief requested included not only reinstatement instead of reappointment but also overturning the actions of the Secretary and subsequent reappointment as invalid, and that request was ignored, leaving the precedent to stand and undermining the integrity of the LNC. (Source: email statement, below)

The Judicial Committee agrees to consider the Seebeck statement within 10 days. (Source, email statement, below)

May 17, 2009
The Judicial Committee receives a brief from eight members of the LNC regarding the case. (Source:

Seebeck issues an amicus curiae brief to the Judicial Committee in support of Wrights. (Source: email statement, below)

Seebeck submits this chronology, updated to this point, to the Judicial Committee.

May 18, 2009
The Judicial Committee, without stating a reason why, responds to the Seebeck statement regarding the delegate petition by declining to reconsider their decision. This violates the Bylaws, and Seebeck requests an explanation. (Source: email statement, below)

May 20, 2009
Judicial Committee Chair Bennett publishes the hearing rules and schedule for the Wrights hearing, scheduled for May 22, 6PM. (Source: email statement, below)

May 22, 2009
Lark submits a brief to the Judicial Committee regarding the case. (Source:

The Judicial Committee hears the appeal. Presenting for Wrights are Ruwart, Seebeck, and Wrights. Presenting for the LNC is Mattson. Present are the Judicial Committee, Wall, Starr, Jingozian, Karlan, Hawkridge, Phillies, Keaton, Porter, Fox, Haugh, and possibly a couple of others. Decision is to be made within 30 days.

June 22, 2009
The Judicial Committee issues its opinion, ruling 4-3 that A) Wrights had standing to appeal, B) that twelve calendar months is twelve calendar months and not 365 days, C) there is no specific enforcement language in the Bylaws regarding membership lapses, D) the Secretary and Chair cannot act outside the LNC to remove a member without following the Bylaws, and E) the suspension is reversed. Voting in favor were Sarwark (author), Bennett, Cobb, and Nicks. Nolan dissented, claiming that a membership eligibility was not a “for cause” question. Hacker dissented separately, claiming that by making a “for cause” question out of membership eligibility, it could set up the inaction of the LNC on the question (which is true, but the ramifications of that are not in scope of the issue at hand). Stevens also dissented separately, also claiming that a membership eligibility was not a “for cause” question, agreeing with the position presented by Mattson in the hearing, in a more technical manner than Nolan.

Stevens also still claims no jurisdiction by the Judicial Committee, although that matter had been settled on May 8 (see above and below).

The net result is that Wrights is reinstated to the LNC as if the whole situation had never happened, and the subsequent removal and reappointment are null. This also sets the precedent that removal of a LNC member is a duty of the member of the LNC itself, as was argued by the Wrights team in the hearing. (Source: emailed decision and dissents, below.)


Bill Redpath’s memo as sent in email from Bob Sullentrup to Michael Seebeck

From: Bob Sullentrup
Date: 4/25/09 3:23PM
Subject: FW: [GrassrootsLibertarians] Bob Sullentrup's attempt to kick Lee Wrights off the LNC


The Chair made this text public Friday evening. I think it sheds light on the Wrights issue you may have missed.

Bob Sullentrup
Secretary, Libertarian National Secretary

Text of e-mail from Bill Redpath dated 4-24-2009 9:09PM:

Several fellow Libertarian National Committee (LNC) members have asked for an explanation of events leading to the recent loss of Lee Wrights' eligibility to serve as a member of the LNC.

Here is the story, as I know it.

In November 2008, I was rereading the Bylaws and read Section 8, Article 4, which states, "A National Committee member shall be a sustaining member of the Party, and shall not be the candidate of any party except the Party or an affiliate."

I then called Aaron Starr about this, and asked him to ascertain whether all LNC members were sustaining members. I may have called Bob Sullentrup about this, as well, but I don't recall for sure.

Aaron contacted Robert Kraus at LPHQ, and it is my understanding that Robert produced a list for Aaron of LNC members and their sustaining membership expiration dates (unless that member was a life member). All LNC members were sustaining members, at that time, and Aaron so informed me.

I never saw this list with expiration dates, but Aaron did. He noticed that several LNC members had expiration dates in early 2009, including Lee Wrights, who Aaron saw had an expiration date in April. Aaron tells me that he forgot about this list until Monday, April 6, on which day it dawned on him that this was about the time of Lee Wrights' sustaining membership expiration.

He called Robert Kraus that day and learned that Lee Wrights' sustaining membership started on (I believe) April 8, 2008, and had not yet been renewed. Aaron called me on, I recall, the evening of Tuesday, April 7, and told me that Lee's sustaining membership was about to expire. It is my understanding that Bob Sullentrup was not informed of Lee's impending sustaining membership expiration until sometime on Wednesday, April 8.

I waited a week after Lee's expiration date to see if his sustaining membership renewal payment showed up in the mail. It did not. The Bylaws, in my opinion, plainly read that Lee was no longer eligible to serve on the LNC. The Bylaws don't allow exceptions to this. Bob Sullentrup notified the Committee of the new vacancy. I directed Robert Kraus to remove Lee from the LNC Discuss List, and to remove him from the list of LNC members on

I have been asked why I didn't pickup the phone and call or email Lee Wrights to notify him of the impending expiration of his sustaining membership, and the implication of that for his membership on the LNC. I was in a quandary about what to do. Part of me did think that that was the most prudent course of action for both the Party and the LNC. But, in the end, I could not bring myself to do it.

First, it is not my job as Chairman to remind individual members to renew their sustaining memberships. So, for me to call Lee would have been a matter of courtesy. It was my judgment at that time that he did not deserve that, as he has shown a lack of courtesy through what at times has been egregiously rude behavior to his fellow members on this Committee, to LNC staff, and to me, particularly at the San Diego meeting and thereafter. (Although I am not on the APRC email list, I have been told he had behaved very uncivilly at times with his postings to that list.) For him to expect courtesy while treating others so badly is hypocritical.

In particular, it is my understanding that Lee posted a commentary by Sean Haugh to on the day after the San Diego meeting that other people have told me they thought was defamatory to me. I certainly thought it was, and, in my opinion, to the best of my knowledge, it was also defamatory to M Carling, former LNC member and current LP parliamentarian.

Lee has told us that his failure to renew his sustaining membership before expiration was inadvertent. Maybe this is true, but based on the LNC's financial donation records, it appears that each of the three times that Lee has been on the LNC, either he ran for election when he was not eligible to do so, or he lost eligibility to serve on the LNC after his election. There is a pattern here that should not be ignored.

Lee has asserted to me that I am trying to "run the radicals off the LNC." That is not so. My problem with Lee Wrights has only to do with his behavior.

While I certainly admit that I am not an "LP Radical," I have striven to be fair in my role as Chair, as that is an important quality to have in that position. As a part of that fairness, non-life members of this LNC should note that, as long as I am Chairman, I will not be reminding them in any manner to maintain their sustaining memberships. That will ultimately be their responsibility.

I regret that what I consider a straightforward application of the Bylaws to Lee's failure to remain eligible has caused this controversy. Also, I apologize for the delay in getting this information to you. You have every right to know what happened. In addition to my work and LP matters, I have been preparing for a professional examination in the near future and dealing with the impending death of a long-time friend.

I know some of you think that I erred in not calling Lee as a courtesy to remind him about his expiring sustaining membership. Fair enough. I understand your position. If I had inadvertently failed to take care of a required task, I would want my colleagues to give me a heads-up, and I'd be hurt if they didn't give me one.

However, I hope you understand my position. I think Lee used up his ration of goodwill a long time ago. He has no right to complain about not receiving special courtesy when he fails to show basic courtesy to others.

If you decide to reelect him to the LNC, I will treat him in exactly the same way as any other LNC member. If he decides to act with courtesy, he will certainly receive the same courtesy from me.

Thank you very much.

William Redpath
LNC Chairman


Ruwart’s email to Redpath debunking the APRC claims, via Phillies

From: George Phillies
To: undisclosed-recipients
Date: 4/29/2009 1:41PM
Subject: [lnc-discuss] LeeWrights

The following [w]as not sent to me by Mary Ruwart. It provides some very interesting background material for understanding what is happening. It also shows something about Ruth Bennett's 2008 opponent.

On Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 6:27 AM, Mary Ruwart > wrote on LNC-discuss:

Mr. Chair,

I have long been an admirer of yours for all that you have given to the LP. I honor your contributions and always will, in spite of what I write today. Because I do respect what you have done for the LP, this e-mail is one of the most difficult pieces that I have ever had to write.

I believe that you have made a grave error in the matter of Mr. Lee Wrights by not asking the LNC for the 2/3 vote required to unseat an At-Large Member “for cause.” Your decision to do so has unnecessarily angered members and created division in a time when we need unity the most. Hours of time that could have been spent going after renewals and new members has instead been spent in an effort to replace or reinstate an activist who has also given much to the cause of liberty.

After all is said and done, you have taken this course of action because you believe that Mr. Wrights has been “rude.” Although you admit that you haven’t seen the APRC posts, you’ve taken someone else’s word that he has been “uncivil.” I am a member of the APRC and have read every one of Mr. Wrights posts. I can’t recall a single one that was “uncivil.” Blunt, maybe. Straightforward certainly. “Uncivil”? No. If you wish, I will forward each and every post that Mr. Wrights has made so that you can make your own assessment rather than taking someone else’s word for it.

“Rude” is when you swear at someone at the top of your lungs, with liberal use of expletives and the “f” word. “Uncivil” is when your wife is pleading in the background for you to stop---and still you continue. “Rude” is when you give a long-term friend this treatment in your capacity as National Chair when they, in their capacity of campaign manager for a presidential candidate, inquire about a defamatory press release. “Uncivil” is when you lose your temper and are totally out of control. Indeed, at that level I would call the behavior “abusive.”

By now you probably recognize yourself, in your capacity of National Chair, verbally abusing my campaign manager, Mr. Wrights, in a telephone conversation that took place in late May, 2008. After that conversation, Mr. Wrights came to me in shock. “I can’t believe I’ve just lost a good friend over this,” he told me. His distress was so extreme that I made him repeat as much of the conversation as he could remember so that I could help him come to terms with it. I too was shocked and hurt. After all, you were really angry at me and simply lit into Mr. Wrights, who was acting as my representative.

Perhaps I should have lodged a formal complaint about your bad behavior. I can tell you that it was not a pleasant feeling walking into the Denver convention knowing that it’s Chair was not at all neutral, but highly prejudiced against me. It was especially difficult because of my admiration and respect for all that you’ve contributed to the LP over the years.

Yes, you apologized to Mr. Wrights a week or so after this incident. Mr. Wrights generously forgave you and quite literally welcomed you back as his friend with open arms. It never even occurred to Mr. Wrights to hold a grudge; he loves you too much for that.

Too bad for Mr. Wrights and the Libertarian Party that you don’t feel the same way.

You readily accepted Mr. Wrights’ forgiveness for your abusiveness. You then have the nerve to call HIM “uncivil” and write: “For him (Mr. Wrights) to expect courtesy while treating others so badly is hypocritical.” I’m sorry to have to point this out, Mr. Chair, but that’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

In the meantime, you have turned a deaf ear when certain members of staff and others on this Board have treated both Mr. Wrights and myself with disdain. Mr. Wrights made a formal complaint to you on this list; you never answered him. I pointed out the problem to you in a more confidential setting; you promised action, but never let me know if such action had been taken. It once again seems that your comments about courtesy are “rules for thee, but not for me.”

If you have issues with Mr. Wrights behavior, or what he publishes, the proper course is to speak to him about it. Disregarding the will of the delegates and violating the bylaws are not proper courses of action for your complaint.

As you justly point out, the Chair should not be expected to remind LNC members of their renewal status. In this particular case, however, you were honor-bound to do so because of your own past bad behavior as National Chair and the forgiveness extended to you by Mr. Wrights. Had you extended the same courtesy to Mr. Wrights that he extended to you, we would now be building the Party instead of tearing it down.

I invite you to demonstrate your integrity and compensate Mr. Wrights by publically voting “yes” on the motion to reinstate him. He has quite literally paid his dues. It’s time for you to pay yours.

[ ] *On Behalf Of *William Redpath
*Sent:* Friday, April 24, 2009 9:09 PM
*To:* LNC Discussion
*Subject:* [Lnc-discuss] Lee Wrights

(The rest is the same memo as above)


Rachel Hawkridge email to LNC

From: Rachel H. for LPWA Communications
Date: Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 4:43 PM
Subject: Rules for Lee . . .
To:, Rachel Hawkridge ,,,,,,,,, rebecca sinkburris ,,,,,,,,,,,, Bill Redpath ,

Colleagues –

On Monday, I sent this eMail to our Treasurer . . .
After speaking to the FEC, I am here to report to you that . . .

So long as the money is reported to them accurately as to who it came from, they don't care who we give credit for money to internally. So long as we reported accurately to the FEC that Sean Haugh gave that $25 if we were required to, that is all that matters. (You, of course, know that if Sean's combined contributions do not total $200, no reporting is necessary.)

So, I'm asking you to drop the FEC stuff - stop any attempts to comb through past records and refund monies; then publicly acknowledge that you were wrong, and that Mr. Wrights was a member in good standing when he was elected at Denver.

I would prefer to have this exchange in writing, but I will call you in a few minute to make sure that you have received this. I would appreciate a reply as soon as possible.

Thank you.

I did call, and Mr. Starr returned my call the next morning. He said that he had not seen the eMail, and when I asked him to stop any attempts to go through past records and refund monies, he said that they never intended to do that.

Yet the memo (page 4, bottom of the page) says The FEC Policies and Procedures Manual for the Libertarian National Committee requires that we return payments that are clearly made from one party in the name of another.

Once again, here’s another case of Rules for Lee, but not for me. The idea that we would only do this for one member, but no others, seems to be just a tad biased. If we are doing it for one member, then we should do it for all.

Addressing the FEC implications, the remedial steps we are taking to deal with the past illegal contribution and prevent future improper contributions are as follows:

According to my conversation the FEC, and our Treasurer’s own admission, this was not an illegal contribution. If there was any impropriety, it seems to have been in the recording of this contribution. I would not say that the Treasurer was being intentionally misleading, yet he says that it was an illegal contribution even after he said “That said, I do want to make abundantly clear that I do not believe that Sean Haugh violated the law, nor do I believe that R. Lee Wrights violated the law.”� And then he goes on to call it an illegal contribution. While I cannot ascertain the Treasurer’s motives, and he assures us that he is scrupulously fair, his narrative would seem, again, biased.

1) Because we cannot legally accept a contribution in the name of another, on the advice of Paula Edwards, our FEC consultant, and with the affirmation of the Chair, I have instructed Robert Kraus to refund the $25 to Sean Haugh. I have attached a copy of the correspondence, the original check from Sean Haugh, and our refund check.

If this contribution was improper, as the Treasurer asserts, then we have any number of other problems. State affiliates have purchased memberships, spouses have paid dues for each other, some incredibly generous people have made contributions to the LP in the names of others. I have no idea how these contributions were recorded, but let’s start with the Haugh household. In that year, Sean Haugh wrote at least three checks to LNC, Inc; one was a $25 payment for Pam’s membership dues, another $25 that is the subject of this very detailed memo, and a third, for his own dues. There may have also been another $100 check that was earmarked for ballot access, all of which totaled $175. None of this was reported to the FEC; because it didn’t have to be. The FEC requires reporting of contributions in excess of $200, and could care less about how it’s spent or earmarked once it’s in-house, as long as we report to them what we are required to report to them.
If there was any impropriety, it seems to have been in the recording of this contribution in-house, and even that is not a violation because it was not a reportable event. I would not want to think that our Treasurer intends to lead us down the garden path, but this whole argument about illegal contributions seems to be politely couched speculation about non-issues.

I suspect that there will be those who will want to pretend that Article 5.5, which applies only to higher levels of contributions, should also apply to a basic $25 membership, but that would be a distortion of what the language actually states.

The Treasurer attributes much to both Article 5.5 and to this body. Article 5.3 says . . .

“Sustaining member”� is any Party member who has given at least $25 to the Party in the prior twelve months, or who is a life member.

Our Treasurer interprets this to mean that the contribution must come directly from the member, with no intermediary. I know of several families, and for that matter, Washington and other states, also individuals; all of whom have purchased memberships for others. As long as the contributions are legally reported, this is not a problem–we have done it for a decade or more, and per Michigan Attorney Mr. Leonard Schwartz, this is something we should continue to encourage.

My reading of the Article, as well as that of several Parliamentarian friends of mine outside of the LP, and Mr. Schwartz, reveal no such statement. The Bylaws do not specifically exclude this, and our Treasurer’s interpretation seems overly narrow.

And finally, the renewal call the other day illustrates just how bad our records actually are. Not only did most of us get calls (but not all, from what I understand), but pledgers, life members and non-members as well got them. Wes Benedict, who is, I believe, both pledger and Life Member got a call, as did IPR blogger Trent Hill. Mr. Hill has never been a member - he's a Green or Independent.

This entire incident is a case of “Rules for Lee, but not for me”. The lying in wait by several members; the Chair’s admission that he felt that Mr. Wrights had been discourteous, and that the Chair then had no obligation to treat Mr. Wrights with any courtesy, especially in light of the Chair’s tirade that Dr. Ruwart reported to us yesterday, all point to just that. One set of rules for some members of this committee, another set for others.

Act In Liberty,

Rachel Hawkridge
Chair, Libertarian Party of Washington
Libertarian National Committee
Region 7 Representative


LNC vote on appeal ruling of the Chair regarding Porter motion

From: Bob Sullentrup
Date: Sun, May 3, 2009 at 11:13 AM
Subject: [Lnc-discuss] Mail Ballots
To: LNC Discussion


The ruling of the Chair is sustained 10-5

Voting with the chair:
Michael Jingozian
Bob Sullentrup
Aaron Starr
Michael Colley
Pat Dixon
Alicia Mattson
Rebecca Sink-Burris
Stewart Flood
Dan Karlan
James Lark

Mary Ruwart
Tony Ryan
Mark Hinkle
Julie Fox
Rachel Hawkridge

Meanwhile, with 44 minutes left on the ballot to reinstate Lee Wrights onto the LNC, it looks as if it will pass.

I have alerted Robert Kraus to enable Lee’s access to LNC-Discuss unless he hears otherwise from me. Welcome back, Lee. It’s time to heal.


LNC Vote to reinstate Wrights

From: Robert Sullentrup
Date: Sun, May 3, 2009 at 11:58 AM
Subject: [Lnc-discuss] Lee Wrights returned to the LNC

Final vote 12=0

Bill Redpath
Michael Jingozian
Bob Sullentrup
Michael Colley
Pat Dixon
Mary Ruwart
Tony Ryan
Mark Hinkle
Stewart Flood
James Lark
Julie Fox
Rachel Hawkridge

Robert, please activate Lee’s e-mail access to LNC-Discuss and, if you know how and have access, update


Statement from the Judicial Committee regarding the Wrights Appeal

The Judicial Committee decided to divide the question of jurisdiction into two questions. Does the Judicial Committee have jurisdiction over the first three questions asked in Mr. Wrights amended appeal: (1) Does a failure to maintain a sustaining membership constitute a resignation as claimed by the Secretary and Chair? (2) If Questions 1 is answered in the affirmative, how long is the grace period between the time when the membership fee becomes due and the supposed resignation? (3) If Question 1 is answered in the affirmative, does the Secretary or Chair have the authority to decide if and when an effective resignation has taken place?

The Judicial Committee decided by a vote of four (Bennett, Hacker, Sarwark, Stevens) to three (Cobb, Nolan, Nicks) that we have no jurisdiction on these three questions.

The fourth question, "Does a lapse in dues require a ‘for cause’ removal described in Article 8, section 5?" is found to be within the Jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee by a vote of six (Bennett, Cobb, Hacker, Nicks, Nolan, Sarwark) to one (Stevens).

We then voted to accept Mr. Wrights appeal on that question alone by a vote of five (Bennett, Cobb, Nicks, Nolan, Sarwark) to two (Hacker, Stevens.)

A telephonic hearing will now be scheduled. Please have any responses or briefs to the Chair of the Judicial Committee by 5P (PDT) on Friday, May 15, 2009.

Respectfully Submitted,

Ruth E. Bennett
Libertarian Party Judicial Committee

Ruth E. Bennett, Chair
Joe Cobb
Allen Hacker
Travis Nicks
David F. Nolan
Nick Sarwark
Tom Stevens


Statement from the Judicial Committee regarding the delegates appeal

By a vote of six (Bennett, Cobb, Hacker, Nicks, Nolan, Sarwark) to one (Stevens) the Judicial Committee recognizes that we have jurisdiction in the matter of the Delegates’ Petition of April 30, 2009. We are, however, by a vote of five (Bennett, Cobb, Hacker, Nolan, Stevens) to two (Sarwark, Nicks) declining to accept the petition.
The relief requested in the Petition is reinstatement of R. Lee Wrights and as Mr. Wrights has been appointed to the National Committee, the appeal is moot.

Respectfully Submitted,

Ruth E. Bennett
Libertarian Party Judicial Committee

Judicial Committee Members

Ruth E. Bennett, Chair
Joe Cobb
Allen Hacker
Travis Nicks
David F. Nolan
Nick Sarwark
Tom Stevens


Seebeck email to the Judicial Committee

To the Judicial Committee:

The Committee needs to revisit and reverse their erroneous rejection of the delegate petition as the Judicial Committee has no authority per the Bylaws to reject it. The rejection is made in direct contravention of the Bylaws.

Article 8, Section 11:

11. Upon appeal by ten percent of the delegates credentialed at the most recent Regular Convention or one percent of the Party sustaining members the Judicial Committee shall consider the question of whether or not a decision of the National Committee contravenes specified sections of the Bylaws. If the decision is vetoed by the Judicial Committee, it shall be declared null and void. […]. (emphasis added)

"Shall" does not mean "may".

Furthermore, the question is not made moot by the reappointment of Lee Wrights, because it lays out a precedent that the Secretary's unilateral actions of removal which led to the reappointment are validated, which is utterly in error by the plain reading of the Bylaws! The rejection ignores or misconstrues the first half of the requested relief, which is the request that such a precedent be overturned and not be validated, and that Lee Wrights is reinstated to his rightfully-elected position, not removed and reappointed, which is a vastly different issue.

To quote the petition itself:

I was a Delegate to the Libertarian Party 2008 National Convention. Pursuant to Article 8, Section 5, I find that the attempted removal of R. Lee Wrights, At-Large Member of the Libertarian National Committee, from the National Committee, without a 2/3 vote of the National Committee, contravenes Bylaws Article 8, Section 5. I affirm his position as an At-Large Representative and ask, per Article 8, Section 12 [11, sic], that the Judicial Committee overturn this attempted removal and direct that Wrights be recognized as an At-Large Member of the National Committee.(emphasis added)

A reappointment that is in question because the removal in the first place is considered suspect, hence both this delegates appeal and the appeal of the fourth Wrights question. Until the original question is resolved, the issue isn't moot because the reappointment follows directly from the removal. If the removal is found to be valid then the reappointment is valid; but also, if the removal is not valid then reappointment cannot be valid either (since then there was no vacant position to appoint to!). The relief requested is not just that Wrights be recognized as At-large BUT ALSO that the removal be overturned as well. There's two parts to the relief requested as well, and in rejecting the petition in error, the first part of the requested relief was ignored or misconstrued.

In summary, the Judicial Committee MUST hear the delegate petition, and the reasons for rejecting it are in contravention to both the Bylaws and common sense.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael Seebeck


Response from Judicial Committee

Subject: Re: Delegate Petition rejection
Date: Sun, 10 May 2009 05:00:44 +0000 (UTC)
From: Ruth E. Bennett
To: Mike Seebeck
CC: David F. Nolan ,, Joe Cobb ,,,

Mr. Seebeck,

We are in receipt of your request to reconsider our decision regarding the Delegated Petition. We will let you know our response within 10 days.

Ruth E. Bennett


Judicial Committee.


Seebeck amicus curiae brief to the Judicial Committee

Amicus Curiae Brief on the Wrights Case

To the Judicial Committee:

The question before the Judicial Committee in the appeal submitted by Mr. Wrights, as agreed to be heard by the Committee, is the following:

"Does a lapse in dues require a ‘for cause’ removal described in Article 8, section 5?"

Proponents Never Answer the Question

A brief submitted to the Committee by eight members of the LNC fails to answer that question, and instead reverts to attempting to ask and answer through strawmen and hyperbole two different questions, in a blatant attempt to reframe the issue away from the question at hand. The Committee should disregard that brief in its entirety in their deliberations, simply because it is irrelevant to the actual question.

Answer is “Yes”, and Judicial Committee Already Agrees

As for this brief, the answer to the question before the Committee, is simply, “Yes.” The Committee already knows this and agrees, as indicated by their statement of May 1, 2009. (See

Status vs. Process

The fundamental problem underlying the question and the entirety of the events surrounding the controversy of Mr. Wrights can be boiled down to a simple resolution of status vs. process.

Those that attempted to remove Mr. Wrights based their claims on status alone and ignored the process. The question Mr. Wrights asks here is whether the process needs to be followed.

At issue here is two sets of statuses: membership within the Party, and eligibility for the LNC. Behind each status is a process, which involves creating the status, and what is done if the status changes.

The status of being a national sustaining member of the Party does play a role in determining eligibility on the LNC, and nobody disputes it. Prior to election to the LNC a candidate must be a sustaining member, else they cannot be elected. The process of becoming a sustaining member is simple: donate $25 to the national Party and sign the SOP/Pledge. Once that is done, the candidate can be elected to the LNC. Once elected, the question of sustaining membership continues as before, and as it does for every sustaining member. On that question of status there is also no dispute. If a regular sustaining member lapses, a renewal notice is sent out.

The problem that has arisen is the effect of a sustaining membership being lapsed on a person’s eligibility to be on the LNC. The people that attempted to remove Mr. Wrights make the presumption that the moment Mr. Wrights’ sustaining membership lapsed, that he was no longer eligible to be on the LNC and therefore automatically removed. They assume the process.

What Constitutes Automatic Removal and Due Process?

However, that is clearly not the case, and the process cannot be assumed. There are only two cases of automatic removal from the LNC: death and failure to attend 2 consecutive meetings. Death is rather obvious and beyond dispute, but a look at the attendance failure is illuminating. Up until the 2008 convention, failure to attend meetings was considered ground for automatic removal from the LNC, but they could appeal the removal to the Judicial Committee. (See pp. 15-16 of the 2008 Convention minutes) That section was amended to what is currently in the Bylaws, removing the appeals process and making the automatic removal be without any due process whatsoever. Prior to the amendment, even an automatic removal for attendance had a due process attached to it, indicating that the intention was that no matter the case to that point, some process was followed in cases of removal to effect removal properly, and a representative could have the ability to present their case to not be removed.

Lee Wrights was never given that proper opportunity in the proper forum of the LNC, hence his appeal to the Committee.

That brings up the process for mid-term removal from the LNC. Mentioned above were two of the four cases, death and attendance. The other two cases are resignation and removal for cause. It is obvious that Mr. Wrights did not resign, is most certainly alive, and has not missed any LNC meetings, so that leaves removal for cause as the only other possible way that Mr. Wrights could be removed from the LNC.

No “Without Cause” Removal in Bylaws

Said above was that the answer to the question before the Committee was, “Yes.” It is “yes” because it is the only other possible way for removal from the LNC. Those that attempted to remove him have attempted and failed to claim that there is a fifth way for removal, that being effectively “without cause” (a removal can be either “for cause” or “without cause”), through whatever verbal hopscotch they spin it as, but there is no such provision in the Bylaws, nor have any delegates ever voted on any such proposal to add that provision. Those proponents would allege that the Secretary refusing to credential a member is enough to call a vacancy, a removal “without cause.” That is a dangerous and improper position, especially if the Secretary’s actions cannot be overridden or the Secretary cannot be held accountable by removal by 2/3 vote of the LNC. Such is the case here.

However, the proponents ignore what a removal “for cause” actually means. “For cause” is a legal term that means there is a real and legitimate reason for the termination or removal, such as criminal activity or neglect of duty of the one terminated or removed. “Without cause”, however, means that there is no reason required by either party to the removal. “Without cause” is also known as “at-will” in employment realms, to which the LNC closely resembles. A failure to maintain eligibility is clearly a neglect of duty of the office, since part of the duty of an office is to maintain the eligibility for that office in the first place. Therefore failure to maintain eligibility is in fact a “for cause” condition.

In such a case, the “for cause” condition requires a 2/3 vote of the LNC for removal, and such a vote was never taken. The process was never followed.

Removal Types in Bylaws

In terms of the Bylaws, death and resignation are removals without cause, attendance failure is a removal for cause with no process, and there are removals for cause with a 2/3 LNC vote. That also clearly illustrates that an at-Large member’s departure from the LNC mid-term can only be effected by the member himself or 2/3 of the body—not the Secretary acting alone.

Conclusion and Remedies

It’s really that simple. Lee’s membership lapse was grounds for a removal “for cause” by the LNC, not a unilateral decision by the Secretary for removal “without cause”, for which he had no authority to do in the first place.

Therefore, the Committee must answer the question of Mr. Wrights’ appeal in the affirmative.

In fact, the Judicial Committee has already issued a statement to that effect on May 1, 2009.

What does that affirmation imply, then, in terms of remedies?

  • It means that the Secretary cannot unilaterally remove Mr. Wrights.
  • It means that Mr. Wrights was never removed in the first place in a proper manner.
  • It means that the LNC could, with a 2/3 vote, remove Mr. Wrights.
  • It means that the reappointment of Mr. Wrights is invalid since he cannot be reappointed to a seat he was never removed from in the first place.
  • It means that the proper process must be followed in all cases.

In summary, the proponents have no case, and the question before the Committee must be answered “Yes”, with the aforementioned remedies and results.

Respectfully Submitted,
Michael Seebeck


Delegate Petition Reconsideration Declined

From: 'Ruth E. Bennett'
Sent: Mon May 18 18:16
To: Michael Seebeck
Priority: Normal
Subject: Request to reconsider decision on the Delegate Petition

Dear Mr. Seebeck,

The Judicial Committee declines to reconsider our decision on the Delegate Petition.

Ruth E. Bennett
Judicial Committee


Judicial Committee hearing format statement

From: 'Ruth E. Bennett'
Sent: Wed May 20 18:16
To: Bill Redpath , Lee Wrights < ... Priority: Normal Cc: Subject: Friday May 22 Judicial Hearing Format Dear Libertarians, This is the format the Judicial Committee has chosen. 15 min Mr Wrights or advocate 10 min questions by Judicial Committee 15 minutes by Mr. Redpath or advocate 10 minutes questions by Judicial Committee 5 minutes rebuttal/closing by Mr Wrights or advocate 5 minutes rebuttal/closing by Mr. Redpath or advocate At the discretion of the JudComm, we may ask a few follow up questions at this time. Twenty minutes for each side in total will be allowed. If one side takes more than 15 minutes initially, then that time will be taken from rebuttal/closing time. Time limits will be strictly enforced. Since there is no practical way to alert anyone of upcoming time limits, each speaker will be responsible for his/her own timing. When a total of 20 minutes is used, the speaker will be muted. Please advise the me of who will be speaking for your position. You may have multiple speakers, but the total elapsed time will still be 20 minutes. Only those whose names provided to the Chair in advance will be permitted to speak. All others calling in will be muted, so please let me know who will be speaking for you. If for some reason you need to be recognized, please state your name and then wait until acknowledged by the Chair. Please advise the Chair what phone number you will be calling from. Please remember not to use VOIP or a speaker as they cause unpleasant and distracting echoes for other participants. The entire hearing will be recorded and that recording will be made available within 30 days of the hearing. The phone number to call is (712) 432-3900) and the access code is 55674. Again, please do not use VOIP or a speaker phone. If you have any questions, please contact me. I look forward to a principled conclusion to this matter. Ruth E. Bennett Chair Judicial Committee

Judicial Committee Majority Ruling

Majority Opinion in the Matter of the Appeal of R. Lee Wrights

21 June 2009

Mr. Wrights Has Standing to Appeal His Removal From the LNC.

The Judicial Committee is empowered by the LP Bylaws to hear appeals of the "suspension of National Committee members-at-large." (LP Bylaws 9.2 (c)). The argument has been advanced that since Mr. Wrights was not suspended from the LNC through the procedures described in LP Bylaws 8.5, his removal is not actually a suspension and thus is not appealable to the Judicial Committee. We are not persuaded that removing an at-large committee member is not a suspension merely because it was done outside the established bylaws procedures. Following that argument would result in a situation where a suspension done according to established procedures can be appealed and potentially overturned, but one done without following established procedures would be unreviewable. Rather, we are persuaded that Mr. Wrights was suspended from the LNC, regardless of the words used by Mssrs. Sullentrup and Redpath to describe it, and thus has standing to appeal his suspension to the Judicial Committee.

There is Some Ambiguity in the Language of the Bylaws Regarding When a Sustaining Member's Dues Lapse.

LP Bylaws 5.3 defines "Sustaining member as "any Party member who has given at least $25 to the Party in the prior twelve months, or who is a life member." There is a dispute over whether "prior twelve months" indicates the twelve calendar months prior to the month where the dues are checked for a lapse or if it indicates the twelve months prior to the date of the alleged lapse. This question becomes important as Mr. Wrights sustaining membership had lapsed as of the date of Mr. Sullentrup's letter to him under the latter formulation, but not under the former. While it is not necessary to resolve this question here, since we conclude that the Secretary exceeded his discretion in removing Mr. Wrights regardless, there is a general principle in law that ambiguities should be resolved in favor of the accused, and under that principle, the former construction would be preferred.

There Are Situations in the Bylaws that Require the LNC Secretary to Recognize a Vacancy on the LNC.

LP Bylaws 8.5 says that "A National Committee member who fails to attend two consecutive regular meetings of the National Committee shall be deemed to have vacated his or her seat." This "shall be deemed" language can be read to mean that the LNC Secretary is required to recognize the vacancy of the National Committee member who missed the two consecutive meetings; recognizing the vacancy is not left to the discretion of the LNC Secretary. This specific mandatory language is the proverbial exception that proves the rule, i.e. if there is not specific mandatory language, the LNC Secretary retains some level of discretion in carrying out his/her duties.

The Eligibility Requirements of LP Bylaws 8.4 do not Contain Specific Enforcement Language.

LP Bylaws 8.4 reads, "A National Committee member shall be a sustaining member of the Party, and shall not be the candidate of any party except the Party or an affiliate." While there is dispute about whether this language specifically requires continuing sustaining membership and the effect of a lapse in that membership, there is no dispute about whether the Bylaw contains specific enforcement language. It does not.

It is clear from other sections of the Bylaws that when the delegates intend to make a provision mandatory, they are capable of enacting clear language to that effect. (See, e.g., the third paragraph of LP Bylaws 8.5 (requiring a member who misses two consecutive meetings to be removed)). It is also clear that the delegates are capable of writing language prohibiting action, such as LP Bylaws 8.7, constitute the subject region."

In Absence of a Specific Enforcement Procedure, Suspension of an At-Large Member Must be Done Through the General Procedures Contained in the LP Bylaws.

Given the lack of either kind of language in LP Bylaws 8.4, two possibilities exist. Either the Secretary and Chair are empowered to enforce the language as they see fit or the LNC has to act as a whole under the process given for suspension of an LNC member. We are not persuaded that the Secretary or Chair can suspend an at-large member of the LNC without a 2/3 vote of the LNC.

This is not to say that the Secretary is required to allow an At-Large member who is lapsed all of the rights and privileges of a member in good standing. The Secretary could refuse to acknowledge the votes of an At-Large member he/she believes to be ineligible to hold the office. The Secretary and Chair could refuse to seat an At-Large member they determine to be ineligible. What they cannot do is suspend an At-Large member from the National Committee without following the procedures in the Bylaws. When, in this case, the Bylaws do not contain specific enforcement procedures related to a particular provision, the ambiguity is resolved in favor of the existing default procedures (those described in LP Bylaws 8.5), rather than allowing an ad hoc procedure to be undertaken by one or two officers of the National Committee.

Mr. Wrights Suspension Was Improper and Hereby Reversed.

After reviewing all of the facts in light of the LP Bylaws, we conclude that Mr. Wrights was improperly suspended from his position on the LNC. We reverse that suspension, effective as of the date of the original communication from Mr. Sullentrup to Mr. Wrights regarding his removal. We also recommend that the current LP Bylaws Committee consider changes that would bring greater clarity to these provisions.

Majority opinion written by Nick Sarwark and joined by Ruth E. Bennett, Joe Cobb and Travis Nicks


Judicial Committee dissent by Nolan

A Minority Opinion in the Matter of R. Lee Wrights

While Article 8, Section 4 of the Bylaws was interpreted in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner in the case of Mr. Wrights, eligibility for membership on the LNC is not a "for cause" question, and thus does not require a vote for removal as specified in Article 8, Section 5. I strongly urge the 2010 Bylaws Committee to clarify the intent and terms of Article 8, Section 4 to prevent future misunderstandings and misinterpretation.

David F. Nolan


Judicial Committee dissent by Hacker

In the Judicial Committee
Libertarian Party
Allen Hacker, Member

June 21, 2009

In the matter of the appeal of R. Lee Wrights of the recent situation vacating his At-Large Representative seat on the Libertarian National Committee pursuant to Bylaw 8, Section 4;

Decision in the Minority as Separate among Three such Minority Decisions:

The question in this case is a simple one: "Does a lapse in dues require a for cause removal under Section 8.5 of the bylaws?" This question arises from Bylaw 8.4 which requires that an LNC At- Large Representative be a Sustaining member as defined elsewhere in the bylaws.

The question only appears to become difficult if it is removed from the sense of the bylaws as a coherent body of law and then addressed only within the confines of the present appeal and its originating circumstances. However, any such difficulty is extraneous; the Judicial Committee should always decide any issue before it from a wholistic perspective, on the premise that decisions tailored to any set of particulars may well not function well in others. Deciding this question in that manner divorces all emotion and politics from the decision and is the best path to future party unity.

To decide this question in the affirmative by any logic would set up a paradox, or worse, within or respect to the bylaws. On the one side of that paradox is the undisputed fact that the LNC cannot ignore, suspend or alter a bylaw. Yet a Yes decision would seem to empower the LNC to do just that by either inaction or failing to carry a motion for suspension in the event of a member's failure to maintain the status required by bylaw 8.4. For that exception to be valid, the Judicial Committee would have to have an existing power to overturn the supreme law of the Party, and that power it does not have.

The only responsible decision is to answer the question in the negative. This prevents the creation of said paradox, and avoids the Judicial Committee stepping out of bounds. It also avoids the Judicial Committee assuming the role of janitor upon the discovery of ill-considered bylaws and/or their unintended consequences.

Therefore, without regard to the precipitating circumstances underlying the appeal before us, and without comment on anything beyond the question before us, I answer the question in the negative:

NO, a lapse of sustaining membership as required by Bylaw 8.4 does not require a for-cause motion, and the consequences of such a lapse cannot be decided under a for-cause vote, pursuant to Bylaw 8.5.

ss: Allen Hacker


Judical Committee dissent by Stevens

Dissenting Opinion

The only question currently before the Judicial Committee is that portion of the R. Lee Wrights appeal seeking an advisory opinion on the following hypothetical question for which no relief was requested:

4. Does a lapse in dues require a "for cause" removal as described in Article 8, Section 5?

The short answer to that question is NO. A lapse in dues by a member-at-large of the LNC does not require a “for cause” removal as described in Article 8, Section 5 of the Libertarian Party Bylaws.

Article 8, Section 4 and Article 5, Section 6 contain provisions dealing with the eligibility of LP members to serve on the National Committee and to hold National Party office.

Article 8, Section 4 reads as follows:

A National Committee member shall be a sustaining member of the Party, and shall not be the candidate of any party except the Party or an affiliate.

The relevant portion of Article 5, Section 6 reads as follows:

Only sustaining members shall be eligible to hold National Party office or be a candidate for President or Vice-President.

The wording in Article 8, Section 4 that “A National Committee member SHALL (emphasis added) be a sustaining member of the Party” is clear enough and is reinforced by the wording in Article 5, Section 6 that “only sustaining members shall be eligible to HOLD (emphasis added) National Party office”. It is evident that “National Party office” refers at least to all members of the Libertarian National Committee and not just to the “Officers” mentioned in Article 7, Section 1 of the bylaws.

If a lapse in “sustaining membership dues” did require a “for cause” suspension under Article 8, Section 5 of the Libertarian Party Bylaws, inaction by the LNC or a vote against suspension of a member whose sustaining membership dues lapsed would enable that person to continue to attend and vote at LNC meetings even though ineligible to serve under the LP Bylaws. Since the LNC has no power to suspend or ignore the provisions set forth in the Libertarian Party Bylaws, the conclusion must be drawn that a lapse in dues cannot require a “for cause” suspension under Article 8, Section 5 of the LP Bylaws.

One other point is worth making. What exactly does “for cause” mean and can it reasonably encompass a “lapse in dues”? Article 13 of the Libertarian Party Bylaws (entitled “Parliamentary Authority”) reads as follows:

The rules contained in the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised shall govern the Party in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with these bylaws and any special rules of order adopted by the Party.

It is therefore proper for this Judicial Committee to look to Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised for guidance on exactly what the phrase “for cause” means. That guidance is found in Chapter XX entitled “Disciplinary Procedures” specifically in the section entitled “Remedies Against Misconduct or Dereliction of Duty in Office”. On page 642, the following passage can be found:

Except as the bylaws may provide otherwise, any regularly elected officer of a permanent society can be deposed from office for cause – that is, misconduct or neglect of duty in office…

The phrase “that is” is equivalent to “i.e.” which means that the exact definition of “for cause” is “misconduct or neglect of duty in office”. Since a lapse in paying dues is neither “misconduct” nor a “neglect of duty in office”, a lapse in dues cannot require a “for cause” removal under Article 8, Section 5 of the Libertarian Party Bylaws.

That having been said, it is our position that the Judicial Committee does not have “subject matter jurisdiction” to hear this appeal. The Judicial Committee is not a Court of General Jurisdiction. Our “subject matter jurisdiction” is explicitly set forth in the Libertarian Party Bylaws. When we receive an appeal, the Judicial Committee must determine whether the issue appealed is within our “subject matter jurisdiction”. The Judicial Committee cannot point to subsequent actions or decisions of the LNC for which we might have jurisdiction and then bootstrap that back to the original appeal, which we did not have the power to hear in the first place.

The “subject matter jurisdiction” of the Judicial Committee is set forth in two sections of the Libertarian Party Bylaws. The first section is Article 8, Section 12 and the second section is Article 9, Section 2. Each provides independent grounds for “subject matter jurisdiction”.

The relevant portion of Article 8, Section 12 reads as follows:

Upon appeal by ten percent of the delegates credentialed at the most recent Regular Convention or one percent of the Party sustaining members the Judicial Committee shall consider the question of whether or not a decision of the National Committee contravenes specified sections of the Bylaws. If the decision is vetoed by the Judicial Committee, it shall be declared null and void.

The appeal currently before the Judicial Committee does not arise under Article 8, Section 12. It is not an appeal by “ten percent of the delegates credentialed at the most recent Regular Convention” nor is it an appeal by “one percent of the Party sustaining members”. It is instead an appeal by one individual and therefore the Judicial Committee cannot claim Article 8, Section 12 as the grounds for having “subject matter jurisdiction” over the R. Lee Wrights appeal, it cannot cite “a decision of the National Committee” as grounds for accepting the Wrights appeal, and it has no power to declare any “decision of the National Committee” null and void.

The only section of the Libertarian Party Bylaws that is relevant to whether the Judicial Committee has “subject matter jurisdiction” over the R. Lee Wrights appeal is Article 9, Section 2.

Article 9, Section 2 reads as follows:

2. The subject matter jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee is limited to consideration of only those matters expressly identified as follows:
a. suspension of affiliate parties (Article 6, Section 6),
b. suspension of officers (Article 7, Section 8),
c. suspension of National Committee members-at-large (Article 8, Section 5),
d. voiding of National Committee decisions (Article 8, Section 11),
e. challenges to platform planks (Rule 7, Section 9),
f. challenges to Resolutions (Rule 8, Section 2), and
g. suspension of Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates (Article 12, Section 5).

It is pretty clear that the delegates who adopted the above language meant it when they stated the subject matter jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee is LIMITED (emphasis added) to consideration of ONLY THOSE MATTERS EXPRESSLY IDENTIFIED (emphasis added) and then went on to state the exact sections of the bylaws and convention rules under which the Judicial Committee has the power to exercise that subject matter jurisdiction.

The only possible stated grounds under which the Judicial Committee can take "subject matter jurisdiction" over the amended appeal of R. Lee Wrights is Article 9, Section 2, Sub-Section c dealing with suspension of National Committee members-at-large under Article 8, Section 5.

The relevant portion of Article 8, Section 5 reads as follows:

The National Committee may, for cause, suspend any member-at-large by a vote of 2/3 of the entire National Committee. The suspended member-at-large may challenge the suspension by an appeal in writing to the Judicial Committee within seven days of receipt of a notice of suspension. Failure to appeal within seven days shall confirm the suspension and bar any later challenge or appeal...At the hearing the burden of persuasion shall rest upon the appellant. The Judicial Committee shall either affirm the National Committee’s suspension of the member-at-large or order reinstatement of the member-at-large within 30 days of the hearing.

In the circumstances that gave rise to the R. Lee Wrights appeal, the National Committee did not by a 2/3 vote of the entire LNC suspend R. Lee Wrights "for cause" and did not send him a notice of suspension. Hence, the Judicial Committee lacks "subject matter jurisdiction" over his appeal. Had he been suspended "for cause" by a 2/3 vote of the entire LNC, that action would be within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee, and if in such a situation, we found in his favor, we could order reinstatement. However, in this case, Mr. Wrights' sustaining membership dues lapsed and his seat was declared vacant. He was not "suspended" under the provisions of Article 8, Section 5. Therefore, it is clear that the Judicial Committee has no jurisdiction in this matter.

The amended appeal submitted to the Judicial Committee by R. Lee Wrights was as follows:

To: Libertarian Party Judicial Committee From: R. Lee Wrights On April 17, I appealed my suspension from the LNC. After further consideration, I want to clarify exactly what I am asking for in my appeal. I respectfully request the Committee to rule on the following:
1. Does a failure to maintain a sustaining membership constitute a resignation as claimed by the Secretary and Chair?
2. If Question 1 is answered in the affirmative, how long is the grace period between the time when the membership fee becomes due and the supposed resignation?
3. If Question 1 is answered in the affirmative, does the Secretary or Chair have the authority to decide if and when an effective resignation has taken place?
4. Does a lapse in dues require a "for cause" removal as described in Article 8, Section 5?
Respectfully submitted by, R. Lee Wrights, At-large

It is true that in the original appeal submitted by R. Lee Wrights, he appealed his “suspension” from the LNC. Perhaps upon realizing he had not been “suspended” from the LNC, he submitted the above amended appeal asking the Judicial Committee to “rule on” the questions posed.

On the first three questions raised by R. Lee Wrights in his amended appeal, the Judicial Committee voted 4 to 3 against it having "subject matter jurisdiction". All three questions dealt with asking the Judicial Committee to issue an advisory opinion on a matter dealing with what Mr. Wrights refers to as a "resignation", a "supposed resignation" and an "effective resignation". It does not deal with a "suspension" having taken place under Article 8, Section 5 of the bylaws. Ruth E. Bennett, Allen Hacker, Nick Sarwark & Dr. Tom Stevens voted against the Judicial Committee having subject matter jurisdiction on these questions. Joe Cobb, David F. Nolan and Travis Nicks voted in favor of the Judicial Committee having jurisdiction so the vote was 4 to 3 against jurisdiction.

The fourth question posed by R. Lee Wrights was the following:

4. Does a lapse in dues require a "for cause" removal as described in Article 8, Section 5?

There are problems obviously with the wording of the question itself since Article 8, Section 5, speaks of a "suspension" "for cause" and not a removal but that aside, the Judicial Committee voted it had “subject matter jurisdiction” over this hypothetical question even though no relief was sought by the appellant, no “suspension” under Article 8, Section 5 had taken place, and no relief could be granted since “reinstatement” was impossible since no “suspension” had taken place. Ruth E. Bennett, Joe Cobb, Allen Hacker, Travis Nicks, David F. Nolan & Nick Sarwark voted the Judicial Committee had jurisdiction over Question 4 of the R. Lee Wrights appeal. Only Dr. Tom Stevens voted against the Judicial Committee having “subject matter jurisdiction”. On whether to accept Question 4 of the R. Lee Wrights appeal for the purposes of holding a hearing, (Ruth E. Bennett, Joe Cobb, Travis Nicks, David F. Nolan & Nick Sarwark voted to hear the appeal on Question 4. Allen Hacker & Dr. Tom Stevens voted against hearing the appeal.

To reiterate, since the National Committee did not “suspend” R. Lee Wrights under Article 8, Section 5 of the Libertarian Party Bylaws, the Judicial Committee does not have “subject matter jurisdiction” over his appeal. In addition, R. Lee Wrights seeks no relief when he asks the Judicial Committee to “rule on” a hypothetical question and to issue an advisory opinion. Finally, the only relief that could be granted under Article 8, Section 5 is the ordered “reinstatement of the member-at-large” but since R. Lee Wrights was never suspended, his reinstatement cannot be ordered.

While it is clear that a lapse in dues does not require a “for cause” removal under Article 8, Section 5 of the Libertarian Party Bylaws, it is also true that Article 8, Section 4 does not contain explicit language describing a process for declaring a member-at-large’s seat vacant upon that member-at-large’s sustaining membership dues lapsing. However, the absence of such language does not imply that there is no automatic removal for failure to satisfy the eligibility requirements. The Bylaws Committee needs to address this issue and to recommend a process that can be followed when it is discovered that a member-at-large or any other person holding National Party office is found to be in violation of the eligibility requirements for that office. The proposed amendment might make the loss of eligibility result in an automatic removal from office, or it may state that the person holding National Party office be given 30 days to pay the lapsed dues or to resign as the candidate of another political party before being removal. Ultimately that decision will be and should be in the hands of the credentialed delegates meeting at the next Libertarian Party National Convention.

Respectfully submitted,

Dr. Tom Stevens
Judicial Committee Member

No comments: