Washoe County District Judge Jerry Polaha denied a preliminary injunction sought by more than two dozen delegates at the Nevada GOP's convention in April, who contended state law requires national delegates to be selected by state convention delegates.
Party officials abruptly shut down the state convention before final votes were taken on the national convention delegation when outnumbered supporters of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain were out maneuvered by well-organized Paul supporters, who were able to get a rule change positioning them for more national convention delegate slots than expected. Party officials said the convention was running too long and would have taken several more hours to conclude.
Polaha sided with an attorney for the Nevada GOP, David O'Mara, who argued that case law shows such internal disputes should be settled by the parties and not courts.
The judge said disaffected Republicans could contest the state party's decision to the national GOP.
"There's no jurisdiction (for the court) because it's a purely a political dispute," he said in ruling from the bench. "You'll get different results in different courts, and that's the problem."
O'Mara praised the judge's ruling.
"I think the court is correct. This is an internal party dispute that the court shouldn't be involved in," he said.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they were unhappy with the ruling and would decide whether to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. If the courts fail to intervene, they said they would take the dispute to the Sept. 1-4 national convention in St. Paul, Minn.
"It still has to be settled," said plaintiff Wayne Terhune, a Paul supporter who helped organize an insurgent state convention in June after the party's state convention in Reno was recessed.
"Our overall goal is to restore lawfulness to the GOP in its delegate-selection process," he added.
The plaintiffs maintain the June convention in Reno was a lawful reconvening of the state convention and the results should be recognized. Paul won most of the national convention delegates at the gathering.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Mark Goodman, cited a state statute that says "the state convention shall select the necessary delegates and alternates to the national convention of the party."
Zachary Moyle, executive director of the Nevada GOP, didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Moyle has said the June meeting was invalid, and the state executive board would appoint delegates to the national convention. It faces an Aug. 2 deadline to submit a list to the national party.
The state Republican Party scrapped plans to reconvene its state convention July 26 in Reno because it couldn't get enough delegates to attend.
While many of those who joined the lawsuit were Paul supporters, Terhune said others were supporters of McCain.
"I think you'll find more dissatisfied Republicans than dissatisfied Democrats," said Cynthia Kennedy, a Paul supporter and lawsuit plaintiff. "That could be very bad news for the Republican Party in November."
McCain finished third in Nevada's GOP caucuses in January, behind Mitt Romney and Paul.
Mike Weber, a McCain supporter who joined the lawsuit, agreed.
"This arrogant action by party leaders to ignore ... a fair and open process is the very reason why we may face a disastrous defeat in November," Weber said in a statement.
Nevada, which President Bush narrowly carried the last two elections, is considered a potential swing state again this year.