UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
September 14, 1965
Application of Anthony O'KEEFE, Petitioner,
NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, consisting of James M. Power, Thomas Mallee, Maurice J. O'Rourke, and John R. Crews, et al., Respondents
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CROAKE
CROAKE, District Judge.
These are motions by (I) the petitioner: (1) to remand the case to the Supreme Court, New York County or, in the alternative; (2) for leave to amend the request for relief "to convert it into a request for a declaratory judgment and injunction forbidding the New York City Board of Elections from registering anyone who cannot read and write English, as required by New York law;" (3) to amend the title of the action to read: "Anthony O'Keefe, Plaintiff, v. New York City Board of Elections, Defendant;" (4) to convene "a Three-Judge Statutory Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281, 2282, and 2284;" (5) for leave to file a motion for summary judgment before the expiration of 20 days from the service of the petition; and either (6) for a temporary injunction ordering the respondent to cease registering as voters persons unqualified under New York Law, or in the alternative, (6)(a) for an order requiring respondent to keep a careful record of all persons registered as voters pursuant to § 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,
who are not qualified voters under the State law; and by (II) the United States to intervene in the action and upon such intervention to dismiss the action for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter.
The action was commenced in the Supreme Court of New York County and sought to compel "the New York City Board of Elections to register only such persons as voters able to read and write English, pursuant to New York law, and to ignore the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965, § 4(e), as being in excess of Congress' power to enact and hence unconstitutional."
An order embodying the above relief was requested under Art. 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules and Section 331(1) of the New York Election Law, McKinney's Consol.Laws, c. 17. The Board thereafter removed the action to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1443(2).
The court has examined with care the arguments raised and cases cited in support of the request of the petitioner for remand but finds them to be unpersuasive. It appears that the removal to this court was warranted by subsection two of section 1443 in that the action was brought against the Board, an official body, for acting under color of authority derived from § 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, which is a law providing for equal rights. Moreover, the allegation of the unconstitutionality of § 4(e) does not preclude reliance thereon for the authority under the color of which the Board acted. As the Court of Appeals for this Circuit stated in the recent case of People of State of New York v. Galamison, 342 F.2d 255 (1965), cert. denied, 380 U.S. 977, 85 S. Ct. 1342, 14 L. Ed. 2d 272, in disposing of a similar question:
" These are the very questions which, under appellants' construction of § 1443(2), Congress meant to have decided in a federal trial; a defendant seeking removal under that section does not have to prove preliminarily that he will prevail." 342 F.2d at 261-262.
Accordingly, the motion, in so far as it pertains to the petitioner's request for remand, is denied.
The motion of the United States to intervene should be granted.
The constitutionality of § 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, which is a statute affecting the public interest, has been drawn into question. Under such circumstances, the United States has an absolute right to intervene.
Moreover, under Rule 24(b), Fed.R.Civ.P.,
the Attorney General, one of the officials who administers the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has the right of permissive intervention, which in this case should be granted. Section 14(b) of the Voting Rights Act provides that:
"No court other than the District Court for the District of Columbia or a court of appeals in any proceeding under section 9 shall have jurisdiction to issue any declaratory judgment pursuant to section 4 or section 5 or any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction against the execution or enforcement of any provision of this Act or any action of any Federal officer or employee pursuant hereto."
An examination of the arguments raised upon the issue of the applicability of Section 14(b) to the instant action leads the court to the conclusion that the intendment of this provision is that all actions which question the constitutionality of any provision of the bill are to fall within its purview.
Counsel for the petitioner has expended much effort in an attempt to substantiate his contention that "Sec. 14(b) does not vest exclusive jurisdiction (or any jurisdiction) of a proceeding of this kind in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia." The contentions have been scrutinized but are not found to be persuasive.
In the light of this finding, it would appear more orderly that challenges to the validity of Section 14(b) be made in the District Court for the District of Columbia. An Act of Congress is entitled to a presumption of validity. Once having found that such act has provided that this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction of a particular action, maintenance of the argument that the court may proceed to a determination of the validity of such statute would appear to involve conceptual difficulties which this court is not prepared to surmount. The matter can be determined by the District Court to which Congress has granted jurisdiction.
Accordingly, this court expresses no opinion upon the challenges which have been made to the validity of Section 14(b).
Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter.