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Rose v. Board of Election Commissioners for City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 30, 2015

VINCENT ROSE, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Vincent Rose ("Rose" or "Plaintiff") has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction [7]. Defendants State of Illinois and the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago, including individual Defendants Langdon D. Neal, Richard A. Cowen, and Marisel A. Hernandez (the "Board of Elections"), have each filed motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [13], [17]. For the following reasons, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion, and grants Defendants' motions with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this action against the Board of Elections and the State of Illinois. The facts are largely undisputed. Plaintiff filed petitions for nomination as a candidate for Alderman in the Seventh Ward of the City of Chicago. (R. 5, Am. Compl., at 6.) After two objectors, Michael Anderson and William Taylor, filed objections to Plaintiff's nomination petitions, the Board of Elections conducted two records examinations and hearings, one for each respective objection. Id. Following the hearing on the Taylor objection, the Board of Elections ruled that Plaintiff could not be placed on the ballot because he only submitted 414 valid signatures, short of the required 473.[1] (R. 17-5, Board of Election Findings, at 4.)[2] In the later Anderson decision, the hearing officer found that the ruling on the Taylor objection controlled the outcome of the Anderson objection. (R. 14-2, Ex. D, Cook County Opinion, at 1.)

Rose then filed petitions for judicial review in the Circuit Court of Cook County challenging the rulings by the Board of Elections, which were consolidated into one case (the "Cook County Action.") (R. 14-2, Ex. D, Cook County Opinion, at 1.) Rose's initial petition in the Cook County Action challenged the four percent (4%) signature requirement for nominations of aldermanic candidates on First Amendment, equal protection, and due process grounds. ( Id. at 3.) Rose later filed an "Amended Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Position" (the "Amended Memo") which raised new legal theories not in his original petition, including claims under the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. ยงยง 10301 and 10101, and several other claims under the United States and Illinois Constitutions. (R. 14-2, Ex. C., Am. Memo.) In an opinion dated February 3, 2015, the Hon. Maureen Ward Kirby of the Circuit Court of Cook County ("Cook County Circuit Court") denied Plaintiff's petitions for judicial review (the "Cook County Opinion") and rejected the additional arguments in his Amended Memo. (R. 14-2, Ex. D, Cook County Opinion.) Rose did not appeal that decision, and Defendants argue that the thirty days he had to do so under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303(a)(1) have since passed.

Rose filed this action on January 15, 2015, and filed his Amended Complaint on February 25, 2015. On March 8, 2015, he filed the current motion for preliminary injunction. Defendants filed the pending motions to dismiss on March 17, 2015. They move to dismiss Rose's Amended Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) on the basis that the doctrine of claim preclusion bars Rose's claims because the Cook County Circuit Court already denied them in a final judgment on the merits.[3] Rose responded to Defendants' motions on March 24, 2015.[4] Meanwhile, the Seventh Ward held its election for Alderman on February 24, 2015 (the "February 2015 Election"). (R. 17-1, Board of Elections Memo, at 6.) Rose was not listed on the ballot. Because no candidate received a majority of the votes, the Seventh Ward will conduct a runoff election on April 7, 2015 (the "April 2015 Election"). Id. The April 2015 Election ballot for Seventh Ward Alderman will only list the names of the two candidates for Alderman in the Seventh Ward who received the highest vote totals in the February 2015 Election. Id. The candidate who receives the highest vote total in the April 2015 Election will then be elected Alderman. Id. Because Rose's name was not on the February 2015 Election ballot, among other relief, he requests that the Court stay the April 2015 Election until his name can be placed on the ballot.

LEGAL STANDARD

I. Preliminary Injunction

"A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy intended to preserve the status quo until the merits of a case may be resolved." Ind. Civil Liberties Union v. O'Bannon, 259 F.3d 766, 770 (7th Cir. 2001). "A preliminary injunction is a very serious remedy, " and it is "never to be indulged in except in a case clearly demanding it." Barbecue Marx, Inc. v. 551 Ogden, Inc., 235 F.3d 1041, 1044 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation omitted). To succeed on a motion for a preliminary injunction, a party must show that (1) he has some likelihood of success on the merits; and (2) he has no adequate remedy at law and will suffer irreparable harm if the court does not grant the preliminary injunction. See Ezell v. City of Chicago, 651 F.3d 684, 694 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). With respect to the first factor, "the threshold for establishing likelihood of success is low." Michigan v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, 667 F.3d 765, 782 (7th Cir. 2011).

If the moving party demonstrates the above factors, "the district court weighs the factors against one another, assessing whether the balance of harms favors the moving party or whether the harm to the nonmoving party or the public is sufficiently weighty that the injunction should be denied." Ezell, 651 F.3d at 694 (citing Christian Legal Soc'y v. Walker, 453 F.3d 853, 859 (7th Cir. 2006)). "In this balancing of harms conducted by the district court, the court weighs these factors against one another in a sliding scale analysis.'" Stuller, Inc. v. Steak N Shake Enters., Inc., 695 F.3d 676, 678 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Christian Legal Soc'y, 453 F.3d at 859). "The sliding scale approach is not mathematical in nature, rather it is more properly characterized as subjective and intuitive, one which permits district courts to weigh the competing considerations and mold appropriate relief." Id. (quoting Ty, Inc. v. Jones Grp., Inc., 237 F.3d 891, 895-96 (7th Cir. 2001)).

II. Motions to Dismiss for Claim Preclusion

Since claim preclusion is an affirmative defense, "the proper procedure is to raise the defense and then move for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." Walczak v. Chicago Bd. of Educ., 739 F.3d 1013, 1016 n.2 (7th Cir. 2014); Carr v. Tillery, 591 F.3d 909, 913 (7th Cir. 2010). Although Defendants bring their motions under Rule 12(b)(6), Plaintiff does not object on that ground, and "the error is of no consequence" because the Court has all that it "need[s] in order to be able to rule on the defense." Carr, 591, F.3d at 913. Further, "[a] Rule 12(c) motion is governed by the same standards as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6)." Lodholtz v. York Risk Servs. Grp., Inc., 778 F.3d 635, 639 (7th Cir. 2015).

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted." Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Put differently, a "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, [courts] accept the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true, " Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2013), and draw "reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs." Teamsters Local Union No. 705 v. Burlington N. Santa Fe, LLC, 741 F.3d 819, 823 (7th Cir. 2014).

ANALYSIS

I. Merits of Defendants' Motions to Dismiss

The Court first examines the merits of Defendants' motions to dismiss. For the reasons explained below, the Court grants Defendants' motions. Accordingly, the Court also finds that Rose has no likelihood of success on the merits of his preliminary injunction motion.

As discussed above, Rose asserted nearly identical claims in the Cook County Action, in which he sought judicial review of two decisions of the Board of Elections, and challenged the Illinois state statutory framework for submitting nominating petitions for alderman on statutory and constitutional grounds. The Cook County Circuit Court rejected Rose's arguments, denied Rose's petitions for judicial review, and affirmed the decisions of the Board of Elections. (R. 14-2, Ex. D, Cook County Opinion.) Thus, the Court analyzes Defendants' argument that the doctrine of claim preclusion bars Rose's claims in this action.[5]

The Court applies the preclusion law of Illinois because that is the state that rendered the underlying judgment. See Arlin-Golf, LLC v. Vill. of Arlington Heights, 631 F.3d 818, 821 (7th Cir. 2011). "Illinois claim-preclusion law has three basic requirements: (1) a final judgment on the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) an identity of the causes of action; and (3) an identity of parties or their privies." Dookeran v. Cnty. of Cook, Ill., 719 F.3d 570, 575 (7th Cir. 2013). With respect to the second element, whether there is an identity of the causes of action, "Illinois has adopted the transactional' analysis, which looks to see if the claims arise from a single group of operative facts, regardless of whether they assert different theories of relief.'" Id. (quoting Arlin-Golf, LLC, 631 F.3d at 821). "The transactional test permits claims to be considered part of the same cause of action even if there is not a substantial overlap of evidence, so long as they arise from the same transaction." Id.

"As a corollary to the transactional rule, Illinois adopted the doctrine of merger and bar which precludes the sequential pursuit not only of claims actually litigated, but of those that could have been litigated." Garcia v. Vill. of Mount Prospect, 360 F.3d 630, 639 (7th Cir. 2004). "This principle, however, is bounded by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which overrides the otherwise preclusive effect of a prior judgment if the [plaintiff] did not ...


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