United States District Court, D. South Dakota
CHARLES W. HAAN, Petitioner,
JASON M. GANT, in his official duty and obligation as the South Dakota Secretary of State Elections, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT TO DEFENDANT
ROBERTO A. LANGE, District Judge.
I. Procedural History
On July 23, 2014, Charles W. Haan filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus and paid the $400.00 filing fee to start a civil case. Haan, who was proceeding pro se, filed no other pleadings. Haan sought to have Defendant Jason M. Gant, the South Dakota Secretary of State, immediately certify Haan as a Constitution Party candidate for the United States House of Representatives in the November election in South Dakota. Doc. 1.
Haan did not file a Complaint, even though Rule 3 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure directs that "[ a] civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court." Haan did not serve a summons with the Petition or any complaint on Gant, notwithstanding the requirements of Rules 4 and 5 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The unusual manner in which Haan chose to proceed resulted in delay in the case coming to the attention of this Court. That is, Haan did not serve Gant and filed no motion - despite Rule 7(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requiring that a "request for a court order must be made by motion."
Although this Court could have let the case languish, the public interest and time constraints involved prompted this Court to proceed. Through an Order dated August 29, 2014, this Court chose to construe the Petition for Writ of Mandamus as Haan's Complaint as time was short before the November election and the relief Haan sought was evident from the Petition. Doc. 4. This Court also directed service on Gant and scheduled a hearing for September 8, 2014. Doc. 4.
On September 5, 2014, Gant filed a Verified Answer and Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. 7. Gant filed a Memorandum and submitted a series of exhibits. Doc. 8; see Docs. 8-1-8-11. On the day of the September 8, 2014 hearing, Gant filed a Supplemental Memorandum and two more documents. Doc. 10; see Docs. XX-X-XX-X. Haan likewise on September 8 filed an Affidavit to Support an Order for Writ of Mandamus, with attachments thereto. Doc. 11; see Docs. XX-X-XX-X. Two matters became clear at the September 8, 2014 hearing. First, both parties wanted a prompt ruling from the Court. Gant already had printed and distributed ballots omitting Haan's name, and the November election is within two months. Thus, neither party was interested in the formalities of twenty-one days to respond to the Statement of Undisputed Material Facts and fourteen days to reply as contemplated in the Civil Local Rules for the District of South Dakota. Second, no genuine issue of material fact existed. Haan contested Gant's application of state statutes and relied on language in the United States Constitution and his own sense of what the law ought to be for his inclusion as a candidate for the United States House of Representatives. Gant disagreed with Haan's interpretation of law. However, neither Haan nor Gant dispute the facts of this case established through the materials submitted.
II. Undisputed Material Facts
Haan initially wanted to run as an Americans Elect candidate for the United States House of Representatives from South Dakota. Doc. 11. After exploring that possibility and considering the platform of the South Dakota Constitution Party, Haan chose to join the Constitution Party. The South Dakota Constitution Party was formed on March 1, 2004, by obtaining signatures of at least 2.5% of the voters of the state as shown by the total votes cast for Governor in the preceding gubernatorial election. Doc. 8-1 at 2; see S.D. Codified Laws (SDCL) § 12-5-1 (setting forth requirements to organize new political party). In 2006, Steven J. Willis qualified as the Constitution Party candidate for Governor of South Dakota by filing a petition with at least 250 signatures of Constitution Party members. Doc. 8-1 at 2. Willis ultimately received 4, 010 votes or 1.2% of the vote for Governor. Doc. 8-1 at 2. The South Dakota Constitution Party lost party status in 2006 when its candidate Willis failed to receive 2.5% of the vote. Doc. 8-1 at 2; see SDCL § 12-1-3(10) (defining a "Political party" as "a party whose candidate for Governor at the last preceding general election at which a Governor was elected received at least two and one-half percent of the total votes for Governor").
Under SDCL section 12-5-1, the South Dakota Constitution Party again regained new party status on April 18, 2012. Doc. 8-1 at 2. Gant specifically informed the Constitution Party in writing that, "a Gubernatorial, U.S. Congress, and U.S. Senate candidate must gather two hundred and fifty signatures" to get on the ballot as a Constitution Party candidate. Doc. 8-2. Gant also advised that the offices for which candidates must be nominated at the South Dakota Constitution State Party convention were "Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, State Auditor, Commissioner of School and Public Lands and Public Utilities Commissioner." Doc. 8-2.
On March 17, 2014, eight days before the filing deadline for submitting a nominating petition, Haan took out a nominating petition as a Constitution Party candidate for the United States House of Representatives. Doc. 8-1 at 3; Doc. 8-3 at 2; Doc. 11 at 2. In an eight-day period, Haan traveled the state to collect 204 signatures, 140 of which were valid signatures of South Dakota Constitution Party members. Doc. 8-1 at 3; Doc. 8-3; Doc. 11 at 2. At that time, the South Dakota Constitution Party only had somewhere between 400 and 600 members. Doc. 8-1 at 3-4.
Haan presented his nominating petition as a Constitution Party candidate for the United States House of Representatives, by means of registered mail, to Gant on March 26, 2014. Doc. 8-1 at 3. Gant deemed the submission timely because it had been sent by registered mail and postmarked on the filing deadline of March 25, 2014. Doc. 8-1 at 3; Doc. 8-3. The Secretary of State's Office performed an examination of the nominating petition and determined that Haan had submitted 204 signatures, of which only 140 were valid. Doc. 8-1 at 3. On March 27, 2014, Gant informed Haan by letter that his nominating petition was denied because he failed to collect 250 valid signatures of registered Constitution Party members as required by SDCL section 12-5-1.4. Doc. 8-1 at 3; Doc. 8-4.
On March 30, 2014, Gant's office received an email from Lori Stacey, State Chairwoman of the Constitution Party of South Dakota, with an attached letter dated March 28, 2014, purporting to certify Haan as the Constitution Party's 2014 nominee for the United States House of Representatives. Doc. 8-1 at 4; Doc. 8-5. On April 4, 2014, Gant's office received a letter from Haan, dated April 3, 2014, requesting that he be placed on the ballot as a candidate for the United States House of Representatives by reason of automatic nomination under SDCL section 12-6-9 and certification by Stacey. Doc. 8-1 at 5; Doc. 8-9. On May 30, 2014, Haan met with Gant in Pierre, South Dakota. Doc. 8-1 at 5. Gant informed Haan that because he failed to submit a nominating petition with 250 valid signatures of members of the Constitution Party, he could not be placed on the ballot of the General Election in November. Doc. 8-1 at 5. Haan tried once again to have his name added to the November ballot. On June 30, 2014,
Haan sent to Gant a Declaration of Candidacy as a United States citizen under Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. Doc. 11 at 3; Doc. 11-2. Haan verified that he is at least twenty-five years of age, has been a United States citizen for more than seven years, and is a resident of the state of South Dakota, Doc. 11-2, which are the requirements defined in the United States Constitution for eligibility to serve in the United States House of Representatives, U.S. Const. art. I, § 2, cl. 2. Gant did not add Haan to the ballot and has begun printing and distributing ballots for the November election.
Haan filed a nearly identical Petition for Writ of Mandamus in state court on or about June 9, 2014. Doc. 10-1. On September 5, 2014, the Honorable John L. Brown signed an Order Granting Gant's Motion for Summary Judgment, denying Haan any relief, and upholding Gant's decision under South Dakota statutes to ...