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Clayton v. Forrester

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

November 20, 2014

MARK CLAYTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CHIP FORRESTER, et. al, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

KEVIN H. SHARP, Chief District Judge.

Magistrate Judge Brown has entered a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") (Docket No. 130), recommending that Plaintiff's claims under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 be dismissed for failure to state a claim, and that his state law claims be remanded to the Circuit Court for Davidson County, Tennessee. Plaintiff has filed Objections (Docket No. 134) to the R & R, to which Defendants have responded in opposition (Docket No. 141). Additionally, a number of other Motions have been filed since the issuance of the R & R, all of which the Court now considers.

I. R & R (Docket No. 130), Objections (Docket No. 134), and Response (Docket No. 140)

In the R & R, Magistrate Judge Brown recommends dismissal of the Voting Rights Act claim for two reasons. First, Plaintiff "failed to specifically allege, or state facts sufficient to infer, that any voter, or group of voters was prevented from voting, " and that, even liberally construed, his complaint "is that defendants' efforts to disavow him caused some voters that cast their ballots for him in the primary election to cast their votes for other candidates in the general election." (Docket No. 130 at 5). Second, and more fundamentally, Plaintiff does not allege "facts that would infer action by any State or political subdivision thereof'" as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1973(a). (Id.).

With regard to Plaintiff's state law claims, Magistrate Judge Brown concluded that "comity and fairness weight heavily in favor of remand, " writing:

Governance of a state's political process and control over its political parties is an area of grave importance to the State. This is particularly so where, as here, the legislature has dictated both the form and forum of squabbles over internal party decisions. Of only slightly less import is fairness. As the master of his complaint, Plaintiff initially chose "to have the cause heard in state court" and that cause is only here based upon defendants' removal on the basis of his claims under the Act which should be dismissed.

(Id. at 6).

Plaintiff lists 19 objections to the R & R, some with subparts, and many that overlap. The Court has thoroughly considered all of Plaintiff's objections and notes the following.

Plaintiff begins by arguing that "the U.S. [sic] District Court may not dismiss and refuse to render judgement [sic] on the Voting Rights Act Claim unless there [sic] terminates no uncertainty or controversy, " (Docket No. 134 at 1), citing Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-14-109 for that proposition. That statutory provision provides:

The court may refuse to render or enter a declaratory judgment or decree where such judgment or decree, if rendered or entered, would not terminate the uncertainty or controversy giving rise to the proceedings.

Id. But the statute uses the term "may" and, as such, "whether to entertain a declaratory judgment action... is largely discretionary with the trial judge." State ex rel. Earhart v. City of Bristol, 790 S.W.2d 948, 954 (Tenn. 1998). Besides, "the court" in the statute is a reference to state, not federal courts. Likewise, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-14-102, which Plaintiff quotes in his sixth objection, and which states that "[c]ourts of record within their respective jurisdictions have the power to declare rights, " is a reference to state circuit and chancery courts.

Citation to state declaratory relief statutes aside, Plaintiff argues

The U.S. [sic] District Court is also required, if it is to pass judgment on the Voting Rights Act, to explain what constitutes all action necessary to make votes effective... and iterate whether or not... Defendants and/or agents took all action to make the votes of the 2012 Democratic U.S. [sic] Primary effective and to describe what that entails.
If Title 2 is not protected by the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. [sic] District Court should explain why. If Title 2 board members and/or their agents are not required to take all action necessary to make votes effective in primaries, then the U.S. [sic] District Court should explain why. The U.S. [sic] District Court ...

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