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Federal Judge Rules for Anti-Trump GOP Delegate

A federal judge blocked enforcement Monday of a Virginia law binding delegates to support the primary winner at the nominating convention.
Image: Donald Trump Gives Speech On Presidential Election In New York
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during an event at Trump SoHo Hotel, June 22, 2016 in New York City. Trump's remarks focused on criticisms of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

A federal judge blocked enforcement Monday of a Virginia law binding delegates to support the primary winner at the nominating convention.

It was a victory for Carroll "Beau" Correll, a delegate to the Republican national convention who argued that the law violated his First Amendment rights to vote for his preferred candidate. Correll supported Ted Cruz in the primary, while Donald Trump received the most votes in the state.

Correll said in an interview that the Trump campaign got “morbidly humiliated” by the outcome of the case.

“They put all their chips on the table and they lost all of them — if I were them I’d go hide in a closet in Trump Tower,” he said.

In a follow up statement, Correll made a plea to the like-minded, writing:

"To national political figures that are on the sidelines and awaiting your calling, I implore you to take a step forward from the darkness and into the light. Show us that you have the courage to stand for leader of the Free World, appeal to the better angels of our nature, and to deliver this Republic from the abomination of a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency."

As a practical matter, the decision appeared to affect at most only some of Virginia's delegates. Some legal experts even said the ruling may apply only to Correll himself, though it was filed as a class action on behalf of all the state's Republican delegates.

Carroll Beau Correll Jr., of Winchester, Va. filed a federal lawsuit against Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and other state officials. NBC Washington

But it could have a bigger impact on the upcoming Republican National Convention, as it gives some legal cover to delegates wishing to vote their “conscience,” rather than for the candidate to whom they’re bound.

According to Correll, 20 states have statutes or laws requiring the binding of delegates to candidates, and Trump’s detractors had expressed concerns that the candidate — who’s known for a history of bringing lawsuits big and small against those he opposes — would use those laws to punish unfaithful delegates.

In Arizona, for instance, delegates are asked to sign a pledge to vote for the winner of the state’s primary and those planning to vote their conscience say they’ve faced threats from the Republican Party chairman there.

Related: Could Delegate's New Lawsuit Derail Trump's Nomination?

One such delegate, Jarrod White, said Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham has “publicly come out and threatened delegates that if they don’t toe the line and don’t vote the way they are told, they will be removed from the delegation, their credentials will be revoked and they’ll be removed from the floor."

White says he’ll be voting for anyone but Donald Trump, who he says is a “divisive and controversial figure,” and predicted 10-12 Arizona delegates in total are planning to vote their conscience and oppose Trump, while 20-30 more are “very sympathetic to the cause and on the fence.” The state has 58 delegates.

The Trump campaign, however, is calling the decision a win and a “fatal blow to the anti-Trump agitators,” pointing to sections of the judge's ruling that reinforced the traditional interpretation of RNC rules that delegates are in fact bound by state party rules, even if not state laws.

"The court has confirmed what we have said all along: Rule 16 is in effect and thus delegates, including Correll, are bound to vote in accordance with the election results,” said Trump Campaign attorney and former FEC Chairman Don McGahn in a statement.

The federal court ruling has no bearing on RNC rules, however, so the disagreement over whether delegates are in fact bound to a candidate will be hashed out next week on the convention floor.