AUGUSTA — The attorney for Max Linn, a Bar Harbor financial planner, asked the state’s high court Monday to overturn a ruling by Maine’s secretary of state that disqualified him as a candidate in the June 12 Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

The oral arguments before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court were the latest in a series of hearings, lawsuits and rulings that led to Linn’s disqualification after it was determined that signatures on his nomination petitions were invalid, including some from voters who are no longer alive. The court has until Wednesday to make a decision.

Linn, who has been running against state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn, hoped to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, facing independent Angus King, who is seeking re-election to a second six-year term.

But Brakey’s campaign challenged the validity of Linn’s nominating petitions, prompting a review of the petitions by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. In an initial ruling, Dunlap tossed out some of Linn’s signatures but concluded he had 18 more than the 2,000 signatures he needed to qualify as a U.S. Senate candidate.

Brakey appealed that ruling in Superior Court, where Justice William Stokes ordered Dunlap to accept new evidence of additional fraud. Dunlap then conducted a second review, which turned up 47 more questionable signatures and prompted him to rule that Linn fell short of the 2,000 valid signatures he needed. Stokes upheld that decision.

Steven Juskewitch, an attorney for Linn, questioned Monday whether Stokes should have asked Dunlap to take a second look at Linn’s petitions and whether Dunlap wrongly invalidated entire petitions, rather than selected signatures.

Juskewitch has agreed that there were fraudulent signatures added to Linn’s petitions but it hasn’t been shown that the Linn campaign was responsible for that fraud.

In their deliberations, the Law Court justices seemed to focus on state laws governing the time limits set on appeals to Dunlap and whether after he had made an initial finding the case could be returned to him.

“When does it end?” Chief Justice Leigh Saufley asked Colton Gross, an attorney for David Boyer, a Brakey campaign worker who filed the original complaints against Linn’s campaign.

Gross said state laws allowed for an appeal to the Superior Court, but the appeal ends once the secretary of state has completed any review ordered by the court and issued a ruling – as has taken place in the Linn case.

Gross said Stokes’ order for Dunlap to consider new evidence was correct, because ultimately the spirit of the underlying laws that allowed for an appeal of Dunlap’s first decision was to protect the integrity of the election process.

“The court acts as a check on the secretary of state in instances just like this,” Gross said.

Phyllis Gardiner, an assistant attorney general representing Dunlap, said Stokes’ decision was based on the discovery of fraud previously. “Because there was fraud alleged and fraud had been found by the Secretary of State in his initial ruling, that made the Superior Court particularly concerned and it would be an abuse of his discretion not to allow additional evidence on that point,” Gardiner said.

The Law Court justices expressed concern, however, over whether the case should have been returned to Dunlap given the limited time remaining before the June 12 primary.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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