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Moore v. Democratic County Executive Committee of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 6, 2014

JIMMIE MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
DEMOCRATIC COUNTY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF PHILADELPHIA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

MICHAEL M. BAYLSON, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Political parties, although not mentioned in the United States Constitution, are synonymous with political power. Plaintiff alleges that his Constitutional and civil rights were violated when, after a contested election for leader of the 32nd Ward of the Democratic Party, defendants deprived him of the position, even though he won the most votes. Accepting the truth of plaintiff's allegations, settled precedent establishes that the individual defendants cannot act under color of state law and the conduct of defendants was not state action. Therefore, plaintiff's federal claims must be dismissed with prejudice, but the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claims, which can proceed in state court.

II. Factual Background[1]

Plaintiff Moore is a Democratic ward committee member in the 32nd Ward in Philadelphia. Compl. ¶ 2 (ECF 1). Defendants Gary Williams and Judith Robinson are also Democratic ward committee members in the 32nd Ward in Philadelphia. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5. The 32nd Ward was required by Democratic Party rules to hold a reorganization meeting on June 9, 2014 at 8:00 pm. Compl. ¶ 6. Williams, the incumbent ward leader, was required to notify Moore in writing of the reorganization meeting but failed to do so. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8. Nonetheless, Moore attended the meeting. Compl. ¶ 10. At the meeting, Robinson was appointed by Williams as a teller. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 11. During the meeting, someone moved "to suspend the rules to allow for proxies." Compl. ¶ 12. Williams refused to allow proxies. Id . Moore carried five valid proxies to the meeting but was not allowed to vote the proxies. Id.

In the first vote for ward leader, Moore and Williams each received 20 votes, with 5 votes going to other candidates, Donell Deans and Michael Youngblood. Compl. ¶ 13. During the vote tally, Robinson attempted to change a vote for Youngblood to a vote for Williams. Compl. ¶ 14. Her actions were discovered and this vote was disallowed. Id . In the second vote for ward leader, Moore received 22 votes and Williams received 20 votes. Compl. ¶ 15. Moore subsequently provided defendant the Democratic County Executive Committee of Philadelphia ("Democratic City Committee") with a notarized form notifying the Committee of his election as ward leader of the 32nd Ward. Compl. ¶ 16.

Sometime after the election, an election contest was allegedly filed with the Democratic City Committee, challenging Moore's election as ward leader. Compl. ¶ 17. Contrary to party rules, a written contest petition was not filed. Compl. ¶ 20. The identity of the person challenging the election and the basis for the challenge were not disclosed to Moore. Compl. ¶ 18. Moore was never served with a copy of the election contest, although the Committee Chairman notified him by telephone on June 12, 2014. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 21, 24, 25. The Democratic City Committee held a contest committee meeting on June 14, 2014. Compl. ¶ 18. The contest committee did not allow Moore to cross examine witnesses and prevented him from hearing testimony. Compl. ¶ 26. The contest committee voted to reinstate Williams as ward leader in place of Moore. Compl. ¶ 27.

III. Procedural History

Moore filed his complaint on June 20, 2014, asserting four counts. Count One alleges that defendants' actions during the ward election and the contest committee violated Moore's First Amendment rights and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Compl. ¶¶ 29-32. Count Two alleges that defendants' actions during the ward election and the contest committee violated Moore's civil rights to due process. Compl. ¶¶ 33-36. Count Three petitions the Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Democratic City Committee and the Democratic Ward Executive Committee of the 32nd Ward of the City and County of Philadelphia to reinstate Moore as ward leader of the 32nd Ward. Compl. ¶¶ 37-41. Count Four petitions the Court for a declaratory judgment that Williams does not live within the 32nd Ward and is ineligible to be ward leader of the 32nd Ward. Compl. ¶¶ 42-45.

Defendants filed their motion to dismiss on July 4, 2014 (ECF 7), arguing that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and that the Complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6). Plaintiff filed his response in opposition to the motion to dismiss on July 30, 2014 (ECF 8). Defendants did not file a reply.

IV. Legal Standard

When deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court may look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc. , 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985).

A valid complaint requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "To survive a motion to dismiss, 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 (2009). Iqbal clarified that the Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007) "expounded the pleading standard for all civil actions.'" 556 U.S. at 684.

The Court in Iqbal explained that, although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that requirement does not apply to legal conclusions; therefore, pleadings must include factual allegations to support the legal claims asserted. Id . at 678, 684. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id . at 678 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) ("We caution that without some factual allegation in the complaint, a claimant cannot satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only fair notice, ' but also the grounds' on which the claim rests." (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556 n. 3)). Accordingly, to survive a motion to dismiss, a ...


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