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Constitution Party of Missouri v. ST. Louis County

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

June 25, 2015

CONSTITUTION PARTY OF MISSOURI et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RONNIE L. WHITE, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 17). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

BACKGROUND[1]

In Plaintiffs' Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief ("Complaint"; ECF No. 1), Plaintiffs asked that Plaintiff Cynthia Redburn be certified as the Constitution Party's nominee for the April 7, 2015 special election in St. Louis County and be listed on the ballot. On February 10, 2015, the parties entered into a Joint Motion for Entry of a Consent Judgment ("Joint Motion") for entry to enjoin enforcement of St. Louis County Charter §2.150, [2] direct certification of Plaintiff Redburn's nomination as the Constitution Party's candidate for the Sixth Council District seat on the County Council, and place her named on the ballot for the April 7, 2015 special element. (ECF No. 9). The Court entered the Consent Judgment (ECF No. 10) on February 11, 2015, adopting the parties' agreement, and an Amended Judgment Without Objection on February 12, 2015 (ECF No. 14).

In the Motion to Dismiss, Defendant St. Louis County argues that Plaintiffs' Complaint should be dismissed because, based upon the Joint Motion and the Court's February 11, 2015 Order, there is no reasonable expectation of a future wrong to the Plaintiffs.

STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must view the allegations in the Complaint liberally in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Luney v. SGS Auto Servs., 432 F.3d 866, 867 (8th Cir. 2005)). Additionally, the Court "must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Huang v. Gateway Hotel Holdings, 520 F.Supp.2d 1137, 1140 (E.D. Mo. 2007).

DISCUSSION

I. Case or Controversy

The Eighth Circuit has discussed the requirements for an actual controversy within the context of the Declaratory Judgment Act:

Federal courts are not courts of general jurisdiction and have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto. Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541, 106 S.Ct. 1326, 1331, 89 L.Ed.2d 501 (citing Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137), 2 L.Ed. 60, reh'g denied 476 U.S. 1132, 106 S.Ct. 2003, 90 L.Ed.2d 682 (1986). The case or controversy requirement of Article III applies with equal force to actions for declaratory judgment as it does to actions seeking traditional coercive relief. Foster v. Center Township of La Porte County, 798 F.2d 237, 242 (7th Cir.1986). The test to determine whether there is an actual controversy within the meaning of the Declaratory Judgment Act is whether "there is a substantial controversy between the parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment." Caldwell v. Gurley Refining Co., 755 F.2d 645 (8th Cir.1985) (citing Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 61 S.Ct. 510, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941)); Lake Carriers' Assn. v. MacMullan, 406 U.S. 498, 92 S.Ct. 1749, 32 L.Ed.2d 257 (1972).
Because the test to determine the existence of a "substantial controversy" is imprecise, the decision of whether such controversy exists is made upon the facts on a case by case basis. Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108, 89 S.Ct. 956, 959, 22 L.Ed.2d 113 (1969). The controversy must be live throughout the course of the litigation and must exist at the time of the district court's hearing of the matter and not simply when the case is filed. Id.; United States Fire Insurance Co. v. Caulkins Indiantown Citrus Co., 931 F.2d 744 (11th Cir.1991).

Marine Equip. Mgmt. Co. v. United States, 4 F.3d 643, 646 (8th Cir. 1993).

Defendant St. Louis County ("Defendant") argues that Plaintiffs have been afforded complete relief in this lawsuit and every justiciable issue has been resolved. (ECF No. 18 at 2-3). Defendant argues that the Consent Judgment mandates that the parties, their officers, agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and "other persons who are in active concert or participation with anyone described in Rule 65(d)(2)(A) or (B)" will be bound by an order for injunctive relief. (ECF No. 18 at 3). Defendant maintains that Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate the existence of any real or immediate threat that they will be wronged in the future. Defendant admits that the parties agreed that the Consent Judgment left "open the question of whether St. Louis County Charter §2.150, on its face, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by completely excluding minor parties and independent candidates from future special elections to fill vacancies on the St. Louis County Council." See ECF No. 14 at 2. Defendant, however, maintains that Plaintiffs' "present claims are nonexistent and their future claims depend entirely on events that most probably will never occur" and, therefore, "this matter is no longer ripe for adjudication." (ECF No. 18 at 5). Defendant contends that it never agreed that "critical fundamental issues such as justiciability, standing and abstention were resolved and that the sole issue for determination was the facial constitutionality ...


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