I am Joelle Riddle's attorney and am writing to respond to the letter to the editor (Herald, Feb. 28) criticizing
Commissioner Riddle's decision to mount a constitutional challenge to the state statutory scheme that allows political
parties to set their own affiliation deadlines for their candidates, but imposes the most restrictive deadline in the
country - 17 months before the general election - on unaffiliated candidates.
The letter writers suggest that Riddle is hypocritical when she advocates fiscal responsibility while causing the
county to spend thousands of dollars to defend against her lawsuit. These charges are vacuous because the county is
under no obligation to spend one dime of the taxpayers' money to defend the lawsuit. If the county chose not to defend
the lawsuit, the federal judge nonetheless would undertake a thorough and vigorous legal analysis of Riddle's arguments
and come to a reasoned determination on the merits of Riddle's case. (If you think a federal judge is not going to
closely examine a constitutional challenge to a state statute even if the defendant does not participate in the case,then I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you.)
A great example of this course of action occurred in 1988 when the Democratic Party sued the secretary of state
challenging a statute that imposed an affiliation deadline on political party candidates. The secretary of state chose
not to defend the lawsuit. The judge nonetheless carefully considered the merits of the lawsuit and ruled that the
state of Colorado cannot impose any type of affiliation restriction on political parties.
Obviously, the letter writers disagree with Riddle's political positions. The proper way to voice their displeasure is
through the ballot box, not by making false accusations cloaked in manufactured outrage. The answer, as epitomized by
Riddle's lawsuit, is more democracy, not less. America would not be the greatest country ever if its
citizens followed the advice of the letter writers and docilely
allowed the government to
enforce laws that violate the Constitution.
Bill Zimsky, Durango