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De La Fuente v. State

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

October 3, 2016

ROQUE DE LA FUENTE, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF ILLINOIS; CHARLES W. SCHOLZ, CHAIRMAN OF THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS; and DOES 1-20 INCLUSIVE, Defendants.

          ORDER

          AMY J. ST. EVE United States District Court Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente seeks a declaration that various provisions of the Illinois Election Code violate his due process rights, as well as an order that his name be placed on the 2016 Presidential ballot in Illinois as an independent candidate. (R.1, Compl.). The named Defendants-the State of Illinois and Charles W. Scholz (“Scholz”), as Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Elections-have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (R.7).

         For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion, dismissing the complaint with prejudice as to the State of Illinois and without prejudice as to Defendant Scholz. If Plaintiff intends to seek leave of Court to add a claim under 10 ILCS 5/7-43, he must file a formal motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) by October 14, 2016.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff “is a candidate for President of the United States desiring to have his name put on the 2016 Presidential ballot in Illinois” who “meets all the statutory requirements to place his name on the ballot except for [certain] petition requirements” of the Illinois Election Code. (R.1, Compl. ¶ 3).[1] Plaintiff now challenges the validity of those requirements, including 10 ILCS 5/10-3 (regarding signatures required to nominate independent candidates); 10 ILCS 5/7-10, 10 ILCS 5/8-8, and 10 ILCS 5/10-4 (regarding the form and timing of nomination petitions, including restrictions on petition circulators); 10 ILCS 5/10-8 (regarding objections to nomination papers); and 10 ILCS 10/2 (regarding the qualification of a “political party”). According to Plaintiff, this statutory scheme, viewed as a whole, “presents an undue burden to ballot access” in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. ¶ 28).

         Defendants' motion does not focus on the validity of the challenged statutes, either individually or as a whole. Instead, Defendants argue that Plaintiff lacks standing to raise such claims under a separate provision of the Illinois Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/7-43. According to Defendants, because Plaintiff already ran-and lost-in the 2016 Democratic primary, this “sore loser” statute bars him from running in the 2016 general election as an independent candidate. The Court now addresses Defendants' factual challenge to standing under Rule 12(b)(1).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of standing, “the district court must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom in the plaintiff's favor.” Lee v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456, 468 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Ret. Chicago Police Assoc. v. City of Chicago, 76 F.3d 856, 862 (7th Cir. 1996)). District courts may, however, “properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists.” Evers v. Astrue, 536 F.3d 651, 656-57 (7th Cir. 2008) (citation and quotation omitted). “The plaintiff, as the party invoking federal jurisdiction, bears the burden of establishing the required elements of standing[, ]” including (i) injury in fact; (ii) causation; and (iii) redressability. Lee, 330 F.3d at 468 (citation and quotation omitted). “If standing is challenged as a factual matter, the plaintiff must come forward with ‘competent proof'-that is a showing by a preponderance of the evidence-that standing exists.” Id.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Dismissal of the State of Illinois

         The State of Illinois first seeks dismissal on the basis that it is immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. (R.10, Opening Br. at 2-3). Plaintiff does not challenge this request for dismissal. (R.13, Response Br. at 11). Accordingly, the Court dismisses the State of Illinois from this action, with prejudice.

         II. Standing

         The Court turns to the application of 10 ILCS 5/7-43. That statute provides, in part, that:

A person (i) who filed a statement of candidacy for a partisan office as a qualified primary voter of an established political party or (ii) who voted the ballot of an established political party at a general primary election may not file a statement of candidacy as a candidate of a different established political party or as an independent candidate for a partisan office to be filled at the general ...

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