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Loeber v. Spargo

January 8, 2008

RONALD G. LOEBER, ET AL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THOMAS J. SPARGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lawrence E. Kahn Senior United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

On October 15, 2004, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint asserting various constitutional violations arising out of the Help America Vote Act, Pub. L. No. 107-252, 116 Stat. 1666, 42 U.S.C. § 15301-15545 (2002) ("HAVA") and, as best as the Court can decipher, the means by which New York reapportioned its legislative and judicial districts in April 2002. Among other things, Plaintiffs appear to claim that Defendants wrongfully counted the voting age population, rather than using the citizen voting age population, thereby using imprecise numbers in redistricting and determining eligibility for funds under the HAVA.

On October 29, 2004, this Court dismissed the Complaint. On appeal, the Second Circuit dismissed all election claims pertaining to the November 2004 elections and rejected Plaintiffs' claims of judicial bias. The Second Circuit remanded the case with respect to the redistricting claims "with instructions to permit the filing of an amended complaint that omits unnecessary detail." The Circuit also directed this Court to consider whether this case necessitated a three judge panel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284.

On November 21, 2005, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion for injunctive relief. That motion is pending. Also, pending before the Court are Motions to dismiss filed by the federal and City of New York Defendants. Dkt. Nos. 64,65.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

As the Supreme Court has recently explained:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal quotations, alterations and citations omitted).

"Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only 'fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also 'grounds' on which the claim rests." Id. at 1965 n.3. "'[A] district court must retain the power to insist upon some specificity in pleading before allowing a potentially massive factual controversy to proceed.'" Id. at 1967 (quoting Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 528, n. 17, 103 S.Ct. 897, 74 L.Ed.2d 723 (1983)).

As the Second Circuit has elaborated, "the [Supreme] Court's explanation for its holding [in Bell Atlantic] indicated that it intended to make some alteration in the regime of pure notice pleading that had prevailed in the federal courts ever since Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, (1957). . . . [T]he [Supreme] Court expressly disavowed the oft-quoted statement in Conley of 'the accepted rule that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 155 (2d Cir. 2007). Thus, to survive a Rule 12 motion, Plaintiffs must pass the "'plausibility standard,' which obliges a pleader to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible." Id. at 157-58.

With this standard in mind, the Court will now address the pending motions.

II. DISCUSSION

a. Three-Judge Panel

In accordance with the Second Circuit's Mandate, the Court must first address whether it is necessary to convene a three-judge panel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284(a). That section provides that "[a] district court of three judges shall be convened when otherwise required by Act of Congress, or when an action is filed challenging the constitutionality of the apportionment of congressional districts or the apportionment of any statewide legislative body." 28 U.S.C. § 2284(a). "When an application for a statutory three-judge court is addressed to a district court, the court's inquiry is appropriately limited to determine whether the constitutional question raised is substantial, whether the complaint at least formally alleges a basis for equitable relief, and ...


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