A turning point for the Trump campaign’s legal efforts came on Nov. 13, when its core team of professional lawyers saw the writing on the wall. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia delivered a stinging defeat to Trump allies in a lawsuit trying to invalidate all Pennsylvania ballots received after Election Day.

The decision didn’t just reject the claim; it denied the plaintiffs standing in any federal challenge under the Constitution’s electors clause — an outcome that Trump’s legal team recognized as a potentially fatal blow to many of the campaign’s challenges in the state.

I don't understand the highlighted text. It's written in English, but not in the English that I can comprehend. Can anyone explain?

Tagging the question with "Pennsylvania", although I am not sure if the highlighted text is related to Pennsylvanian law.

Looks related: If Trump's legal challenges to the 2020 elections are so bad, why haven't the courts ruled them as frivolous? It seems probable that whatever the highlighted text means, it is something beyond just rejecting the challenge, even if it isn't ruling the case as frivolous.

  • Are you familiar with the legal concept of standing in general? Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 4:04
  • @NateEldredge not when I asked the question, although now that you linked it I have some idea what it is (although I still don't understand the sentence).
    – Allure
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 4:17
  • It's as plain English as it gets. constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/interpretation/… Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 4:18
  • @BlueDogRanch I read the link you gave and still don't understand the sentence, unfortunately.
    – Allure
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 4:34

1 Answer 1


I believe the case in question is Bognet v. Secretary Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 20-3214 (3d Cir. 2020). The decision is here.

The court gives a pretty clear explanation of the concept of standing on pages 19-20 of the opinion:

Article III standing doctrine speaks in jargon, but the gist of its meaning is plain enough. To bring suit, you—and you personally—must be injured, and you must be injured in a way that concretely impacts your own protected legal interests. If you are complaining about something that does not harm you—and does not harm you in a way that is concrete—then you lack standing. And if the injury that you claim is an injury that does no specific harm to you, or if it depends on a harm that may never happen, then you lack an injury for which you may seek relief from a federal court. As we will explain below, Plaintiffs here have not suffered a concrete, particularized, and non-speculative injury necessary under the U.S. Constitution for them to bring this federal lawsuit.

So the court held that the plaintiffs do not have standing: that the alleged actions of the defendants, even if they are assumed to have happened as the plaintiffs claim, would not violate the plaintiffs' Constitutional rights. As such, the court is not even going to consider whether the plaintiffs' claims are factual, or whether Pennsylvania's actions were illegal, or whether the remedies the plaintiffs seek are appropriate. The plaintiffs just lose.

  • Thanks. Do you know what "the Constitution’s electors clause" means? Also, do you know why it says "federal challenge" when, if I'm not mistaken, the challenge is at state level?
    – Allure
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 5:14
  • The "Electors Clause" is Article II, Section 1, clause 2 of the US Constitution: "Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of Electors..." It's cited on page 9 of the linked opinion. Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 5:17
  • @Allure: The case at hand is actually a federal case (the Third Circuit Court of Appeals is a federal court). The plaintiffs sued in US District Court (federal), alleging that the actions of the Pennsylvania state and local officials had violated their rights under the US Constitution. Cases that allege violations of federal law, including the US Constitution, are properly brought in federal court. So "federal challenge" is an accurate description. Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 5:19

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