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DAVID PODGERS v. NIAGARA COUNTY BOARD ELECTIONS (05/30/69)

COUNTY COURT OF NEW YORK, NIAGARA COUNTY 1969.NY.41794 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 300 N.Y.S.2d 871; 59 Misc. 2d 896 May 30, 1969 DAVID PODGERS, PETITIONER,v.NIAGARA COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, RESPONDENT Speranza & Speranza (James A. Smith of counsel), for petitioner. Samuel L. Tavano, County Attorney, for respondent. Charles J. Hannigan, J. Author: Hannigan


Charles J. Hannigan, J.

Author: Hannigan

 This hearing was brought on by order to show cause, signed by this court, dated May 26, 1969. The order was directed to the Niagara County Board of Elections, and directed the said board, or its representatives, to show cause why the name of David Podgers should not be placed upon the ballot as a Republican candidate for the office of 5th Ward Alderman in the City of Lockport.

The hearing was held on May 29, 1969, wherein evidence was offered by the petitioner and the respondent. Decision was reserved upon a motion addressed to the jurisdiction of the court, and the findings upon the evidence adduced at the hearing. The basic facts which give rise to this hearing are not in question. It was stipulated that the petitioner filed his designating petitions with the Niagara County Board of Elections for the office of the 5th Ward Alderman, City of Lockport. The petitions designated that he sought the nomination of the Republican Party. There is no dispute concerning the existence of the required number of signatures, nor that they are genuine, nor that the filing was timely. Additionally no objections were received by the Board of Elections, addressed to the petitions. The objection to the petitions, and their validity, was raised by the board itself. The board advised Mr. Podgers that they refused to accept his designation, by reason of the fact, they alleged, that he was not enrolled as a member of the Republican Party, and his petitions were, therefore, in violation of subdivision 1 of section 137 of the Election Law. There is no question that this proceeding was commenced within the time limit prescribed by section 330 of the Election Law.

The first question presented is one of jurisdiction. This proceeding was commenced pursuant to section 330 of the Election Law. The respondent contends that this proceeding could only be commenced in the Supreme Court, and that section 330 specifically excludes the Niagara County Court from hearing this application.

The case law is silent upon the subject of jurisdiction of the County Court to hear the matter. No cases involving this question have been brought to the court's attention; nor has the court been able to find any case on point through its research. Therefore, it must be resolved by judicial interpretation of the statute in question.

Examination of the statute discloses that the seven subdivisions follow a chronological sequence of disputes which may arise between candidates for a particular office, or between a candidate and the Board of Elections.

Subdivision 1 concerns itself with objections to the designations of candidates, and parties aggrieved by the acceptance or rejection of the designating petition.

Subdivision 2 concerns itself with nominations, and persons aggrieved thereby, whether such nominations result from convention or primary election. The court here may specifically, set aside the results (nomination) of such convention or primary election in the case of fraud or irregularities.

Subdivision 3 concerns itself with the makeup of the ballot itself. This presupposes that the basic questions of designation and nomination have been resolved. For example, a candidate may here question his position on the ballot. The remaining subdivisions (4-7) concern themselves with the conduct of the election itself.

The section (next-to-last paragraph) goes on to state that a County Judge has jurisdiction of a proceeding under subdivisions 1 and 2, except as to a nomination or election at a primary election or a nomination by a State or judicial district convention.

The respondent contends that this limitation upon the authority of County Court would preclude the hearing of this proceeding. The contention is that the petitioner here is seeking nomination or election at a primary election.

Implicit, in such a contention, is the further contention that the words "designation" (subd. 1) and "nomination" are synonymous. The limitation upon the jurisdiction of County Court refers only to "nominatons" or "elections"; it does not specifically state that County Court does not have jurisdiction to hear a petition asking that the "designating" petitions be accepted and filed.

The limitation upon the jurisdiction of County Court to hear this matter will be strictly construed. The grant of jurisdiction, contained within the same paragraph is broad (subds. 1, 2, 3 and 7); and the exceptions to that broad grant must be specified.

The court finds that the petitioner has requested relief pursuant to subdivision 1 of section 330 of the Election Law. The petition requests: "The designation of any candidate * * * in a proceeding instituted by any candidate aggrieved * * * but a proceeding under this subdivision must ...


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