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Perkins v. Neal

October 19, 2007

MAURICE PERKINS, AND ALL OTHER VOTERS IT WILL EFFECT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LANGDON NEAL, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE CITY OF CHICAGO CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on defendant Langdon Neal's motion to dismiss all counts of plaintiff Maurice Perkins's complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, we grant the motion.

BACKGROUND

Perkins, a Chicago resident and knowledgeable political activist, brought this action against Neal, the chairman of the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago, on February 13, 2007, shortly before an election was to take place. Perkins alleges that Neal has a conflict of interest in serving as the election board chairman while also managing a law firm that has received substantial legal fees from the City of Chicago, and Perkins seeks to enjoin Neal from serving as chairman. Perkins alleges that Neal has deprived and threatens to deprive Perkins of his right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act. Perkins says that Neal's conflict of interest hampers Neal's ability to objectively resolve problems that might arise during the voting process and burdens Perkins's voting rights and all voters' rights.

Count I of the complaint alleges that Neal has deprived Perkins of his First Amendment rights to free choice, association, expression, and protest, by impairing Perkins's freedom of choice in the voting process. Count II alleges that Neal has deprived Perkins of his equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment because Neal's financial interests as a lawyer doing work for the city impair Neal's objectivity as chairman of the election board and create a "tangible burden to plaintiff in the voting process." Count III alleges that Neal has deprived Perkins of his right to vote freely pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973 et seq. Count IV alleges that Neal has deprived Perkins of the "intangible right of honest services," as defined by the Mail Fraud Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1346. Perkins seeks a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.

Neal filed a motion to dismiss all counts under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

LEGAL STANDARD

Neal argues that Perkins lacks standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution to bring this suit and, therefore, that the complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). This is a threshold matter for the court because "plaintiffs, as the parties invoking federal jurisdiction, have the burden of proof and persuasion as to the existence of standing." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992).

To satisfy the Article III standing requirements, a plaintiff must show three things: (1) that he has suffered "injury in fact" that is a) concrete and particularized and b) actual or imminent, as opposed to conjectural or hypothetical; (2) that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) that it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs., Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180-81 (2000) (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61); Plotkin v. Ryan, 239 F.3d 882, 884 (7th Cir. 2001). On a motion to dismiss, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct will suffice because the court presumes "that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim." Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561 (internal citation omitted). However, each element of standing must be supported by more than "unadorned speculation." O'Sullivan v. City of Chicago, 396 F.3d 843, 852 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Plotkin, 239 F.3d at 885).

In addition to the Article III requirements, "the standing doctrine embraces several judicially imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction, such as . . . the rule barring adjudication of generalized grievances more appropriately addressed in the representative branches . . . ." O'Sullivan, 396 F.3d at 854 (citing Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984)). The Seventh Circuit has held that "from a prudential standpoint, courts must pay particularly close attention to these [standing] requirements when they are asked to restrain the action of a public entity," and that "voters, taxpayers or residents voicing generalized complaints are not sufficient to justify the federal courts' intrusion into the workings of the States." Id. at 857.

DISCUSSION

I. Injury in Fact

In his complaint, Perkins alleges a variety of injuries resulting from Neal's conflict of interest, but he falls short of alleging that any of the injuries are concrete and particularized to himself or that any of the injuries are actual or imminent. See Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560. For instance, Perkins alleges that Neal's actions constitute "a pattern, practice, and unspoken policy" of impairing Perkins's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and that Neal's dual roles as chairman of the election commissioners and owner of a law firm do not "serve the public interest" and are in "substantial conflict" with the proper discharge of the duties of an election commissioner. Perkins alleges that Neal's actions have resulted in the following injuries:

depriving and threatening to deprive Perkins of his constitutionally protected liberty and property interests without due process of law; imperiling Perkins's and others voters' rights by increasing the chance of "voting fraud [and] theft ...


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