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Pro Se Litigation

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Butler v. City of Columbia (Cameron McGowan Currie, D.S.C. 3:10-cv-794)
When a city council member resigned, the city had to decide whether to follow the normal schedule for a replacement election or to add the replacement election to an earlier city election already scheduled. The state’s supreme court determined that the replacement election should be on the earlier date. A retired law professor filed a pro se complaint claiming that the early election had not been precleared pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge district court enjoined the early election because it had not been precleared.
Subject: Election dates. Topics: Section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; enjoining elections; pro se party; intervention.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Briscoe v. Biggs (Eric F. Melgren, D. Kan. 2:10-cv-2488)
A would-be independent candidate for Congress filed a pro se petition for a writ of mandamus ordering his inclusion on the November ballot on the grounds that he was excluded because of improperly invalidated ballot petition signatures. The court denied immediate relief for lack of a likelihood of success on the merits and to protect the public interest in orderly elections.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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McClure v. Galvin (Richard G. Stearns, D. Mass. 1:04-cv-10826)
An attorney and would-be candidate for state senate filed a pro se federal complaint alleging that he was improperly denied a place on the ballot as an independent candidate because he had voted in a primary election. Three weeks later, the court denied the plaintiff injunctive relief because of a Supreme Court precedent upholding a party disaffiliation requirement.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; pro se party; primary election.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Dowd v. Town of Dedham (Joseph L. Tauro and Marianne B. Bowler, D. Mass. 1:01-cv-10944)
A frequent pro se plaintiff filed a federal complaint four days before a municipal election. The plaintiff challenged denial of his right to vote arising from his eviction from a residence in the town. The judge granted the plaintiff in forma pauperis status and ordered him to show cause why the complaint should not be dismissed for lack of merit. The court of appeals affirmed dismissal of the action.
Topics: Pro se party; registration challenges.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Nogueras Cartagena v. María Calderón (Hector M. Laffitte, D.P.R. 3:01-cv-1789)
A Puerto Rico voter filed a pro se federal complaint on June 13, 2001, challenging the constitutionality of a local referendum and a later federal referendum on the U.S. military’s continued use of the island of Vieques for explosives exercises. Respecting the imminent local referendum, the court ruled that the plaintiff did not have standing to pursue a general grievance in court. Later, the court issued an order to show cause why claims concerning the federal referendum should not be dismissed, and then the court dismissed those claims.
Topics: Ballot measure; enjoining elections; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Swanson v. Pitt (Myron H. Thompson, M.D. Ala. 2:04-cv-534)
A would-be candidate for the United States Senate filed a pro se federal complaint alleging that it was improper to exclude him as a candidate in a primary election for having previously run as an independent. The district judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order; later, he granted the defendants summary judgment.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; primary election; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Doe v. Miller (Gloria M. Navarro, D. Nev. 2:10-cv-1753)
On October 8, 2010, the Republican candidate for secretary of state filed a pro se federal complaint seeking relief from a county’s failure to mail absentee ballots to some overseas voters on time. The district judge dismissed the complaint as moot because of efforts election officials had already undertaken to remedy the error.
Topics: Absentee ballots; Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA); pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Pearlman v. Gonzales (Martha Vázquez, D.N.M. 6:98-cv-1160) and Pearlman v. Vigil-Giron (Bruce D. Black, D.N.M. 1:00-cv-1475)
A pro se litigant filed a federal complaint challenging his exclusion from the gubernatorial ballot as a Green Party candidate because the secretary of state determined that the Green Party had become a major party requiring nomination by primary election. The district judge opined that the plaintiff’s exclusion was improper, but she held that the action was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Two years later, the plaintiff filed another federal complaint seeking an order that the state provide for write- in presidential candidates. A different district judge also determined that the suit was barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and moreover it had been filed too late for the equitable relief sought.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; write-in candidate; matters for state courts; laches; pro se party; primary election.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Brown v. Glynn County Board of Elections and Voter Registration (Anthony A. Alaimo, S.D. Ga. 2:05-cv- 218)
Late on the Friday afternoon before the 2005 general election, a would-be candidate for mayor filed a pro se complaint in federal court seeking to reschedule a mayoral election so that she could be included on the ballot; she had been disqualified for not being a resident long enough. The district judge had already left for the weekend, but he heard the case on Monday afternoon. He denied the plaintiff a new election but ordered the county to preserve and tally all write-in ballots. The plaintiff did not prevail in the election.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; enjoining elections; pro se party; write-in candidate.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Freeman v. McKnight (Gary L. Sharpe, N.D.N.Y. 1:07-cv-1123)
A candidate who earned more voting-booth votes than his opponent, but who trailed after absentee ballots were counted, filed a pro se action to nullify absentee ballots because their mailing envelopes had been discarded so timely mailing could not be verified. The judge determined that the plaintiff had not provided the defendants with proper notice or shown entitlement to immediate injunctive relief.
Topics: Absentee ballots; pro se party; enjoining certification.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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