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Pro Se Litigation

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Woodard v. Allegheny County Board of Elections (Nora Barry Fischer, W.D. Pa. 2:12-cv-535)
The campaign manager for a special-election candidate for the state legislature filed a pro se federal complaint seeking relief from the disqualification of the candidate’s ballot petition signatures. At 4:00 p.m. on the day that the complaint was filed, the district judge conducted a 45-minute telephonic hearing. The judge dismissed the complaint because of the plaintiff’s lack of standing to pursue his candidate’s case and because the case sought relief from disappointing rulings already issued by the commonwealth’s courts in contravention of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which states that among federal courts only the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over state court proceedings.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; pro se party; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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White-Battle v. Democratic Party of Virginia (Henry C. Morgan, Jr., E.D. Va. 2:03-cv-897)
A plaintiff who had desired to be a party nominee for an election to clerk of court filed a pro se federal complaint alleging improprieties in both nomination and voting procedures. The motion was heard and denied six days later. Six months after that, the court granted summary judgment to the defendants.
Subject: Voting procedures. Topics: Getting on the ballot; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Gordon v. Cheney (Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., D.D.C. 1:05-cv-6)
Two days before the Senate was to count presidential electoral votes, a pro se plaintiff filed a federal complaint seeking to enjoin the count on the ground that electoral votes in several states were improperly allocated according to a winner-take-all rule. Two days later, the court denied immediate relief.
Topics: Electoral College; enjoining certification; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Moseley v. Price (T.S. Ellis III, E.D. Va. 1:03-cv-1320)
A pro se federal complaint alleged that voting rights violations forced the plaintiff to withdraw from a race that he alleged he was certain to win. According to the complaint, because he registered to vote while he was in the process of moving into a Loudoun County residence, his registration card was returned; a radio journalist made an issue of it, the county’s circuit court appointed a special prosecutor, and the state police investigated the matter. The judge dismissed the federal voting rights claims as without merit and dismissed state law claims without prejudice.
Topics: Registration procedures; pro se party; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Berg v. Obama (R. Barclay Surrick, E.D. Pa. 2:08-cv-4083)
A few days before the 2008 Democratic National Convention, an attorney filed a pro se complaint seeking to have Barack Obama declared ineligible to be President, alleging that he is not a natural born citizen. The judge denied immediate relief at an ex parte proceeding where the plaintiff could not confirm service of the complaint on the defendants. Over the next eight weeks, the court received three pro se motions to intervene: one to support the plaintiff, one to challenge John McCain’s citizenship, and one to know the facts of the case. The judge dismissed the action for lack of standing, and the court of appeals affirmed the dismissal.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Pro se party; getting on the ballot; intervention; Electoral College.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Pakosz v. Orr (John W. Darrah, N.D. Ill. 1:06-cv-5992)
On the Thursday before the 2006 general election, a pro se plaintiff filed a federal complaint alleging that he was wrongfully prevented from registering to vote. The complaint was docketed on Monday, and the federal judge issued a temporary restraining order that day requiring the defendants to issue the plaintiff a voter registration card. Defendants had wrongfully required the plaintiff to present photo identification, which was not required by the voter registration statute.
Topics: Voter identification; registration procedures; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

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.

Available Online Only

Swanson v. Alabama (2:02-cv-644) and Campbell v. Bennett (2:02-cv-784) (Myron H. Thompson) and Swanson v. Bennett (2:02-cv-1244) (W. Harold Albritton) (M.D. Ala.)
Two lawsuits, one initially filed pro se, challenged the constitutionality of a last-minute moving up of the due date for independent candidates’ ballot petition signatures. The change had to be precleared pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and it was not known until a week before the new date that it would be precleared in time for the pending elections. The district judge denied temporary restraining orders but issued preliminary injunctions placing aggrieved candidates, who otherwise had submitted sufficient numbers of signatures, on the ballot. A post-election action by the original pro se candidate and plaintiff was unsuccessful. On summary judgment after the election, the judge found the sudden change in due date to be a moot issue and other constitutional claims to be without merit.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Getting on the ballot; pro se party; enjoining certification.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

House v. Alabama Republican Party (R. David Proctor, N.D. Ala. 2:04-cv-703)
Chris “The Teacher” House filed a pro se federal complaint because a political party would not include his nickname on the primary ballot for election to the state board of education. Among the claims was that the party’s refusal to do so amounted to an election change requiring preclearance pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because it had listed his nickname before. The Justice Department declared that it had no objection to the exclusion of nicknames, so the section 5 claim was dismissed. The district judge temporarily enjoined printing of the ballots while he considered the case. On consideration, he dismissed the federal claims with prejudice and the state claims without prejudice.
Topics: Primary election; pro se party; section 5 preclearance; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

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.

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