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Pro Se Litigation

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Format: 2019
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Meyer v. Texas (Kenneth M. Hoyt, S.D. Tex. 4:10-cv-3860)
An independent write-in candidate for Congress filed a pro se federal complaint challenging the constitutionality of state election laws favoring party candidates, including straight-ticket voting. The district judge concluded that the complaint did not allege a constitutional violation, and the state laws served the state’s interest in regulating elections.
Topics: Pro se party; write-in candidate.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Sloan v. Kellner (Mae A. D’Agostino, N.D.N.Y. 1:14-cv-1071)
The district court denied an injunction putting plaintiffs on a primary election ballot on the merits and because of issue preclusion.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; matters for state courts; pro se party; primary election; interlocutory appeal.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Herschaft v. New York Board of Elections (1:00-cv-2748) and Herschaft v. New York City Campaign Finance Board (1:00-cv-3754) (Jack B. Weinstein and Carol B. Amon, E.D.N.Y.)
A pro se federal complaint alleged that a six-week period for obtaining ballot petition signatures failed to adequately accommodate a prospective candidate’s history of schizophrenia. A companion complaint challenged contribution reporting requirements for small contributions. Two district judges denied the plaintiff relief.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; campaign finance; pro se party; recusal; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Webb-Goodwin v. Butler (Lance M. Africk, E.D. La. 2:04-cv-2653)
A candidate who came in sixth in an election rife with mechanical and logistical difficulties filed a pro se federal complaint to nullify the election. The district court denied the plaintiff a temporary restraining order because the plaintiff had shown neither service on defendants nor affidavit compliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(b). A state court action also was dismissed for lack of service.
Topics: Enjoining elections; voting technology; pro se party; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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McCormick v. Wayne County Election Commission (Arthur J. Tarnow, E.D. Mich. 2:14-cv-12016)
Two and one-half months before a primary election for a county commission, a candidate filed a pro se federal complaint seeking exclusion from the ballot of two other candidates for failure to actually live in the district. At an evidentiary hearing, during which the plaintiff was represented by counsel, the plaintiff was not able to establish fraudulent residency, so the court denied her a preliminary injunction.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; registration challenges; primary election; pro se party; intervention.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Erard v. Johnson (Stephen J. Murphy III and Laurie J. Michelson, E.D. Mich. 2:12-cv-13627)
A socialist candidate for Congress filed a pro se federal complaint on August 15, 2012, challenging the state’s criteria for listing new political parties’ candidates on the ballot. The district court denied the candidate relief, and the court of appeals affirmed the denial.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Getting on the ballot; pro se party; laches; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Cruz v. Board of Elections (Victor Marrero, S.D.N.Y. 1:05-cv-7679)
A prospective candidate’s unsuccessful pro se suit to be included in a primary election for city council was remarkable for the alleged voter plaintiffs who never appeared and whose mail was returned to the court unopened.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; matters for state courts; pro se party; primary election; intervention.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Fitzgerald v. Berman (Norman A. Mordue, N.D.N.Y. 1:02-cv-926)
As voters supporting open primary elections began a voter registration drive as part of their effort to create a new Non-Affiliated Voters Party, they filed a federal complaint challenging voter registration form language stating that only registered members of political parties could vote in primary elections. The district judge considered but denied immediate relief 15 days later. Two years after that, the district judge dismissed the complaint for lack of standing because all established parties wished to retain closed primary elections.
Topics: Primary election; registration procedures; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Rider v. Mohr (John T. Elfvin, W.D.N.Y. 1:01-cv-610), Sementilli v. Commissioners of Elections (Richard Conway Casey, S.D.N.Y. 1:04-cv-6936), and Soleil v. Board of Election (Brian M. Cogan, E.D.N.Y. 1:10-cv-3565)
In 2001, a candidate for town board filed a federal complaint in the Western District of New York challenging his exclusion from the primary election ballot for the Conservative Party, of which he was not a member. The district judge concluded that the party was entitled to scrutinize non-members for adherence to party philosophy before accepting them as candidates. Three years later, a district judge in in the Southern District of New York determined that a prospective candidate for a state assembly primary election ballot who was excluded for not being a member of the party was not entitled to name a replacement candidate. In 2010, a district judge in the Eastern District of New York denied relief to a pro se attorney who refused to file a certificate accepting the Independence Party’s permission to run in the party’s assembly primary election.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; primary election; party procedures; pro se party; recusal; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Picard Samuel v. Virgin Islands Joint Board of Elections (Curtis V. Gómez and Raymond L. Finch, D.V.I. 3:12-cv-94)
Following a general election, unsuccessful candidates filed a pro se federal complaint to nullify the results and enjoin the swearing in of the winners. A district judge denied the plaintiffs a temporary restraining order. The plaintiffs sought reversal of the denial by recusal of the judge, also naming as a recusal ground the judge’s sister's being a winning candidate in the election. The case was already reassigned to another judge for the sake of efficiency, and the second judge denied the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction because they could not show that the election irregularities of which they complained resulted in their defeats. Later, the second judge dismissed the complaint for lack of standing.
Subject: Voting irregularities. Topics: Enjoining certification; election errors; laches; pro se party; voting technology.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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