Shugart et al v. Chapman

Filing 25

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER as follows: (1) 11 Renewed Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED; (2) All of Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for declaratory relief against Chapman in her official capacity as Secretary of State are DIS MISSED WITH PREJUDICE; (3) The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claim pursuant to Alabama law and such claim is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; (4) A separate final judgment will be entered consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 7/23/2009. (cb, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION A N D Y SHUGART and JONATHAN GRAY, ) ) P L A IN T IF F S , ) ) v. ) C A S E NO. 2:08-cv-1016-MEF ) B E T H CHAPMAN in her official capacity as ) A L A B A M A SECRETARY OF STATE, ) ) (WO- Do Not Publish) D EFEN D A N T. ) M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER T h is case is before the Court on Defendant Beth Chapman, Secretary of State's R e n e w e d Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 11). The Court has carefully considered the arguments in support of and in opposition to the motion and finds that it is due to be GRANTED. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND A n d y Shugart ("Shugart") alleges that he considered running as an independent ca n d idate for the United States House of Representatives as a representative of Alabama's S ix th Congressional District. Jonathan Gray ("Gray") alleges that he is a registered voter and th a t he would support Shugart in the election if Shugart's name appeared on the ballot. S h u g a rt and Gray contend that the portion of Alabama law setting the required number of s ig n a tu re s in support of an independent candidate for House of Representatives violates rig h ts guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution a s well as the Constitution of Alabama. They seek a declaratory judgment to that effect. Alabama law requires that a person who wishes to appear on the ballot as an in d e p e n d en t candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives must file a petition containing s ig n a tu re s of qualified electors, the number of which "shall be equal or exceed three percent o f the qualified electors who cast ballots for the office of Governor in the last general e le c tio n ." Ala. Code 17-9-3(a)(3). The parties agree that 6,155 signatures were required f o r purposes of the 2008 general election for House District 6. In contrast, Alabama law re q u ire s a person seeking to appear on the Alabama ballot as an independent candidate for th e office of President of the United States to submit a "written petition signed by at least 5 ,0 0 0 qualified voters of this state." Ala. Code 17-14-31(a). J U R IS D IC T I O N AND VENUE T h is court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331 a n d 1367. Additionally, Defendant has not argued that the Court does not have personal ju risd ictio n over her. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1391(b), venue is appropriate in this district. L E G A L STANDARD A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Prior to the S u p r e m e Court's recent decision in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007), a m o tio n to dismiss could only be granted if a plaintiff could prove "no set of facts . . . which w o u ld entitle him to relief." See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also H is h o n v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Wright v. Newsome, 795 F.2d 964, 967 (1 1 th Cir. 1986). Now, in order to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." 2 T w o m b ly , 127 S. Ct. at 1974. While the factual allegations of a complaint need not be detailed, a plaintiff must nevertheless "provide the `grounds' of his `entitlement to relief' and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 1965. A p la in tif f 's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above a speculative le v e l on the assumption that the allegations in the complaint are true." Id. It is not sufficient th a t the pleadings merely "le[ave] open the possibility that the plaintiff might later establish s o m e set of undisclosed facts to support recovery." Id. at 1968 (internal quotation and a l te ra tio n omitted). In considering a defendant's motion to dismiss, a district court will accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and view them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Am. United Life Ins. Co. v. Martinez, 480 F.3d 1043, 1057 (11th Cir. 2007). Accord, Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 640 (2004) (where a court is considering dismissal of a complaint at the pleading stage, it must assume the allegations of the complaint are true). D IS C U S S IO N A . Federal Law Claims R e lyin g on Illinois State Board of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173 (1 9 7 9 ), Plaintiffs contend that a state cannot require more petition signatures for a district o f f ic e than it does for a statewide office. While Plaintiffs have not misstated the holding of Illin o is State Board, they have overstated its applicability to the issue before this Court. W h ile Illinois State Board addressed the difference between requirements to be on a 3 sta tew id e ballot and those to be on a municipal ballot within that same state, this lawsuit c h a lle n g e s differences between requirements to be on the ballot to stand for election to a U.S. C o n g r e s sio n a l District and U.S. President. Thus, contrary to Plaintiffs' assertion this case d o e s not ask the same question as Illinois State Board. Defendant argues that two binding cases decided by the Circuit Courts of Appeals af ter Illinois State Board provide a much clearly guidance for the Court in deciding the issue b e f o re it. Defendant would have this Court dismiss the action pursuant to Swanson v. W o r le y , 490 F.3d 894 (11th Cir. 2007) and Wilson v. Firestone, 623 F.2d 245 (5th Cir. Unit B July 22, 1980).1 In Wilson, the Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling which d is tin g u is h e d Illinois State Board and which approved a Florida requirement that an in d e p e n d e n t candidate wishing to appear on the ballot in the Presidential race had to obtain fe w er signatures than did an independent candidate wishing to be on the ballot for a s ta tew id e office. In Swanson, the Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Alabama's re q u ire m e n t that independent candidates seeking ballot access must submit a petition with th e signatures of at least three percent of qualified electors who cast ballots at the last e le c tio n . In so holding, the court considered an argument identical to one made by Plaintiffs in this case: that Alabama's three-percent signature requirement is too high as compared to th e 5,000 signature requirement for presidential candidates. This Court agrees that taken In Bonner v. City of Prichard, Ala., 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. Nov. 3, 1981) (e n banc), the Eleventh Circuit adopted as binding precedent all Fifth Circuit decisions h a n d e d down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981. 4 1 to g e th e r these cases provide the answer to the questions presented by Plaintiffs' suit. The c h a lle n g e d statute is constitutional and works no violation of Plaintiff's rights under the U n ite d States Constitution. Accordingly, the Motion to Dismiss is due to be GRANTED as P la in tif f s ' complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted. B. State Law Claims In addition to Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 in which they contend th a t Alabama law violates rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, Plaintiffs' b r i n g a similar claim in which they contend that the challenged portion of Alabama law v io la te s the Alabama Constitution. See Doc. # 1 at 5e. This claim is before this Court p u rs u a n t to its supplemental jurisdiction. su p p lem e n tal jurisdiction provides that (a) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) or as expressly provided o th e rw ise by Federal statute, in any civil action of which the district courts h a v e original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental ju ris d ic tio n over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action w ith in such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or c o n tro v e rs y under Article III of the United States Constitution. 28 U.S.C. 1367(a). Thus, Section 1367(a) provides a basis for this Court to exercise ju ris d ic tio n over Plaintiffs' claims against the defendant in this action pursuant to Alabama law because it has jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' related claims against Defendant pursuant to 4 2 U.S.C. 1983. However, the requirement contained in 1367(a) that this Court exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claim is subject to certain enumerated in s ta n c es in which it is appropriate for a federal court to decline to exercise its supplemental 5 Id. The statutory provision addressing ju ris d ic tio n over a case. Those circumstances are set forth in Section 1367(c), which p ro v id e s that T h e district courts may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a c la im under subsection (a) if (1 ) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law, (2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over w h ic h the district court has original jurisdiction, (3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original ju ris d ic tio n , or (4 ) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for d e c lin in g jurisdiction. 2 8 U.S.C. 1367(c). The Court finds that claim before this Court pursuant to 1367(a) p re se n ts novel or complex issues of Alabama law. Additionally, the federal claims over w h ic h this Court had original jurisdiction have now been dismissed. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1367(c)(1) & (3), the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' c laim pursuant to Alabama law. All of Plaintiffs' claim pursuant to Alabama law will a c c o rd in g ly be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. This dismissal should not work to P la in tif f s' disadvantage should they elect to bring suit in state court because the period of lim ita tio n s for any of these claims is tolled during the pendency of this action. See 28 U.S.C. 1367(d). CONCLUSION F o r the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that all federal claims remaining in P la in tif f s' Verified Complaint for Declaratory Judgment over which this Court has original s u b je c t matter jurisdiction, are due to be DISMISSED. Having disposed of these claims, the 6 C ourt declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' remaining claim pursuant to Alabama law. Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED as follows: 1 . Defendant Beth Chapman, Secretary of State's Renewed Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 11) is GRANTED. 2. All of Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 for declaratory relief against C h ap m a n in her official capacity as Secretary of State are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. 3 . The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claim p u rs u a n t to Alabama law and such claim is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. 4. A separate final judgment will be entered consistent with this Memorandum O p inion and Order. D O N E this the 23 r d day of July, 2009. /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 7

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