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Booth v. Cruz

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

January 20, 2016

Christopher Booth
v.
Ted Cruz.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

ANDREA K. JOHNSTONE, Magistrate Judge.

Seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and proceeding in forma pauperis, plaintiff Christopher Booth has filed a complaint (doc. no. 1) and an amended complaint (doc. no. 4)[1] against Senator Ted Cruz, a candidate in the New Hampshire Republican Presidential Primary election ("NH Republican Primary"). Booth asserts that Sen. Cruz's presence on the NH Republican Primary ballot encumbers plaintiff's right to vote. This matter is here for preliminary review, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and LR 4.3(d)(2).

Preliminary Review Standard

In determining whether a pro se pleading states a claim, the court construes the pleading liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The magistrate judge may recommend to the district judge that one or more claims be dismissed if, among other things, the court lacks jurisdiction, a defendant is immune from the relief sought, or the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); LR 4.3(d)(2). In conducting its preliminary review, the court construes pro se complaints liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). The complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief.'" See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted).

Background

Booth alleges that he is an independent New Hampshire voter. Sen. Cruz is seeking the Republican Party's nomination as its candidate for President. Sen. Cruz was born in Canada. Because his mother was a United States citizen at the time of his birth, Sen. Cruz is a United States citizen.

Sen. Cruz filed papers with the New Hampshire Secretary of State, seeking a spot on the NH Republican Primary ballot, which the Secretary accepted. Booth filed a complaint with the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission ("BLC"), asserting that Sen. Cruz's birth in Canada renders him ineligible to become the President of the United States, pursuant to Article II, § 1 of the United States Constitution. Article II, § 1 states that: "No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President." U.S. Const., art II, § 1, cl. 4 (emphasis added).

Booth urged the BLC to overrule the Secretary's action in accepting Sen. Cruz's application, and to remove Sen. Cruz from the NH Republican Primary ballot.[2] The BLC found that, in the absence of controlling case law defining "natural born citizen" in the context of Article II, § 1 of the Constitution, it would not decide that question. The BLC limited its review of Sen. Cruz's application to a determination as to whether the Secretary of State appropriately accepted Sen. Cruz's filing. Finding that that Secretary reasonably accepted that filing, the BLC denied Booth's challenge.

Booth now brings this action, asserting that his right to vote is hampered by the presence of Sen. Cruz on the NH Republican Primary ballot. To remedy this asserted violation of his rights, Booth seeks:

1. Declaratory relief in the form of a ruling from this court that Sen. Cruz, by virtue of his Canadian birth, is not a "natural born citizen" within the meaning of Article II, § 1 of the United States Constitution, and is thus not eligible to run for the Office of the President of the United States; or, in the alternative,
2. Injunctive relief in the form of an order: (a) directing that Sen. Cruz be removed from the NH Republican Primary ballot; (b) defining the term "natural born" in Article II, § 1, and then directing the BLC to actualize that position in regard to Sen. Cruz's appearance on the NH Republican Presidential ballot; (c) suggesting that the New Hampshire legislature pass a law requiring a candidate seeking placement on a New Hampshire ballot in a primary presidential election to identify their birthplace; and/or (d) overruling the BLC by sustaining Booth's challenge filed before that body.

Discussion

I. Standing

"Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to Cases' and Controversies.'" Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 134 S.Ct. 2334, 2341 (2014) (quoting U.S. Const., Art. III, § 2). "The doctrine of standing gives meaning to these constitutional limits by identify[ing] those disputes which are appropriately resolved through the judicial process.'" Susan B. Anthony List, 134 S.Ct. at 2341 (citation omitted). "To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must show (1) an injury in fact, ' (2) a sufficient causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, ' and (3) a likel[ihood]' that the injury will be redressed by a ...


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