The opinion of the court was delivered by: HIGGINBOTHAM
This civil rights action arises out of a contested election for the post of ward leader of the Democratic party in the 42nd Ward of the city and county of Philadelphia. The plaintiff, Audrey McMenamin, alleges that defendants have deprived her of (1) associational rights secured to her by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and (2) the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. More specifically, she charges that defendant Philadelphia County Democratic Executive Committee ("County Committee") intentionally and purposefully discriminated against her because of her political beliefs by seating and recognizing defendant Herbert McGlinchey as ward leader of the 42nd Ward and by refusing to seat and recognize her as ward leader of the same ward. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages, counsel fees, and an order from this court requiring defendant County Committee to, inter alia, hold a new election for the post of ward leader. The defendants have moved this court, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b), to dismiss the complaint on a variety of grounds.
From the beginning of this lawsuit, I have felt that the dispute could be settled amicably. To that end, I held several conferences with counsel for both sides, and suggested that the fairest resolution of the controversy would be the holding of a new election for ward leader. The defendants declined to accept that suggestion and, accordingly, I am compelled to rule on the merits of their motions to dismiss.
In this case it would be an understatement to suggest that there is substantial merit in the major arguments each side presents. Yet, in the final analysis the opposing arguments are cut from very different fabric. In behalf of the plaintiff there is woven the proposition that an adjudication involving voting rights of people should be based on concepts designed to assure fair play, and therefore if this thread of morality is recognized, and if Herbert McGlinchey did what the pleadings charge, then any system of pure equity would not sanction such irresponsible antics. While not responding to plaintiff's moral theme, defendants press the authority of those past precedents which state that federal courts as institutions of limited jurisdiction should not be permitted to interfere with the internal management of a political party regardless of the unstatesmanlike actions of politicians within that party. In this delicate balancing act I am compelled to find that the defendant's arguments relying on past precedent must prevail, even if Mr. McGlinchey's conduct was as outrageous as depicted in the plaintiff's complaint. Thus, for the reasons noted hereinafter, defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted and plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.
In their briefs, defendants deny the substance of plaintiff's claims. In fact, defendants go so far as to describe the occasion of plaintiff's purported election as ward leader as "a rump ward meeting [plaintiff] conducted on a public sidewalk, in the midst of an incipient riot." McGlinchey Memorandum, Doc. #6, at 16.
Nevertheless, the following facts are alleged in the complaint, and must be taken as true for the purposes of defendants' motions to dismiss:
The plaintiff is a duly registered Democratic voter residing in the 42nd Ward of the city and county of Philadelphia. Defendant Philadelphia County Democratic Executive Committee is the official county committee of the Democratic party for the city and county of Philadelphia. It exists pursuant to § 807 of the Pennsylvania Election Code, 25 P.S. § 2837, and consists of one county committeeman hereinafter and commonly referred to as "ward leader" from each of Philadelphia's 69 wards, and a chairman and a treasurer, neither of whom need be ward leaders themselves. Defendant Herbert J. McGlinchey was, prior to the events in issue here, the incumbent ward leader of the 42nd Ward. His term of office expired on Monday, June 10, 1974. The party's rules authorized him to preside at an organizational meeting for a new ward committee of the 42nd Ward, and required that said meeting be held on June 10, 1974.
Defendant McGlinchey had ascertained prior to the organizational meeting that he would not be re-elected as ward leader. He determined to prevent the meeting from proceeding and to deny plaintiff and the majority of the 42nd Ward's committeemen the chance to conduct a free, fair and lawful election. To that end, he conspired with certain unknown persons to bar plaintiff and her supporters from the designated meeting place. He also changed the location of the meeting to a bus, which had been hired for this purpose, and directed it to a destination known only to him and his supporters, where he conducted a rump organizational meeting in order to secure his re-election as ward leader. At this latter meeting, defendant McGlinchey received the votes of 13 of the 49 committeemen eligible to participate in the organizational meeting.
On June 11, 1974, plaintiff filed a certificate of election with the executive secretary of the County Committee, certifying her as ward leader of the 42nd Ward. Defendant McGlinchey filed a similar certificate, certifying him as ward leader of the same ward.
On June 14, 1974, plaintiff filed with defendant County Committee a petition contesting the certificate of election presented by defendant McGlinchey.
Pursuant to the party's rules, defendant County Committee appointed a Contest Committee, composed of seven ward leaders selected by the County Committee, to conduct a hearing on plaintiff's petition. At that hearing, both plaintiff and defendant McGlinchey presented evidence and argument. After the hearing, defendant County Committee rendered a decision recognizing defendant McGlinchey as ward leader of the 42nd Ward.
Defendant County Committee performs certain specific functions pursuant to state statute, principally the filling of vacancies in party nominations and the nominating of candidates for special elections. See §§ 630 and 979 of the Pennsylvania Election Code, 25 P.S. §§ 2780 and 2939. Pursuant to the same statutes, the ward leader of each ward in Philadelphia, including the 42nd Ward, performs certain public functions, both individually and as a member of the County Committee. Expenditures directly related to the election of ward ...