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De La Fuente v. Nago

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

March 28, 2017

SCOTT T. NAGO, in his official capacity as Chief Election Officer, State of Hawaii, Defendant.


          Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendants Scott T. Nago, in his official capacity as Chief Election Officer (“Nago”), and the State of Hawaii's (collectively “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss (“Motion”), filed on September 27, 2016. [Dkt. no. 15.] Pro se Plaintiff Roque De La Fuente (“Plaintiff”) did not file a memorandum in opposition, and the Court therefore considers the Motion unopposed. The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule LR7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i (“Local Rules”). After careful consideration of the Motion, the supporting memorandum, and the relevant legal authority, Defendants' Motion is HEREBY GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART for the reasons set forth below.


         Plaintiff was an independent candidate for President of the United States who wanted to form a new political party, but claims that he was unable to do so because of deadlines imposed by Hawai`i law. [Complaint for: 1) Violation of the Due Process Clause - 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Undue Burden 2) Violation of the Equal Protection Clause (“Complaint”), filed 7/19/16 (dkt. no. 1), at ¶¶ 1-2, 7.] Plaintiff states that Nago is the “delegated official in charge of the administration of elections.” [Id. at ¶ 8.] Pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. § 11-62, the deadline to submit signatures to have his new party placed on a ballot for the November 2016 election was February 25, 2016, at 4:30 p.m. [Id. at ¶ 11.] Plaintiff asserts that this is the earliest deadline in the entire country, and, in addition, Hawai`i requires more signatures to form a new party than most other states. [Id. at ¶¶ 12-15.]

         Plaintiff brings two claims for relief. First, he alleges that Defendants, acting under the color of state law, have: “deprived and severely burden[ed] Plaintiff's political speech and political association rights in direct violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution”; and “deprived Plaintiff of the rights, privileges and immunities secured to him under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and [42 U.S.C. § 1983] to participate in the democratic process free from unreasonable impediments, undue restraints on core political speech, and discriminatory ballot access restrictions” (“Count I”). [Id. at ¶¶ 19-20.] Second, Plaintiff asserts that enforcement of § 11-62 has deprived him of his Fourteenth Amendment rights by preventing him from “participat[ing] in the democratic process free from discriminatory action” because it “make[s] it impossible to organize and qualify a political party for election ballot purposes before the November General election” (“Count II”).[1] [Id. at ¶ 23.] Plaintiff seeks: declaratory relief; a permanent injunction;[2] reasonable fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988; and “such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.” [Id., Prayer for Relief ¶¶ A-D.]


         As a preliminary matter, the Court “liberally construes [Plaintiff's] filings because [he] is proceeding pro se.” See Pregana v. CitiMortgage, Inc., Civil No. 14-00226 DKW-KSC, 2015 WL 1966671, at *2 (D. Hawai`i Apr. 30, 2015) (citing Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987)). “‘Pro se litigations must [nonetheless] follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.'” Id. (alteration in Pregana) (quoting King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987), overruled on other grounds by Lacey v. Maricopa Cnty., 693 F.3d 896 (9th Cir. 2012)).

         I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         The Complaint concerns the 2016 presidential election, which has been held and completed. See, e.g., Complaint at ¶ 23 (“the arbitrary restrictions of which make it impossible to organize and qualify a political party for election ballot purposes before the November General election.”). The Court therefore must consider whether it still has subject matter jurisdiction over the instant dispute. This district court has stated that, in determining the presence or absence of subject matter jurisdiction,

the court determines whether Plaintiffs' challenge is justiciable, as this court's “role is neither to issue advisory opinions nor to declare rights in hypothetical cases, but to adjudicate live cases or controversies consistent with the powers granted the judiciary in Article III of the Constitution.” Thomas [v. Anchorage Equal Rights Comm'n], 220 F.3d [1134, ] 1138 [(9th Cir. 2000) (en banc)]. Justiciability includes the doctrines of mootness, ripeness, and standing, see, e.g., Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 v. Del Papa, 200 F.3d 614, 617 (9th Cir. 1999) (observing that Article III's case or controversy “justiciability limitations are reflected in the doctrines of standing, mootness, and ripeness”).

Temple v. Abercrombie, 903 F.Supp.2d 1024, 1030-31 (D. Hawai`i 2012).

         A. Standing

         Defendants argue that the Motion should be granted because Plaintiff lacks standing. Specifically, Defendants argue that, while Plaintiff challenges the statutory filing deadline to form a new political party, he “does not allege that he could have secured the number of required signatures from registered voters or that he attempted to do so in February or at any time after that.” [Mem. in Supp. of Motion at 9 (emphasis omitted).] Further, Defendants argue that “[i]f Plaintiff could not have secured the required signatures even with a later deadline, then [Haw. Rev. Stat.] § 11-62 did not cause his alleged injury and enjoining it would provide him no relief.” [Id. at 10.] In short, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not shown injury, causation, or redressability.

         “Article III of the Constitution requires that a plaintiff have standing before a case may be adjudicated.” Covington v. Jefferson Cty., 358 F.3d 626, 637 (9th Cir. 2004). Standing requires: “(1) an injury in fact that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent; (2) that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.” Id. at 637-38 (alterations, footnote, citation, and internal quotation marks omitted). This district court has stated:

“[Fed. R. Civ. P.] 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attacks can be either facial or factual.” White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000). “In a facial attack, the challenger asserts that the allegations contained in a complaint are insufficient on their face to invoke federal jurisdiction. By contrast, in a factual attack, the challenger disputes the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction.” Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004).
When, as here, the challenge is facial rather than factual, all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Fed'n of African Amer. Contractors v. City of Oakland, 96 F.3d 1204, 1207 (9th Cir. 1996). In a facial attack on jurisdiction, the court “confin[es] the inquiry to allegations in the complaint.” Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., Dist. No. 205, Maricopa Cnty., 343 F.3d 1036, 1040, n.2 (9th Cir. 2003).

Amsterdam v. Abercrombie, Civil No. 13-00649 SOM-KSC, 2014 WL 689764, at *2 (D. Hawai`i Feb. 19, 2014) (footnote omitted).

         Defendants bring a facial challenge to the Complaint, and, taking the factual allegations as true and reading them in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, he has standing in the instant matter. Plaintiff submits that: (1) he wanted to form a new political party; (2) the deadline under Hawai`i law, which he alleges is earlier than most other states, prevented him from doing so; and (3) his access to the Hawai`i ballot was blocked as a result. He has alleged an imminent, concrete injury that is traceable to Hawai`i law and that, at least in theory, can be redressed by ...

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