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Fischer v. Suffolk County Board of Elections

August 14, 2009

GREGORY JOHN FISCHER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUFFOLK COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, LESLEA A. SULLIVAN, OBJECTOR, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joanna Seybert, U.S.D.J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court is Suffolk County Board of Elections ("BOE") and Leslea A. Sullivan's ("Sullivan") (referred collectively as "Defendants") motion to dismiss Gregory John Fischer's ("Plaintiff" or "Fischer") Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are thoroughly set forth in the transcript of the proceedings held before this Court on October 23, 2008, and in this Court's written Orders issued on October 27, 2008 and October 31, 2008. In brief, Plaintiff was a Democratic party candidate for New York State Senate District 1 ("SD1") for the Eastern District of Long Island. Plaintiff was not endorsed by the Democratic party, and instead sought to run by obtaining the requisite one thousand signatures from residents within the SD1 District. Plaintiff successfully obtained 1,475 signatures. However, on July 14, 2008, Republican voter Sullivan objected to Fischer's candidacy and alleged that 796 of the signatures were invalid. On July 29, 2008, the BOE determined that 620 of the signatures were invalid, leaving only 855 valid, which was 145 short of the required one thousand signatures.

Thereafter, Plaintiff initiated a proceeding in the New York State Supreme Court, County of Suffolk, to validate his signatures. On August 18, 2008, New York State Supreme Court Justice Gary Weber dismissed the State Court proceeding on procedural grounds because Fischer failed to specify how the BOE erred in invalidating Fischer's petition. Additionally, Justice Weber sustained the determination of the BOE on substantive grounds, and found that the BOE properly invalidated a portion of the signatures. However, Justice Weber found that forty-two of the signatures should have been valid. The forty-two newly-validated signatures, when added to the 855 originally found valid by the BOE, left Plaintiff with a total of 897 valid signatures. Justice Weber found that there were only ninety-nine remaining signatures in dispute, and even if he were to validate all of the remaining signatures, Plaintiff would still be four short of the required one thousand signatures. Therefore, Justice Weber affirmed the BOE's determination on the grounds that it would was mathematically impossible for Plaintiff to have one thousand valid signatures.

On October 16, 2008, the Appellate Court affirmed Justice Weber's decision on the ground that Plaintiff's petition to validate was insufficiently pleaded as a matter of law. Plaintiff did not move for a reconsideration of that Order, and instead brought an action in this Court seeking immediate injunctive relief to restore his name on the ballot for the upcoming election.

On October 23, 2008, this Court held a hearing on Plaintiff's application to restore his name on the ballot. At the hearing, Plaintiff clarified that he did not seek to invalidate an election law or procedure, did not question the one thousand signatures requirement, and was not arguing that a law or a party's actions were unconstitutional or otherwise violated a federal law. Rather, Plaintiff argued that the Court should overturn the state court's finding with respect to Plaintiff's signatures because the BOE was "overly technical" in its decision, and the state courts were incorrect in affirming the BOE's determination. At the hearing, Plaintiff stated that there was "gross error by the trial court" and that the alleged error "was repeated in the Appellate Division." Plaintiff additionally stated that Justice Weber "made several decisions in direct contradiction to precedent" and that those "issues were never heard by the Appellate Division." Finally, Plaintiff argued that the Appellate Court erred by failing to note that the "specifics were in fact" included in Plaintiff's petition. It became abundantly clear to the Court that Plaintiff sought a review of the decision of the state courts and did not have any independent federal basis for bringing his claim to this Court. Rather, Plaintiff stated on numerous instances that he believed the state courts erred by upholding the BOE's decision to invalidate Plaintiff's petition and by finding that the signatures did not comply with the election rules.

After holding a hearing on this issue, this Court denied Plaintiff's application for a preliminary injunction because Plaintiff failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits. The Court found that Plaintiff already had a full and fair opportunity to present his arguments before the state courts, and, in fact, the state courts rendered a decision on the very same issue Plaintiff presents to this Court. Therefore, the Court found that Plaintiff's claims regarding the merits of his petition were barred by both the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and by issue preclusion.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a notice of appeal on October 20, 2008, and moved for reconsideration of this Court's Order on October 24, 2008. On November 3, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed this Court's Order, and on October 31, 2008, this Court denied Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. The Court clarified that to the extent Plaintiff wished to bring an action based on unconstitutional delay or the constitutionality of a law or procedure, such action would be heard by the Court. However, to the extent that Plaintiff asked this Court to review a state court decision affirming the BOE's determination that Plaintiff did not have the required one thousand signatures for the 2008 election, the Court could not do so.

Sullivan and the BOE move separately to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety because Plaintiff has failed to set forth any grounds that would serve as a basis for subject matter jurisdiction. In addition to the absence of subject matter jurisdiction, Defendants argues that the Complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

DISCUSSION

I. Standards of ...


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