RULING AND ORDER
BRIAN A. JACKSON, Chief Judge.
Before the Court is a
Also before the Court is a
Also before the Court is a
According to Hall, the current Judicial Election Plan discriminates against African Americans because African American voters, who make up the majority of Section 1 and the City population, are allotted only two judges, while White voters, who make up the majority of Section 2 but a minority of the City population, are allotted three judges. Hall further alleges that the Defendants' refusal to reapportion the City Court judges and/or redraw the geographic boundaries of the Divisions in accordance with the City of Baton Rouge's 2010 Census demographic data is an intentional attempt to dilute the votes of African Americans.
Accordingly, Hall seeks a ruling and judgment declaring, inter alia, that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates: (1) the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, made applicable to the States by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) Hall's fundamental right to vote, as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (5) the Fifteenth Amendment; (6) Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and (7) the "democratic principles of majority rule and individualistic egalitarianism" related to the "one person, one vote" principle of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Further, Hall requests an injunction forbidding Defendants from enforcing the 1993 Judicial Election Plan, including enjoining Defendants from "calling, holding, supervising, or certifying" any future elections. Hall also seeks a ruling and judgment holding Defendants liable under Section 1983, and granting him attorney's fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
As to the instant motion, Schedler seeks an order from this Court dismissing Hall's claims against him, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and
Hall opposes the motion and argues that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction, as Schedler is not immune from suit. He further contends that he has sufficiently pled claims upon which relief can be granted under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
II. Standard of Review
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; without jurisdiction conferred by statute, they lack the power to adjudicate claims. In re FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Prods. Liab. Litig., 668 F.3d 281, 286-287 (5th Cir.2012) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994); Stockman v. FEC, 138 F.3d 144, 151 (5th Cir.1998)). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1), a claim is "properly dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate" the claim. Id. (quoting Home Builders Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998)). A court should consider a Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack before addressing any attack on the merits. Id. (citing Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir.2001), cert. denied, 536 U.S. 960, 122 S.Ct. 2665, 153 L.Ed.2d 839 (2002)). Considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss first "prevents a court without jurisdiction from prematurely dismissing a case with prejudice." Id. (citing Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161).
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is analyzed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Benton v. U.S., 960 F.2d 19, 21 (5th Cir. 1992). A complaint is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) if it fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing
In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, however, "the court is permitted to look at evidence in the record beyond simply those facts alleged in the complaint and its proper attachments." Ambraco, Inc. v. Bossclip B.V., 570 F.3d 233, 238 (5th Cir.2009), cert. denied, 558 U.S. 1111, 130 S.Ct. 1054, 175 L.Ed.2d 883 (2010); Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161 (stating that a court ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion may evaluate "(1) the complaint alone, (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.")
However, "[t]he burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction." Celestine v. TransWood, Inc., 467 Fed. Appx. 317, 318 (5th Cir.2012) (quoting Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161). "Accordingly, the plaintiff constantly bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist." Id. (quoting Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161). A pleading stating a claim for relief must contain "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction[.]" Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1)). In federal question cases, the party must demonstrate a non-frivolous claim based on federal law. Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 72, 59 S.Ct. 725, 83 L.Ed. 1111 (1939). When a district court finds it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, its determination is not on the merits of the case, and does not bar the plaintiff from pursuing the claim in a proper jurisdiction. Hitt v. City of Pasadena, 561 F.2d 606, 608 (5th Cir.1977) (per curiam).
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
The Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides as follows:
U.S. CONST. amend. XI. This language expressly encompasses not only suits
The Eleventh Amendment also bars a suit against a state official when "the state is a real, substantial party in interest." Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 101-02, 104 S.Ct. 900 (citations omitted). Thus, the general rule is that relief sought against an officer is in fact against the sovereign if the decree would operate against the latter. And, as when the state itself is named as the defendant, a suit against state officials that is in fact a suit against a state is barred regardless of whether it seeks damages or injunctive relief. Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 101-02, 104 S.Ct. 900 (citations omitted); see also Okpalobi v. Foster, 244 F.3d 405, 412 (5th Cir.2001) (plaintiff cannot evade Eleventh Amendment immunity by naming an individual state officer as a defendant in lieu of the state itself).
A state's immunity from suit is not absolute, however, and the Supreme Court has recognized several situations in which an individual may sue a state in federal court. Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. La. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 662 F.3d 336, 340 (5th Cir.2011). First, Congress may authorize such a suit in the exercise of its power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment.
1. Congress' Authorization of Lawsuits Against the State in Federal Court
First, the Court notes that Congress has abrogated the states' sovereign immunity for claims arising under the Voting Rights Act. See, e.g., Mixon v. State of Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 398-99 (6th Cir.1999); Reaves v. United States DOJ, 355 F.Supp.2d 510, 515 (D.D.C.2005) ("it is reasonable to conclude that Congress, in passing the Voting Rights Act, effected a valid abrogation of state sovereign immunity."); see also City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 518, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624 (1997) (noting that the Supreme Court has "concluded that other measures protecting voting rights are within Congress' power to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, despite the burdens those measures placed on the States.") (citing Katzenbach, 383 U.S. at 308, 86 S.Ct. 803). Thus, the Court concludes that Hall's claims against Schedler under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act are not proscribed by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity.
As it relates to Hall's Section 1983 claims, it is uncontested that Congress has not abrogated the states' sovereign immunity for claims arising under Section 1983. Inyo County, Cal. v. Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community of the Bishop Colony, 538 U.S. 701, 709, 123 S.Ct. 1887, 155 L.Ed.2d 933 (2003).
2. The State's Waiver of Eleventh Amendment Immunity
It is also uncontested that the State of Louisiana has not waived its immunity from suit in federal court. Champagne v. Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, 188 F.3d 312, 314 (5th Cir.1999) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345, 99 S.Ct. 1139, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979)); La. R.S. § 13:5106(a). Thus, the only remaining question is whether the Ex parte Young doctrine applies to Hall's Section 1983 claims against Schedler in his official capacity.
Ex parte Young Doctrine and Hall's Section 1983 Claims Against Schedler
As noted above, in Ex parte Young, the Supreme Court carved out an exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 157, 28 S.Ct. 441. In that ruling, the Court permitted suits against state officials in their official capacity in order to enjoin enforcement of an unconstitutional state statute. Okpalobi, 244 F.3d at 411 (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 157, 28 S.Ct. 441). This exception applies when the state official: (1) has some connection with the enforcement of the statute; or (2) is specifically charged with the duty to enforce the statute and is threatening to exercise that duty. Id. at 414-15 (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 157, 28 S.Ct. 441 ("[i]n making an officer of the State a party defendant in a suit to enjoin the enforcement of an act alleged to be unconstitutional... such officer must have some connection with the enforcement of the act, or else it is merely making him a party as a representative of the State, and thereby attempting to make the State a party.")).
In Ex parte Young, the Supreme Court held that enforcement of an unconstitutional law is not an official act because a state cannot confer authority on its officers to violate the Constitution or federal law. Aguilar v. Tex. Dep't of Crim. Justice, 160 F.3d 1052, 1054 (5th Cir.1998) (citing American Bank & Trust
For Ex parte Young to apply, the "suit must be brought against individual persons in their official capacities as agents of the state and the relief sought must be declaratory or injunctive in nature and prospective in effect." Aguilar, 160 F.3d at 1054 (quoting Saltz v. Tennessee Dep't of Employment Sec., 976 F.2d 966, 968 (5th Cir.1992)). In Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986), the Supreme Court opined:
Id. at 277-78, 106 S.Ct. 2932 (quotations and citations omitted).
The Supreme Court recently explained more succinctly that in determining whether the doctrine of Ex parte Young avoids an Eleventh Amendment bar to suit, "a court need only conduct a straightforward inquiry into whether [the] complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and seeks relief properly characterized as prospective." Va. Office for Prot. & Advocacy v. Stewart, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 1632, 1639, 179 L.Ed.2d 675 (2011) (quoting Verizon Md. Inc. v. Pub. Svc. Comm'n, 535 U.S. 635, 645, 122 S.Ct. 1753, 152 L.Ed.2d 871 (2002)).
Here, Hall identifies Schedler as the "Chief Election Officer" of the State of Louisiana. (Doc. 1, ¶ 8.) Hall's Original Complaint alleges that Schedler is an "enforcement official maintaining, executing, and enforcing the 1993 Judicial Election Plan in the form it currently exits [sic]." (Doc. 1, ¶ 68.) Hall's Second Amending and Supplemental Complaint alleges that Schedler:
(Doc. 74, ¶ 9.) According to Hall, the current Judicial Election Plan, "as written, maintained[,] and enforced, and presently implemented by the Secretary of State as the Chief Election and Administrative Officer[,] compels all others, including the [Defendants]... to carry out the discriminatory and disparate effects of the Judicial Election Plan" against him. (Doc. 74, ¶ 16.) Hall further alleges that Schedler "certifies all candidates elected for public office in Louisiana ... and issue[s] commissions to [the judges] elected [to] City Court." (Doc. 76, ¶ 18.)
Hall's Complaint also alleges that "[a]ll Defendants, including "the Secretary of State of Louisiana" are "particularly aware that ... their application of the [1993 Judicial Election] Plan invidiously discriminates against, and adversely impacts, Plaintiff ... [and that] their state action as individuals and/or public officials violate [sic]" federal laws. (Doc. 74, ¶ 31.) Hall further alleges that "[a]ll Defendants," including "the Secretary of State of Louisiana," "have separately, jointly, and/or cooperatively acted in such a way that they now must be ordered to comply with the Constitution ... [Section] 1983 ... [and] Section 2 ... of the Voting Rights Act." (Doc. 76, ¶ 10.)
Hall's Complaint also alleges that Schedler "has the legal and administrative capacity, and authority to enforce the election laws of Louisiana[,] and to grant Plaintiff Hall essential aspects of the relief sought[,] particularly not to endorse, or enforce the challenged Judicial Election Plan...." (Doc. 76, ¶ 11.) He further asserts that this lawsuit is an action to "remedy past, present, ongoing, and future" violations of federal law by Defendants. (Doc. 76, ¶ 3.) According to Hall, unless the Court enjoins Defendants from "calling, holding, supervising, or certifying any elections" under the current Judicial Election Plan, he will be "irreparably harmed" by Defendants' "continuous and ongoing violations" of federal law. (Doc. 1, ¶ 88.)
When Hall's Original Complaint, First Amending and Supplemental Complaint, Second Amending and Supplemental Complaint, and Third Amending and Supplemental Complaint are read as one, his Complaint, on its face, alleges that Schedler has some connection with the enforcement of the 1993 Judicial Election Plan, or that he is specifically charged with the duty to enforce the Plan and is currently exercising and/or threatening to exercise that duty. The Court further concludes that Hall sufficiently alleges an ongoing violation of federal law, and that he seeks relief that is properly characterized as prospective.
In sum, the Court concludes that Hall has met the Ex parte Young exception. Thus, Hall's Section 1983 claims against Schedler are not proscribed by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. Accordingly, Schedler's request that the Court dismiss Hall's Section 1983 claims against him is denied, and Schedler's request that the Court deny Hall's request for attorney's fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 is denied as premature.
Whether Hall Has Sufficiently Pled Claims Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted
1. Claims Alleged in Hall's Original Complaint But Not in His Subsequent Amending and Supplemental Complaints
On page 20 of his memorandum in support of his Motion to Dismiss Complaint,
As explained above, Hall's subsequent Amending and Supplemental Complaints referred to, adopted, and incorporated the original complaint. Thus, under the law in this Circuit, all four Complaints must be read as one. Stewart, 372 Fed.Appx. at 478 (citing King, 31 F.3d at 346). Accordingly, Schedler's request that the Court dismiss Hall's claims on this basis is denied.
2. Hall's Claims Under Section 1973j of the Voting Rights Act
Schedler also contends that Hall has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1973j, because such actions must be brought by the Attorney General of the United States.
Section 1973j(d) of the Voting Rights Act states:
42 U.S.C. § 1973j(d). However, it is well established that the statute's specific references to Attorney General of United States are intended to give the Attorney General power to bring suit to enforce what might otherwise be viewed as private rights. See Allen v. State Bd. of Elections, 393 U.S. 544, 555 n. 18, 89 S.Ct. 817, 22 L.Ed.2d 1 (1969); Gray v. Main, 291 F.Supp. 998, 1000 (M.D.Ala.1966). Further, the Voting Rights Act does not deny private parties authorization to seek declaratory relief. Allen, 393 U.S. at 555 n. 18, 89 S.Ct. 817. Accordingly, Schedler's request that the Court deny Hall's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1973j is denied.
3. Hall's Claims Under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
In support of his motion, Schedler argues that Hall has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
To prevail on a claim of vote dilution under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, Hall must first meet certain threshold requirements set out by the Supreme Court in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 92 L.Ed.2d 25 (1986). The Gingles factors are: (1) that the minority group is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; (2) that the minority group is politically cohesive; and (3) that the white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to cause it to usually defeat the minority's preferred candidate. Gingles, 478 U.S. at 49-50, 106 S.Ct. 2752. If Hall makes these three threshold showings, the question becomes whether under the totality of the circumstances Hall has demonstrated a violation of Section 2. Westwego Citizens for Better Government v. Westwego, 946 F.2d 1109, 1116 (5th Cir.La.1991) (Westwego III).
Here, Hall alleges that African Americans constitute at 54.3 % of the City's total population. He further alleges that, as of October 12, 2012, the total number of African American registered voters exceeded fifty-four percent. (Doc. 1, ¶ 43.) Thus, the current Judicial Election Plan, which creates two Divisions in which African Americans voters are the majority and three Divisions in which White voters are the majority, impermissibly dilutes the votes of African Americans, who are now a majority of the City's total population, voting age population, and registered voters. Hall also alleges that the current Judicial Election Plan: (1) does not permit the election of more than two African American judges, despite the fact that African Americans now constitute a majority of the total population, voting age population, and registered voters; and (2) guarantees three White judges will be elected by diluting the majority African American vote in Divisions A, C, and E. Hall further alleges that White voters in Section 2, which is made up of Divisions A, C, and E, "vote sufficiently as a bloc to enable them ... to defeat the Black voter's preferred candidates." (Doc. 1, ¶ 53.)
When accepting all well plead facts as true, and viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Hall, the Court concludes that Hall has pled sufficient claims to satisfy the Gingles factors. Further, under the totality of the circumstances it cannot be said that Hall has failed to plead sufficient facts to state a plausible claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
As it relates to Schedler, as outlined in detail above, Hall's Complaint sufficiently alleges that Schedler, in his official capacity as the Secretary of State, has
While it is not clear from Hall's pleadings, it appears that Hall's Section 1983 claims include: (1) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, made applicable to the States by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan infringes Hall's fundamental right to vote, as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (5) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the Fifteenth Amendment; (6) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and (7) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the "democratic principles of majority rule and individualistic egalitarianism" related to the "one person, one vote" principle of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
42 U.S.C. § 1973.