LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — UPDATE: After a second vote, Luzerne County Council voted 7-4 to withdraw the motion to request Justice Barrett’s recusal in the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the mail-in ballot extension.
Luzerne County officials find themselves in a messy situation just days ahead of an unprecedented election.
A U.S. Supreme Court motion filed on the county’s behalf is making national headlines, but council members say they were left in the dark. It was the subject of a heated debate during Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Some see the request for Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s recusal, as an effort to preserve the mail-in ballot deadline extension. Voters chimed in during public comment at Tuesday night’s county council meeting, saying the legal maneuver was “political grandstanding” and whoever is responsible should be held accountable.
Luzerne County officials were surprised to learn lawyers representing the county filed a motion asking Justice Amy Coney Barret to recuse herself in the United States Supreme Court decision over the mail-in ballot deadline in Pennsylvania.
“We are taking this to the Supreme Court of the United States of America and it was done without our understanding,” Council member Harry Haas said.
Larry Moran of Joyce Carmody and Moran filed the motion along with Joseph Cosgrove of Selingo and Guagliardo. The county hired Moran’s private firm when the Trump campaign filed civil action against 67 Pennsylvania counties this summer, citing the handling of mail-in-ballots. Moran says this motion is part of that.
“It was a decision by me, the owner of the firm that was assigned with the task of winning the lawsuit and defending Luzerne County,” Moran said.
Pennsylvania Republicans want the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling that extends the mail-in ballot deadline. Justice Barrett could be the deciding vote.
This motion states the Luzerne County Board of Elections wants recusal of Barrett because her “impartiality might be questioned, given circumstances of her nomination and confirmation.”
During Tuesday night’s council meeting Vito Deluca said the Luzerne County Office of Law was not involved in the filing.
“We will be just as interested to hear what possible reason there would be for filing this without having any discussion with council and putting Luzerne County in the spotlight,” Deluca said.
Councilmen Walter Griffith and Haas spoke up saying the county needed to discuss the motion before it was filed. Moran said the recusal request was his idea, and notified county manager David Pedri about it. Hass proposed a motion encouraging the county manager to tell outside counsel to withdraw the motion immediately but the motion failed.
Councilmembers questioned whether Moran’s filing was politically motivated, bringing up his numerous donations to the Biden campaign. Moran says his only motive is to fight for Luzerne County in court.
Haas, Leeann McDermott, Chris Perry, Stephen Urban and Griffith were the only councilmembers who voted to approve the motion seeking withdrawal.