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BERG v. EGAN

September 25, 1997

IAN BERG, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS C. EGAN, III, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBRENO

 EDUARDO C. ROBRENO

 SEPTEMBER 25, 1997

 Plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated his constitutional rights of due process, equal protection and freedom of association when he was precluded for 49 days from being a candidate for the position of District Justice in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. At the time of the claimed violation, the plaintiff was sixteen years old and a full-time high school student. Before the court are the defendants' motions for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motions will be granted.

 I. BACKGROUND

 On March 9, 1993, plaintiff Ian Berg filed nomination petitions with the Montgomery County Board of Elections to enter the Democratic and Republican primaries for the office of District Justice *fn1" in Montgomery County. On March 16, 1993, defendant Thomas Egan *fn2" filed a petition with the prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County *fn3" to strike the plaintiff's nomination petitions.

 Mr. Egan acknowledged that Pennsylvania law did not set a minimum age requirement to run for District Justice. However, Mr. Egan claimed that because the Pennsylvania child labor laws prohibited minors from working more than six days a week, and prohibited minors who are enrolled in regular day school from working more than twenty-eight hours per week and from working past midnight on weekdays and 1:00 a.m. on weekends, Mr. Berg would be unable to discharge the duties of the office. *fn5"

 On March 19, 1993, the day after the hearing, Judge Moore entered an order striking Mr. Berg's petitions. Mr. Berg then filed simultaneous appeals to the Commonwealth Court and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. On April 2, 1993, the Commonwealth Court affirmed Judge Moore's order striking Mr. Berg's petition. On May 7, 1993, the Supreme Court held that the eligibility of the candidate to run was the sole criteria under which to evaluate the candidate's nomination petition, and that it was impermissible to look beyond the Election Code to unrelated statutes and rules to speculate as to the eligibility of a candidate to serve. Egan v. Mele, 535 Pa. 201, 634 A.2d 1074, 1077 (Pa. 1993). *fn6" The Supreme Court vacated the Commonwealth Court's order *fn7" , directed the Montgomery County Board of Elections to place Mr. Berg's name on the ballot for the primary election and ordered that new absentee ballots be issued with Mr. Berg's name on them. Id. at 1078.

 Pursuant to the mandate of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Mr. Berg's name appeared along with that of the other candidates on the May 18, 1993 primary ballot. Mr. Berg, however, failed to get elected to represent either the Democratic or Republican Party in the election for District Justice.

 Mr. Berg now contends that he was unable to properly campaign, raise funds and communicate with party officials during the 49 days of the pendency of his appeals (i.e. March 19, 1993 to May 7, 1993). He has brought this federal civil rights action, pursuant to sections 1983 and 1985 of title 42 of the United States Code, alleging the defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights of due process and equal protection and his First Amendment right of free association. He claims that the violations arose from the individual actions or, conspiracy between or concerted actions of Thomas Egan, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, the Montgomery County Board of Elections, Michael H. McAdoo as Chief Clerk of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, and Mario Mele, Joseph M. Hoeffel, III, and Jon D. Fox individually and in their official capacities as Montgomery County Commissioners and as members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. The allegedly violative act by defendant Egan was his filing of a petition to strike the plaintiff's nomination petitions. The allegedly violative acts or omissions of all other defendants were their rejection of the plaintiff's nomination petitions and their failure to object to several alleged procedural defects in defendant Egan's petition to strike. *fn8" The plaintiff alleges that these acts or omissions, together, wrongfully interfered with plaintiff's candidacy for District Justice.

 II. LEGAL STANDARD

 Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party can "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). The Court must accept the non-movant's version of the facts as true, and resolve conflicts in the non-movant's favor. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of North America, Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912, 122 L. Ed. 2d 659, 113 S. Ct. 1262 (1993).

 The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of genuine issues of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Once the movant has done so, however, the non-moving party cannot rest on its pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Rather, the non-movant must then "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of every element essential to his case, based on the affidavits or by depositions and admissions on file." Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 ...


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