Stenehjem opponent says he mishandled ballot issue

 Below is a release from the Democratic-NPL Party. Waiting to get a response from Stenehjem. What do you think: Should Josh Voytek be allowed on the November ballot?

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Today Dem-NPL Attorney General Candidate Jean Boechler released a legal opinion on Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s mishandling of the ballot issue surrounding Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s failure to include a candidate on the primary ballot.

Boechler states that Stenehjem is refusing to issue an official legal opinion although an official opinion is needed and was requested by a state official, has provided inadequate legal justification for his informal advice, and is taking a “make-it-up-as-you-go-along” approach that is in direct violation of North Dakota Century Code.

“Attorney General Stenehjem has acted in a manner that questions his credibility,” said Boechler. “He has given poor advice to a state official, conducted inadequate legal research on a critical issue, and his ‘making it up’ legal approach shows that he is more concerned with the politically expedient solution instead of following the law.”

In his response to Senator John Warner in which he declined to issue a formal opinion, Stenehjem stated that he had provided Jaeger with private advice and that it was sufficient. However, the private opinion is not equal to an official opinion giving Jaeger direction, and the advice given was not founded in North Dakota Century Code.

Boechler concludes that the only “legal research” done by Attorney General Stenehjem’s office on the matter was contained in an email from Assistant Attorney General Fox to Jaeger, citing a supposed Connecticut court decision—although the case he listed does not exist. Fox also referenced an archaic legal encyclopedia that has not been updated since the 1950’s.

“This represents seriously deficient legal research, and deficient legal representation on the part of North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, in my opinion,” she wrote.

Nowhere in his letter or advice to Secretary of State Jaeger does Stenehjem actually reference North Dakota Century Code, which is clear on the subject. His claim that a court would allow Voytek to be placed on the ballot also does not hold water.

“Unfortunately, given present North Dakota law, while Mr. Voytek might well have a civil remedy against Secretary of State Jaeger in a civil action for damages – there is no provision of North Dakota law which would permit the Attorney General – or a court – to disregard statutory and decisional law of this jurisdiction to simply place Mr. Voytek on the November General Election ballot, under the attendant facts.”

Boechler stated that a legislative solution would be necessary to change the law and allow candidates in this position to petition to get on the ballot, as is done in Minnesota. However, no law exists in North Dakota at this time.

“Indeed, there are many situations which lawyers – and indeed courts – find to be unjust, unfair, and unfortunate – or even politically embarrassing to a candidate for re-election after having already served eighteen (18) years in office. However, the appropriate solution in any of these circumstances certainly is not to invent law on an ad hoc basis – “taking the law into your own hands”, to fit the expediency of the moment – a dangerous proposition indeed – especially for an Attorney General to adopt.”

“I believe that an Attorney General who is willing to disobey applicable North Dakota law in the purported interests of achieving an expedient result is an Attorney General who has been in office too long – and that North Dakota citizens now deserve a new Attorney General who will recognize and abide by North Dakota law.”

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