United States District Court, W.D. New York
August 9, 2005.
MICHAEL SENDLBECK, et al., Plaintiffs,
CHARLES FLYNN, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: KEN SCHROEDER, Magistrate Judge
DECISION AND ORDER
This matter was referred to the undersigned by the Hon. Richard
J. Arcara, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), for all
pretrial matters and to hear and report upon dispositive motions.
Dkt. # 19, 99.
Currently before the Court is plaintiffs' motion to compel
defendant Frank MacKay to respond to interrogatories and document
demands and to answer deposition questions. Dkt. #155.
This action is the result of political infighting over control
of the Independence Party of Erie County ("County Party"). In
their Complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiffs
alleged, inter alia, that the defendants: (1) excluded certain
duly elected Independence Party Committee Members ("Committee
Members"), from participation in the organizational meeting of
the County Party on November 7, 2000 which, inter alia, defined the geographic
jurisdiction of the County Party to include those New York State
Assembly Districts which are wholly within Erie County (thereby
excluding the 147th Assembly District), and adopted
procedures for the authorization and nomination of candidates for
public office; (2) denied certain Committee Members notice of and
participation in meetings to authorize and nominate candidates
for public office; and (3) instituted proceedings before the
Independence Party of the State of New York ("State Party"),
which led to the removal of certain Committee Members. Dkt. #60.
As a result, plaintiffs complain that they were deprived of
personal and representative participation in the process by which
the County Party designated non-party candidates pursuant to New
York State Election Law § 6-120(3), thereby violating plaintiffs'
rights to vote and to freedom of speech and association as
guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Dkt. #60, ¶¶
In a Report, Recommendation & Order addressing defendants'
motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to allege state
action, which was adopted by the Hon. Richard J. Arcara, the
Court determined that political parties act under color of state
law when, pursuant to Section 6-120(3) of the Election Law, they
designate or nominate an individual who is not enrolled as a
member of such party as a candidate for any office. Dkt. #75, 99.
However, the Court noted
a clear distinction between the selection of a
nominee for public governmental office and the
conduct of the private affairs of a political
organization. Seergy, 459 F.2d at 313. "The
citizen's constitutional right to equality as an
elector . . . applies to the choice of those who
shall be his elected representatives in the conduct
of government, not in the internal management of a
political party." Lynch v. Torquato, 343 F.2d 370, 372 (3d Cir. 1964). "[T]he
normal role of party leaders in conducting internal
affairs of their party, other than primary or general
elections, does not make their party offices
governmental offices or the filling of these offices
state action." Lynch, 343 F.2d at 372. Thus, "votes
taken by the county committee in the conduct of its
internal party affairs which have no direct relation
to the electoral process" are not subject to
constitutional scrutiny. Seergy, 459 F.2d at 314.
This distinction between "public, electoral
functions," and "internal party affairs" is
imperative because political parties enjoy
constitutional protection from state interference in
the "determination of the boundaries of its own
association, and of the structure which best allows
it to pursue its political goals." Tashjian v.
Republican Party of Connecticut, 479 U.S. 208, 224
(1986); see also Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New
Party, 520 U.S. 351, 358 (1997) (political parties'
government, structure and activities enjoy
constitutional protection"); Eu v. SanFrancisco
County Democratic Central Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 230
(1989) (political parties [sic] possess [sic]
"discretion in how to organize itself, conduct its
affairs, and select its leaders").
Dkt. ##75, pp. 14-15 & 127, pp 4-5. Accordingly, the Court
determined that the
only actionable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is
whether defendants excluded either "members of the
party committee representing the political
subdivision of the office for which a designation or
nomination [was] to be made," or, if the rules of the
party provided for another committee, excluded "the
members of such other committee" from the meeting
which designated or nominated "a person as candidate
for any office who is not enrolled as a member of
such party." N.Y. Elec. Law § 6-120(3).*fn1 Dkt. #127, p. 5. The Court explicitly stated that the procedures
utilized to remove and replace allegedly disloyal Committee
Members is within the parameters of internal party affairs. Dkt.
#127, p. 12.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
Plaintiffs submitted 15 document requests; Frank MacKay and the
Independence Party asserted the following objection to each of
Defendants MacKay and Independence Party objects to
this document request as it is well beyond the scope
of allowable disclosure as set forth in the decision
and order of Magistrate Judge Kenneth Schoreder, Jr.
dated January 26, 2004.
Dkt. #156, Exh. A.
Plaintiffs assert that the first nine document demands are
designed to identify actual meetings at which endorsements and
nominations occurred. Dkt. #155, p. 10. The Court notes that it
previously ordered that the defendants
provide plaintiff's counsel with all notices, agendas
and minutes of any meetings scheduled and/or
conducted by the Independence Party between
September, 2000 and September, 2002, exclusive of any
notices, agendas or minutes which relate solely to
the proceedings to remove plaintiffs as committee
members of the Independence Party
and provide a
certification under oath of a person with knowledge
of and responsibility for the business records of the
Independence Party stating that a diligent search of
defendants' records has been undertaken and that the
documents produced constitute all such records or explaining the absence
of any such records.
Dkt. #122. This Order sets forth the appropriate scope of
disclosure with respect to document demands numbered 1, 6 and 7.
Accordingly, defendants shall provide copies of all notices,
agendas and minutes of all meetings between September, 2000 and
September, 2002, exclusive of any notices, agendas or minutes of
the proceedings to remove plaintiffs as Committee Members.
Document Requests No. 2-5 seek copies of the mailing lists for
the mailing of notices and certification, credentialing,
registration, sign-in sheets, attendance lists and certified
proxies for each of the meetings described in Document Request
No. 1. This request is relevant to the plaintiffs' claim that
they did not receive notices of meetings, including the
actionable claim that they did not receive notice of meetings
pertaining to the nomination of candidates. In addition, the
Court finds that plaintiffs should be able to inquire of
individuals who did receive such notices and who did participate
in such meetings whether the exclusion of plaintiffs was
discussed. However, the demands are over broad. Therefore,
defendants are required to provide copies of the mailing lists
for the mailing of notices, as well as any sign-in sheets or
attendance lists for each meeting between September, 2000 and
September, 2002, exclusive of the proceedings to remove
plaintiffs as Committee Members.
Document Request No. 8 seeks copies of any personal notes
prepared or maintained by defendant MacKay for each and every
meeting described in Document Request No. 1. Although this demand
is over broad, plaintiffs are entitled to disclosure of any personal notes prepared for meetings conducted between
September, 2000 and September, 2002 to the extent that such notes
reference the plaintiffs by name or position within the State
Party, exclusive of notes prepared solely during the proceedings
to remove plaintiffs as Committee Members.
The ninth document demand seeks copies of any and all audio or
video recordings of meetings. Defendants shall provide copies of
any and all audio or video recordings of meetings conducted
between September, 2000 and September, 2002, exclusive of the
proceedings to remove plaintiffs as Committee Members.
Document Requests No. 10-11 seek copies of all communications
between either MacKay or the State Party and (a) any other
parties to this action or (b) any County Party member. Defendants
shall disclose any such communications made between September,
2000 and September, 2002 to the extent that those communications
pertain to either the nomination of candidates for political
office or the exclusion of plaintiffs from meetings otherwise
attended by Committee Members, exclusive of the proceedings to
remove plaintiffs as Committee Members.
Defendant MacKay shall provide a handwriting exemplar as
requested in Document Request No. 12.
Document Requests No. 13-15 seek documents pertaining to the
removal of certain plaintiffs from their position as Committee
Members. As this Court has already determined that the removal of Committee Members is
within the parameters of internal party affairs, these demands
Plaintiffs' second set of interrogatories, dated April 14,
2004, propounded six questions. Dkt. #156, Exh. A. Defendant
MacKay replied to each interrogatory as follows:
Defendant MacKay objects to this interrogatory as it
is well beyond the scope of allowable disclosure as
set forth in the decision and order of Magistrate
Judge Kenneth Schoreder, Jr. dated January 26, 2004.
Dkt. #156, Exh. A.
Defendant shall respond to the first interrogatory, which seeks
his home address, mailing address (if different) and all e-mail
addresses used by him, within the time frame of September, 2000
and September, 2002.
Interrogatories No. 2-6 seek information regarding
communications between defendant MacKay and County Party
Committee Members. Defendant shall respond to these
interrogatories to the extent that they fall within the time
frame of September, 2000 and September, 2002, exclusive of any
communications or documents generated during the proceedings to
remove plaintiffs as Committee Members. Interrogatory Number 4 seeks information about the November 7,
2000 organizational meeting of the County Party. As the
organization of the County Party falls squarely within the
parameters of internal party affairs and outside of the scope of
state action, defendant MacKay is not required to respond to this
Deposition of Frank MacKay
The Court has reviewed the excerpts of the deposition
transcript provided by plaintiffs. Dkt. #156, Exh. B. It is the
Court's hope that those questions which were relevant to the
pending cause of action should be resolved following defendants'
response to plaintiffs' document demands and interrogatories. If
that is not the case, the Court will entertain a motion setting
forth those questions which remain unresolved within ten days of
defendants' response to plaintiffs' discovery demands.
Defendants shall respond to plaintiffs' discovery demands as
set forth above no later than Friday, September 16, 2005.
Dispositive motions shall be filed and served by Friday,
November 11, 2005. See generally Local Rule 7.1(c); 56. Such
motions shall be made returnable before the Magistrate Judge.