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Iwachiw v. New York City Board of Elections

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 20, 2013

WALTER IWACHIW, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JESSE M. FURMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Walter Iwachiw, proceeding pro se, brings this action against New York State, the New York State Board of Elections (together, the "State Defendants"), New York City (the "City"), the New York City Board of Elections (the "City Board"), and the Commissioners of the City Board (the "Commissioners"). Although he makes a wide range of far-fetched and vague conspiratorial allegations, the gravamen of his Amended Complaint appears to be a challenge to the denial of his petition to appear on the ballot in the 2012 primary and general elections for the Fourteenth Congressional District in New York State.

All Defendants have moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint. In addition, the State Defendants have moved for sanctions, namely restricting Iwachiw's ability to file future lawsuits against the State and monetary sanctions. (Docket Nos. 34, 39, 47). For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted, and the State Defendants' motion for sanctions is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The following facts, drawn from the Amended Complaint, are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion. See, e.g., LaFaro v. N.Y. Cardiothoracic Grp., PLLC, 570 F.3d 471, 475 (2d Cir. 2009). As can best be determined from Plaintiff's confusing and vague allegations, Plaintiff attempted to run for Congress as a member of the Republican Party in the Fourteenth Congressional District in New York State. The City Board of Elections denied his ballot application as deficient, and awarded the Republican Party line to William Gibbons, a member of the Conservative Party. (Am. Compl. 8). Plaintiff challenges this action, purporting to bring claims pursuant to various statutes and constitutional provisions, including the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") Act, as well as the First Amendment and the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. ( Id. 1-3, 5, 8-9). Liberally construed, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint appears also to include a facial challenge to New York's "Wilson-Pakula" law, which allows a candidate to run for office on a party's ballot line even if he or she is not a member of that political party. ( Id. 8).

DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

A. Legal Standards

In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must accept the factual allegations set forth in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See, e.g., Holmes v. Grubman, 568 F.3d 329, 335 (2d Cir. 2009). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, however, the plaintiff must plead sufficient facts "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). More specifically, the plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to show "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully." Id.

Even under the heightened pleading standards set by Iqbal and Twombly, a court is "obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally." Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009). Thus, when considering pro se submissions, a court must interpret them "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. " Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). Nevertheless, "to survive a motion to dismiss, a pro se plaintiff must still plead sufficient facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face." Bodley v. Clark, No. 11 Civ. 8955 (KBF), 2012 WL 3042175, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 23, 2012); see also, e.g., Green v. McLaughlin, 480 F.Appx. 44, 46 (2d Cir. 2012) ("[ P ] ro se complaints must contain sufficient factual allegations to meet the plausibility standard.").

B. Analysis

At the outset, the Court notes that to the extent that Plaintiff's claims and the relief he seeks are directed to the conduct of the November 2012 elections ( see, e.g., Prayer ΒΆ 1), such claims and relief are plainly moot. Plaintiff's claims and prayers for relief go beyond the 2012 elections, however, as he seeks a special election ( see Am. Compl. 2), and brings challenges to, among other things, New York State election law and the New York State Unified Court System. As to these claims and prayers for relief, which are not moot, the State Defendants have moved to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and (b)(6), on grounds of sovereign immunity and failure to state a claim, [1] and the City, the City Board, and the Commissioners have moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

These motions must be granted. First, insofar as Plaintiff has alleged any facts at all to support his ADA, RICO, and Voting Rights Act claims, they are entirely conclusory. Thus, to the extent that the Amended Complaint alleges claims under these statutes, they are dismissed as to all Defendants for failure to state a claim. See, e.g., Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (noting that a complaint that offers only "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do"). Additionally, Plaintiff makes no discernible allegations whatsoever against the City (as opposed to the City Board, which is a separate legal entity), so his claims against the City must be dismissed.

Next, Plaintiff's constitutional claims against the State Defendants are plainly barred by the Eleventh Amendment, as New York State has not consented to lawsuits involving candidates for public office. See, e.g., McMillan, 2010 WL 4065434, at *3 (dismissing an action against the State Board of Elections pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment). In fact, in this regard, Plaintiff's claims are indistinguishable from claims that he has previously brought against the State and state officials, with no success. See Iwachiw v. N.Y.S. Dep't of Motor Vehicles, 299 F.Supp.2d 117, 121 (E.D.N.Y. 2004), aff'd, 396 F.3d 525 (2d Cir. 2005); Iwachiw v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Elections, 217 F.Supp.2d 374, 379-80 (E.D.N.Y. 2002), aff'd, 126 F.Appx. 27 (2d Cir. Mar. 17 , 2005). Accordingly, Plaintiff's constitutional claims against the State Defendants - all of his remaining claims against them - are dismissed.

Plaintiff's remaining constitutional claims against the City Board and the Commissioners appear to stem from his allegation that the City Board allowed other candidates to appear on the (VVP), 2010 WL 4065434, at*3 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 15, 2010) aff'd, 449 F.Appx. 79 (2d Cir. 2011). As was the case in McMillan, the distinction is immaterial for present purposes, as the Court has relied solely on the Amended Complaint and not on any additional evidence. ballot in the Fourteenth District even though they had failed to obtain the requisite number of signatures. (Am. Compl. 8). These claims are best interpreted to allege violation of Iwachiw's procedural due process rights. The Second Circuit, however, has squarely held that the City Board's process, in combination with the availability of a post-deprivation remedy under Article 16 of the New York State Election Law, satisfies the requirements of the Due Process Clause. See Rivera-Powell v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Elections, 470 F.3d 458, 468 (2d Cir. 2006). Where, as here, a plaintiff fails to utilize the available post-deprivation remedy, he may not bring a claim for a procedural ...


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