United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
STEPHEN D. GILL, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM F. GALVIN, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. Casper United States District Judge.
Stephen D. Gill (“Gill”) has filed this lawsuit
against Defendant William F. Galvin, Secretary of the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts (“Galvin”) alleging
constitutional violations concerning the affiliation and
disaffiliation state statutes and their effect on Gill's
ability to seek election as an unenrolled candidate. D. 1.
Galvin has moved to dismiss. D. 15. For the reasons stated
below, the Court ALLOWS the motion.
Standard of Review
consider a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), the Court must determine if the facts alleged
“plausibly narrate a claim for relief.”
Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669
F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012) (internal citation omitted).
Reading the complaint “as a whole, ” the Court
must conduct a two-step, context-specific inquiry.
García-Catalán v. United States, 734
F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013). First, the Court must perform
a close reading of the claim to distinguish the factual
allegations from the conclusory legal allegations contained
therein. Id. Factual allegations must be accepted as
true, while conclusory legal conclusions are not entitled
credit. Id. Second, the Court must determine whether
the factual allegations present a “reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d
39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011). In sum, the complaint must provide
sufficient factual allegations for the Court to find the
claim “plausible on its face.”
García-Catalán, 734 F.3d at 103.
otherwise noted, the following factual allegations are from
the complaint and, for the purposes of this motion, the Court
presumes them to be true. This case concerns elections for
the Plymouth and Norfolk Senate seat in the Massachusetts
Senate (“Plymouth/Norfolk Seat”), which became
vacant on January 4, 2016. D. 1 ¶ 6. Under three
interrelated state statutes governing election procedures, a
potential candidate in Massachusetts must be continually
affiliated with a political party or disaffiliated from all
political parties for ninety days prior to the date
nomination papers are due to run in a party primary or to be
listed on the ballot as an “unenrolled”
(sometimes referred to as an independent) candidate,
respectively. See Mass. Gen. L. c. 53, §§
6, 10, 48 (the “Disaffiliation Statutes”); D. 1
¶¶ 12-13 & n.3. On January 21, 2016, the State
Senate determined that a special election to serve the
remainder of the Plymouth/Norfolk Seat term (the
“Special Election”) would be held on May 10,
2016, and party primaries for the Special Election would be
held on April 12, 2016. D. 1 ¶¶ 7, 8, 22.
Nomination papers for the Special Election were due on March
8, 2016. D. 1 ¶ 8, Ex. A. Candidates who wished to be
listed on the ballot as unenrolled or independent candidates
unaffiliated with a political party were required to be
unenrolled from all political parties as of December 8, 2015,
and to maintain that status through the March 8, 2016 due
date for nomination papers. Mass. Gen. L. c. 53, § 6; D.
1, Ex. A.
alleges that he became aware of the vacancy of the
Plymouth/Norfolk Seat while on active naval duty and intended
to run in the Special Election as an unenrolled candidate. D.
1 ¶ 15. He thereafter discovered that he would not be
able to run as such because he had not unenrolled from the
Republican Party by December 8, 2015. D. 1 ¶¶
17-18. Gill filed for and participated in the Republican
primary for the Special Election, but lost that contest. D. 1
¶¶ 19-22. By participating in the Republican
primary for the Special Election, Gill was thereby precluded
from entering the November 2016 general election for the
Plymouth/Norfolk Seat as an unenrolled candidate (the
“General Election”), because the disaffiliation
deadline for this election was March 1, 2016. D. 1
¶¶ 28-30. At the time of filing this lawsuit, Gill
had filed the appropriate nomination papers to run in the
Republican primary for the General Election, but sought
injunctive relief from this Court to order Galvin to list
Gill as an unenrolled candidate on the General Election
ballot. D. 1 ¶¶ 31-33, 43-45. The Court, after
briefing and a motion hearing, denied that relief. D. 14.
Thereafter, Gill ran in the Republican primary for the
General Election and therefore withdrew his nomination papers
to be listed as an unenrolled candidate in the General
Election on November 8, 2016. See D. 1 ¶ 31; D.
19 at 3.
instituted this action on August 24, 2016. D. 1. After full
briefing and argument, the Court denied Gill's motion for
a preliminary injunction on September 7, 2016. D. 14. Galvin
has now moved to dismiss. D. 15.
appears to concede that his claim for injunctive relief may
be moot at this point. See D. 19 at 4. However, Gill
argues his claims for declaratory relief are not moot because
they are claims that are capable of repetition, yet evade
review because of the timeline for elections. Id. at
courts lack jurisdiction to decide moot cases because their
constitutional authority extends only to actual cases or
controversies.” Iron Arrow Honor Soc'y v.
Heckler, 464 U.S. 67, 70 (1983); see Duclerc v.
Massachusetts Dept. of Correction, 10-cv-12050-DJC, 2012
WL 6615040, at *5 n.5 (D. Mass. Dec. 18, 2012) (recognizing
that mootness is “‘the doctrine of standing set
in a time frame: [t]he requisite personal interest that must
exist at the commencement of the litigation (standing) must
continue throughout its existence (mootness)'”
(quoting Becker v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 230
F.3d 381, 386 n.3 (1st Cir. 2000)). A case is moot when
“intervening events make ...