552 U.S. 196 (2008), 06-766, New York State Board of Elections v. Torres

Docket Nº:06-766.
Citation:552 U.S. 196, 128 S.Ct. 791
Opinion Judge:Scalia, Justice
Party Name:NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, et al., Petitioners, v. Margarita LOPEZ TORRES et al.
Attorney:Theodore B. Olson argued the cause for petitioners New York State Board of Elections et al. With him on the briefs were Matthew D. McGill, Michael S. Diamant, Todd D. Valentine, Randy M. Mastro, and Jennifer L. Conn. Andrew J. Rossman argued the cause for petitioners New York County Democratic Co...
Judge Panel:SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and STEVENS, SOUTER, THOMAS, GINSBURG, BREYER, and AUTO, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which SOUTER, J., joined, post, p. 209. KENNEDY, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BRE...
Case Date:January 16, 2008
Court:United States Supreme Court

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552 U.S. 196 (2008)

128 S.Ct. 791

NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, et al., Petitioners,

v.

Margarita LOPEZ TORRES et al.

No. 06-766.

United States Supreme Court

January 16, 2008

Argued Oct. 3, 2007.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

[128 S.Ct. 792] [128 S.Ct. 793] Syllabus

Under New York's current Constitution, State Supreme Court Justices are elected in each of the State's judicial districts. Since 1921, New York's election law has required parties to select their nominees by a convention composed of delegates elected by party members. An individual running for delegate must submit a 500-signature petition collected within a specified time. The convention's nominees appear automatically on the general-election ballot, along with any independent candidates who meet certain statutory requirements. Respondents filed suit, seeking, inter alia, a declaration that New York's convention system violates the First Amendment rights of challengers running against candidates favored by party leaders and an injunction mandating a direct primary election to select Supreme Court nominees. The Federal District Court issued a preliminary injunction, pending the enactment of a new state statutory scheme, and the Second Circuit affirmed.

Held:

New York's system of choosing party nominees for the State Supreme Court does not violate the First Amendment. Pp. 202-209.

(a) Because a political party has a First Amendment right to limit its membership as it wishes, and to choose a candidate-selection process that will in its view produce the nominee who best represents its political platform, a State's power to prescribe party use of primaries or conventions to select nominees for the general election is not without limits. [128 S.Ct. 794] California Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567, 577, 120 S.Ct. 2402, 147 L.Ed.2d 502. However, respondents, who claim their own associational right to join and have influence in the party, are in no position to rely on the right that the First Amendment confers on political parties. Pp. 202-204.

(b) Respondents' contention that New York's electoral system does not assure them a fair chance of prevailing in their parties' candidate-selection process finds no support in this Court's precedents. Even if Kusper v. Pontikes, 414 U.S. 51, 57, 94 S.Ct. 303, 38 L.Ed.2d 260, which acknowledged an individual's associational right to vote in a party primary without undue state-imposed impediment, were extended to cover the right to run in a party primary, the New York law's signature and deadline requirements are entirely reasonable. A State may demand a minimum degree of support

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for candidate access to a ballot, see Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431, 442, 91 S.Ct. 1970, 29 L.Ed.2d 554. P. 204.

(c) Respondents' real complaint is that the convention process following the delegate election does not give them a realistic chance to secure their party's nomination because the party leadership garners more votes for its delegate slate and effectively determines the nominees. This says no more than that the party leadership has more widespread support than a candidate not supported by the leadership. Cases invalidating ballot-access requirements have focused on the requirements themselves, and not on the manner in which political actors function under those requirements. E.g., Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 92 S.Ct. 849, 31 L.Ed.2d 92. Those cases do not establish an individual's constitutional right to have a "fair shot" at winning a party's nomination. Pp. 204-207.

(d) Respondents' argument that the existence of entrenched "one-party rule" in the State's general election demands that the First Amendment be used to impose additional competition in the parties' nominee-selection process is a novel and implausible reading of the First Amendment. Pp. 207-209.

462 F. 3d 161, reversed.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and STEVENS, SOUTER, THOMAS, GINSBURG, BREYER, and AUTO, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which SOUTER, J., joined, post, p. 209. KENNEDY, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BREYER, J., joined as to Part II, post, p. 209.

COUNSEL

Theodore B. Olson argued the cause for petitioners New York State Board of Elections et al. With him on the briefs were Matthew D. McGill, Michael S. Diamant, Todd D. Valentine, Randy M. Mastro, and Jennifer L. Conn. Andrew J. Rossman argued the cause for petitioners New York County Democratic Committee et al. With him on the briefs were Steven M. Pesner, James P Chou, James E. dAuguste, Vincenzo A. DeLeo, Edward P Lazarus, Carter G. Phillips, Thomas C. Goldstein, Joseph L. Forstadt, Ernst H. Rosenberger, Burton N. Lipshie, David A. Sifre, and Arthur W. Greig. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General of New York, Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, Benjamin N. Gutman, Deputy Solicitor General, and Denise A. Hartman, Assistant

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Solicitor General, filed briefs for petitioner the State of New York.

[128 S.Ct. 795] Frederick A. 0. Schwarz, Jr., argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Burt Neuborne, Deborah Goldberg, Kent A. Yalowitz, and Paul M. Smith[*]

OPINION

Scalia, Justice

The State of New York requires that political parties select their nominees for Supreme Court Justice at a convention of delegates chosen by party members in a primary election. We consider whether this electoral system violates the First Amendment rights of prospective party candidates.

I

A

The Supreme Court of New York is the State's trial court of general jurisdiction, with an Appellate Division that hears appeals from certain lower courts. See N. Y. Const., Art.

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VI, §§7, 8. Under New York's current Constitution, the State is divided into 12 judicial districts, see Art. VI, §6(a); N. Y. Jud. Law Ann. §140 (West 2005), and Supreme Court Justices are elected to 14-year terms in each such district, see N. Y. Const., Art. VI, §6(c). The New York Legislature has provided for the election of a total of 328 Supreme Court Justices in this fashion. See N. Y. Jud. Law Ann. §140-a (West Supp. 2007).

Over the years, New York has changed the method by which Supreme Court Justices are selected several times. Under the New York Constitution of 1821, Art. IV, §7, all judicial officers, except Justices of the Peace, were appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate. See 7 Sources and Documents of the U.S. Constitutions 181, 184 (W. Swindler ed. 1978). In 1846, New York amended its Constitution to require popular election of the Justices of the Supreme Court (and also the Judges of the New York Court of Appeals). Id., at 192, 200 (N. Y. Const, of 1846, Art. VI, §12). In the early years under that regime, the State allowed political parties to choose their own method of [128 S.Ct. 796] selecting the judicial candidates who would bear their endorsements on the general-election ballot. See, e.g., Report of Joint Committee of Senate and Assembly of New York, Appointed to Investigate Primary and Election Laws of This and Other States, S. Doc. No. 26, pp. 195-219 (1910). The major parties opted for party conventions, the same method then employed to nominate candidates for other state offices. Ibid.; see also P. Ray, An Introduction to Political Parties and Practical Politics 94 (1913).

In 1911, the New York Legislature enacted a law requiring political parties to select Supreme Court nominees (and most other nominees who did not run statewide) through direct primary elections. Act of Oct. 18, 1911, ch. 891, §45(4), 1911 N. Y. Laws 2657, 2682. The primary system came to be criticized as a "device capable of astute and successful manipulation by professionals," Editorial, The State Convention,

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N. Y. Times, May 1, 1917, p. 12, and the Republican candidate for Governor in 1920 campaigned against it as "a fraud" that "offered the opportunity for two things, for the demagogue and the man with money," Miller Declares Primary a Fraud, N. Y. Times, October 23, 1920, p. 4. A law enacted in 1921 required parties to select their candidates for the Supreme Court by a convention composed of delegates elected by party members. Act of May 2, 1921, ch. 479, §§45(1), 110, 1921 N. Y. Laws 1451, 1454, 1471.

New York retains this system of choosing party nominees for Supreme Court Justice to this day. Section 6-106 of New York's election law sets forth its basic operation: "Party nominations for the office of justice of the supreme court shall be made by the judicial district convention." N. Y. Elec. Law Ann. §6-106 (West 2007). A "party" is any political organization whose candidate for Governor received 50,000 or more votes in the most recent election. §1-104(3). In a September "delegate primary," party members elect delegates from each of New York's 150 assembly districts to attend the party's judicial convention for the judicial district in which the assembly district is located. See N. Y. State Law Ann. §121 (West 2003); N. Y. Elec. Law Ann. §§6-124, 8-100(1)(a) (West 2007). An individual may run for delegate by submitting to the Board of Elections a designating petition signed by 500 enrolled party members residing in the assembly district, or by five percent of such enrolled members, whichever is less. §§6-136(2)(i), (3). These signatures must be gathered within a 37-day period preceding the filing deadline, which is approximately two months before the delegate primary. §§6-134(4), 6-158(1). The delegates elected in these primaries are uncommitted; the primary ballot does not specify the judicial nominee whom they will support. §7-114.

The nominating conventions take place one to two weeks after the delegate primary. §§6-126, 6-158(5). Each of the 12 judicial districts has its own convention to nominate the

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