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GAMMERMAN v. BOARD OF ELECTIONS OF NEW YORK

October 20, 1982

Ira GAMMERMAN, Budd Goodman, Bruce McM Wright, Felice K. Shea, Carmen B. Ciparick, Amos Bowman, Edward J. Greenfield, Jawn A. Sandifer, James J. Leff, Josephine Suarez, Alfred Placeres and Frederick E. Samuel, Plaintiffs,
v.
BOARD OF ELECTIONS OF the CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendant


Sweet, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SWEET

SWEET, District Judge.

First of all, I want to thank all counsel for their skill and assistance in helping the court deal with this problem on very short notice. The events which give rise to this proceeding occurred late in September, and early in October. The questions obviously relate to the election to take place twelve days from now.

 There has been some indication here in open court that the relief sought may be difficult to achieve even if granted at this very moment. There is, of course, apparent public interest in this issue that involves what has been characterized as a "blunder" in complying with the election laws which has resulted in the barring of some ten state court judges from a place on the Democratic line on the ballot. These issues present deep questions of public policy, constitutional interpretation, and the significance and weight of the election laws.

 The adjustment of the power to decide these issues is delicate, and it lies at the heart of our democratic process. Obviously, I have a desire for greater contemplation, and a more thorough analysis, and that desire is virtually overpowering.

 However, the sweep of these events and the inexorable passage of time deny me, I believe, the privilege of any further reflection which would permit me to reserve my decision. In fairness to the parties, and to the public, I believe these issues must be decided now.

 To state the resolution in overall simple terms, nonlegal terms, without the rules, there is no game. The motion for a preliminary injunction will be denied. The following are my findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 The plaintiffs allege that they have been deprived of their right to vote and to pursue public office in violation of Title 42, United States Code section 1983, and they seek an order from this court directing the Board of Elections of the City of New York to print their names on the ballots to be used at the general election on November 2, as candidates for the Democratic Party for the office of Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York for the First Judicial District.

 The parties to this proceeding are nine judicial candidates, candidates for judicial office. Two are voters, and one the chairman of the Democratic Party. The defendant is the Board of Elections of the City of New York. There have been some intervenors whom I have also heard.

 On September 29, the Democratic Party held its judicial convention in the First Judicial District, and at that convention the plaintiffs Bowman, Greenfield, Leff, and Sandifer as well as Fraiman were nominated without opposition. Each of these plaintiffs is a sitting Justice to the Supreme Court whose original term will expire on December 31, 1982. These plaintiffs were also nominated without opposition by the Republican, Liberal and Conservative Parties.

 The plaintiffs Ciparick, Shea and Wright were also nominated without opposition. Ciparick is a judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York, Shea and Wright are judges of the Civil Court of the City of New York. The three were also nominated by the Liberal Party and will appear on the ballot in November regardless of the outcome of this action.

 The plaintiffs Gammerman and Goodman were the last two nominees of the convention. They are presently judges of the Civil Court of the City of New York, and have not been nominated by any other political party, and, therefore, will not appear on the ballot unless this determination is overturned on appeal.

 Under New York Election Law section 13-100(23), a certificate of party nomination made at a judicial district convention for an office to be filled at the general election must be filed by September 30. Under Election Law section 1-106, failure to file such a certificate by the prescribed date is, in the language of the state, a "fatal defect." That is, the candidate is precluded from appearing on the ballot.

 On October 1, one day after the statutory deadline had passed, convention officials filed the certificate for the plaintiffs. Because of the late filing the Board of Elections rejected the certificate. Plaintiffs then instituted a state court action seeking access to the ballot. In a six-one memorandum decision the New York Court of Appeals held that the defect of late filing is not curable and accordingly denied the relief sought there.

 There is no factual dispute of any consequence presented to me. The result of the blunder has been harsh and dramatic. It has been argued that it is not a garden variety error in the electoral process. I believe, however, that it is precisely that, ...


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