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McMillan v. District of Columbia Board of Elections

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

December 9, 2014

JAMES E. MCMILLAN III, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA BOARD OF ELECTIONS, Board

Page 349

JAMES E. MCMILLAN, III, Plaintiff, Pro se, Brooklyn, NY.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA BOARD OF ELECTIONS, Defendant: Rudolph Michael Delano McGann , Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, D.C. BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND ETHICS, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL, Washington, DC.

Page 350

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BERYL A. HOWELL, United States District Judge.

The plaintiff, James E. McMillan III, proceeding pro se, claims to be the " party head" of a political party that has appeared on the ballot in the State of New York in past elections for Governor and Mayor of New York City. Compl. at 1, Ex. B, ECF No. 1-1. He initiated this lawsuit against the District of Columbia Board of Elections (" the Board" ), requesting a change in the name of a slate of affiliated candidates (the " Slate" ) for election to the District of Columbia's Democratic Party committee even though that election occurred over two months before the filing of the Complaint. The Board has moved to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that the plaintiff lacks standing and, alternatively, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Def.'s Mot to Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 6.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Board's motion to dismiss is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts in this case are not in material dispute. The Board is in charge of administering elections of " members and officials of local committees of political parties." D.C. Code § 1-1001.01(4). On November 18, 2013, the local committee of the D.C. Democratic Party, pursuant to D.C. Code Ann. § 1-1001.10(a)(1), issued a party plan for the April 2014 primary election that provided for the selection of Democratic Party committee members by slate. Def's Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss (" Def.'s Mem." ) at 3, ECF No. 6-1. A slate enables candidates to affiliate with one another by running on a common platform if the group of candidates secures a requisite number of signatures and meets other minimum requirements. See 3 DCMR § 1701.

The Slate at issue initially chose the name " DC for Progress, Raise the Wage." Def.'s Mem. at 3. After being informed that the name was too long to print on the ballot, the Slate approached the plaintiff, who apparently leads the " Rent is Too Damn High" party in New York, and requested to use the name in the D.C. Democratic Party committee election. Compl. at 1. The Director of the D.C. Board of Elections expressed concern that people, specifically seniors, might be upset with the D.C. Slate's chosen name. Compl., Ex. A., ECF No. 1-1. The Slate thereafter agreed to change the name of the Slate to the " Rent is Too Darn High." Id.

According to the Complaint, thirty candidates ran under the " Rent is Too Darn High" Slate name in the April 1, 2014 election for seats on the Democratic Party committee in the District of Columbia and five were elected. Compl. at 2. Over two months after the election, the plaintiff filed this lawsuit seeking, among other things, to change the Slate's name to the " Rent is Too Damn High." Id. at 3.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

" 'Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,' possessing 'only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.'" Gunn v. Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 185 L.Ed.2d 72 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994)). Indeed, federal courts are " forbidden . . . from acting beyond our authority," NetworkIP,

Page 351

LLC v. FCC, 548 F.3d 116, 120, 383 U.S.App.D.C. 310 (D.C. Cir. 2008), and, therefore, have " an affirmative obligation 'to consider whether the constitutional and statutory authority exist for us to hear each dispute.'" James Madison Ltd. by Hecht v. Ludwig, 82 F.3d 1085, 1092, 317 U.S.App.D.C. 281 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (quoting Herbert v. National Academy of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 196, 297 U.S.App.D.C. 406 (D.C. Cir. 1992)). For this reason, " the [p]laintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim." Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13-14 (D.D.C. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted). When the purported lack of jurisdiction stems from a lack of standing, however, the court " must assume that [the plaintiff] states a valid legal claim." Info. Handling Servs., Inc. v. Def. Automated Printing Servs., 338 F.3d 1024, 1029, 358 U.S.App.D.C. 37 (D.C. Cir. 2003). The proponent of jurisdiction bears the burden of proving that it exists, Khadr v. United States, 529 F.3d 1112, 1115, 381 U.S.App.D.C. 408 (D.C. Cir. 2008), and while " the district court may consider ...


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