Libertarian Party of Arkansas; Kristin Vaughn; Robert Chris Hayes; Debrah Standiford; Michael Pakko Plaintiffs - Appellees
Mark Martin, in his official capacity as Secretary of State for the State of Arkansas Defendant-Appellant
Submitted: September 20, 2017
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Little Rock
WOLLMAN, MELLOY, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.
WOLLMAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Libertarian Party of Arkansas, Kristin Vaughn, Robert Chris
Hayes, Debrah Standiford and Michael Pakko (collectively
Libertarian Party) brought a declaratory judgment and
injunctive relief action against the Arkansas Secretary of
State, claiming that the ballot access statutory scheme
violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The scheme
required new political parties to hold a nominating
convention prior to the major parties' preferential
primary election. The district court granted declaratory relief,
denied injunctive relief, denied the Secretary of State's
motion to reconsider, and awarded costs and attorney's
fees to the Libertarian Party. The Secretary of State
appealed, and during the pendency of the appeal the Arkansas
General Assembly amended its statute to allow new political
parties to hold their nominating convention and submit their
certificates of nomination at 12:00 p.m. on the day of the
major parties' primary election. Concluding that the
Libertarian Party's claim for declaratory relief has been
rendered moot, we vacate the judgment and remand the case
with directions that the complaint be dismissed. We affirm
the award of costs and attorney's fees.
Libertarian Party of Arkansas petitioned for recognition as a
political party under Arkansas law in June
2015. See Ark. Code Ann. §
7-7-205. Arkansas law requires new political parties to
nominate their candidates for the first general election by
convention rather than by primary election. See Ark.
Code Ann. § 7-7-205(c)(2). Arkansas law also requires
that a candidate nominated by convention "file a
political practices pledge . . . during the party filing
period." Ark. Code Ann. § 7-7-205(c)(3) (2013),
amended by Ark. Code Ann. § 7-7-205(c)(3)
(2017); Act 1356 of 2013.
Libertarian Party held its nominating convention on October
24, 2015, and successfully nominated twenty-two candidates
for the 2016 general election. See Ark. Code Ann.
§ 7-7-205(c)(2). Some candidates, however, failed to
pursue their candidacy. Thereafter, the Libertarian Party
held a second convention on February 27, 2016, and attempted
to file political practice pledges for four additional
candidates, which the Arkansas Secretary of State declined to
do because the filing deadline had passed. The Arkansas
preferential primary election was held on March 1, 2016, and
the general primary runoff election was held on March 22,
Libertarian Party's complaint alleged that it should be
allowed to select its nominees for partisan political office
at the same time that the Republicans and Democrats conduct
their preferential primary election. The complaint sought a
declaratory judgment that Arkansas Code sections 7-7-101 and
7-7-205(c)(1)-(3) are unconstitutional and an injunction
requiring that the names of the four candidates that were
nominated during the Libertarian Party's February 2016
convention be printed on the Arkansas general election
ballot. The complaint contended that because of the early
date of the nominating convention, the Libertarian Party
"in many cases, had little time to get to know [its]
candidates who showed up at the nominating convention on
October 24, 2015, let alone, have the time for extended
discussion and review of developing political events in
contrast to what is allowed for the Republican and Democratic
Parties." Appellee's Br. 5.
the Supreme Court's balancing test in Timmons v. Twin
Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 358 (1997), the
district court concluded that "[e]ven though the Court
finds the Libertarian Party of Arkansas' burden to be
minor, there is no interest, regulatory or otherwise, to
justify this restriction by the State." See also
Green Party of Ark. v. Martin, 649 F.3d. 675 (8th Cir.
2011) (analyzing the constitutionality of a ballot access
statute under the Timmons balancing test). The court
granted declaratory relief and found the Arkansas statutory
scheme unconstitutional. The court denied the request for
injunctive relief, however, concluding that one of the
nominees had missed the filing deadline for personal reasons
and that the remaining nominees had offered no evidence that
they were unable to file by the required deadline.
Libertarian Party thereafter sought an award of costs and
attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The
Secretary of State objected, arguing, inter alia,
that such an award was not justified because the Libertarian
Party had not succeeded on all of its claims and therefore
was not the prevailing party, as required by statute.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The Secretary of State
also filed a motion to reconsider and alter or amend the
judgment, which the district court denied. The district court
found the Libertarian Party to be the prevailing party and
awarded $29, 619.38 in costs and attorney's fees. The
Secretary of State then filed this appeal, arguing that the
Libertarian Party lacked standing, that the statutory scheme
was constitutional, and that the district court erred in
awarding costs and attorney's fees and abused its
discretion by denying the Secretary's motion to alter or
amend the judgment.
the appeals were briefed, the Arkansas General Assembly
amended its statutory requirements by changing the
certificate of nomination filing deadline for new political
parties to 12:00 p.m. on the day of the preferential primary
election. Act 297, 2017 Ark. Acts. 297 (Feb. 28, 2017),
codified at Ark. Code Ann. § 7-7-205(c) (2017) (changing
the filing deadline for certificates of nomination to
"no later than 12:00 noon on the dates of the
preferential primary election"). It also provided that a
new party's nominating convention "shall be held no
later than 12:00 noon on the date of the preferential primary
election." Ark. Code Ann. § 7-7-205(c)(B)(i).
court jurisdiction is restricted to "cases" and
"controversies." Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S.
83, 94 (1968). This jurisdictional "requirement subsists
through all stages of federal judicial proceedings, trial and
appellate." Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp.,
494 U.S. 472, 477 (1990). We will dismiss a case as moot when
"changed circumstances [have] already provide[d] the
requested relief and eliminate[d] the need for court
action." Teague v. Cooper, 720 F.3d 973, 976
(8th Cir. 2013) (quoting City of Mesquite v.
Aladdin's Castle, Inc., 455 U.S. 283, 289 n.10
(1982) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "When a law
has been amended or repealed, actions seeking declaratory or
injunctive relief for earlier versions are generally moot
unless the problems are capable of repetition yet evading
review." Phelps-Roper v. City of Manchester,
697 F.3d 678, 687 (8th Cir. 2012) (en banc) (internal
citation and alterations omitted).
Libertarian Party argues that the amended statute remains
problematic because an independent party will still be
required to hold its nominating convention earlier than the
primary election in order to comply with the 12:00 p.m.
filing deadline, given that it will have to accommodate voter
travel time and the time required to certify the nominations.
Further, it contends that by requiring new political parties
to hold a nominating convention before the preferential
primary election, the statute gives Republicans and Democrats
the advantage of learning the identities of the minority
party candidates, thus allowing them to select ...