Reese plans to take election case to Court of Appeals

Peter A. Reese's pro-bono election law practice has, in many ways, positioned him as the leader of the opposition Democrats. He has fought to expand ballot access for dozens of candidates who are unaligned with Democratic Party headquarters -- which controls the Board of Elections, and is thereby able to restrict ballot access in order to thwart political newcomers.

The industrial engineer, cancer research scientist, and pioneering election law attorney who is running for Erie County Executive — Peter A. Reese — filed his appellate brief in the case of Reese v. Board of Elections and offered oral arguments at the New York State Supreme Court’s Fourth Appellate Division in Rochester on Thursday morning.

By 5:00 pm that afternoon, the Court issued a slew of election law decisions — nearly all of them upholding trial court rulings that had the effect of restricting ballot access for opposition political candidates.

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Peter and Ellen Reese are Democratic Party committeemen in North Buffalo and are leaders in the animal welfare movement. Their political action committee — No Kill PAC — advocates for municipal policies and ordinances that end the unnecessary killing of cats of dogs.

John Centra served as presiding justice, with associate justices Edward Carni, Brian DeJoseph, and Joanne WinslowPatrick NeMoyer, who was to hear the case on the typically five-member appellate panel, recused himself.

Reese had argued, among other things, that the specific objections ostensibly filed by Lynn Dearmyer were frivolous since Dearmyer had attested in her court filings that she never logged into the Board of Elections to review voter logs and signatures.  Attorneys Jessica Kuplit, Britney Penberthy, and Jeremy Toth argued on behalf of the respondents.

In Court documents — and in her objections filed at the Board — Dearmyer claimed to have compiled the Board records properly and reviewed Board records, but subsequently contradicted that claim to assert that she didn’t look at Board records.

“Nothing says we have to look at Board records,” Kulpit argued.

Before it became obvious that Dearmyer never logged in to review the Board’s voter database, she had claimed in Court filings that she did review voter signature cards before attesting to the accusation that some 487 signatures on the nominating petition did not match voter signature cards.

“So it’s your opinion that you don’t have to show the validity of your objections,” asked Justice Winslow.

“Absolutely not,” Kupit responded.

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The Fourth Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court is located in Rochester and hears arguments by way of a five-justice panel. Reese intends to take his case to the Court of Appeals.

Reese has alleged that the objections filed by Dearmyer were compiled by Democratic Party staffers at the Board of Election — and they were done either on public time or after hours when the Board was closed to public access.  Either situation would constitute an egregious use of taxpayer resources to thwart opposition political candidates from accessing the ballot.

But before witness testimony could be heard — with Election Commissioners Jeremy Zellner and Ralph Mohr under subpoena — State Supreme Court Judge Christopher Burns refused to hear any witness testimony at all, before adjourning the case and denying Reese’s motion to show cause and motion to validate his nominating petition.

The behavior shocked courtroom observers and has raised serious questions about the impartiality of New York’s Courts — particularly on election law matters.

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It’s unclear why Supreme Court Justice Patrick NeMoyer recused himself from hearing arguments in Reese v. Board of Elections. Reese has argued before the Justice in previous Appellate Division cases — as he did in the case of Mohamad Albanna.

The Appellate brief can be read below, or here: Reese v Dearmyer Brief.

Responding briefs can be read below.

 

 

 

 

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