Hayden v. Paterson

Decision Date28 January 2010
Docket NumberNo. 04-3886-pr.,04-3886-pr.
Citation594 F.3d 150
PartiesJoseph HAYDEN, Lumumba Akinwole-Bandelle, Wilson Andino, Gina Arias, Wanda Best-Deveaux, Carlos Bristol, Augustine Carmona, David Galarza, Kimalee Garner, Mark Graham, Keran Holmes, III, Chaujuantheyai Lochard, Steven Mangual, Jamel Massey, Stephen Ramon, Nilda Rivera, Mario Romero, Jessica Sanclemente, Paul Satterfield, Barbara Scott, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. David A. PATERSON, Governor of the State of New York, James A. Walsh and Douglas A. Keller, Co-Chairpersons of the New York State Board of Elections, Brian Fischer, Commissioner of New York State Department of Correctional Services,<SMALL><SUP>1</SUP></SMALL> Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Juan Cartagena (Risa Kaufman, Craig Acorn, Paul Keefe, on the brief), Community Service Society of New York, New York, NY; Theodore M. Shaw, John Payton, Norman J. Chachkin, Janai S. Nelson, Jenigh J. Garrett, Ryan P. Haygood, Debo P. Adegbile, Alaina C. Beverly, Kristen Clarke, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., New York, NY, on the brief; Joan P. Gibbs, Esmeralda Simmons, Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn, NY, on the brief; for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Benjamin N. Gutman, Assistant Solicitor General (Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General, Michelle Aronowitz, Deputy Solicitor General, on the brief), State of New York, New York, NY, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before WALKER, STRAUB, and POOLER, Circuit Judges.

STRAUB, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs-Appellants appeal from the portions of a final order and judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Lawrence M. McKenna, Judge) entered on June 14 and 16, 2004, respectively, that dismissed plaintiffs' claims for relief under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1973, et seq. ("VRA"). Our court, sitting en banc, previously resolved plaintiffs' appeal under the VRA, see Hayden v. Pataki, 449 F.3d 305 (2d Cir.2006) (en banc) ("Hayden I"), by affirming the District Court's grant of judgment on the pleadings to defendants-appellees as to that claim. When we decided Hayden I, we noted that plaintiffs' constitutional claims were not before the en banc court and that a decision on those claims would be made by a three-judge panel in the normal course. Id. at 309 n. 2. It is these remaining constitutional claims that we now address.

On appeal, plaintiffs raise two arguments. First, they argue that the District Court erred in dismissing their claim that, based on the discriminatory intent of prior constitutional convention delegates, New York's current felon disenfranchisement laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fifteenth Amendment. More specifically, plaintiffs contend that racial animus motivated the adoption of New York's several constitutional felon disenfranchisement provisions in the 1800s and that this animus remains legally operative today. Plaintiffs' second argument is that the District Court erred in dismissing their claim that New York Election Law § 5-106(2) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it disenfranchises, without justification, only those persons with felony convictions who are incarcerated or on parole, but not persons receiving other sentences for felony convictions.

With respect to plaintiffs' first claim, we conclude that plaintiffs fail to state a plausible claim of intentional discrimination. With respect to plaintiffs' second claim, we conclude that New York's disenfranchisement statute does not distinguish among felons in an unconstitutional manner. We therefore affirm the District Court's grant of judgment on the pleadings to defendants. We do, however, remand to the District Court to allow plaintiffs to seek leave to amend their deficient complaint as to their intentional discrimination claim.

I. Procedural Background

This case was originally filed pro se by plaintiff Joseph Hayden on November 9, 2000, in the Southern District of New York. On January 15, 2003, Hayden moved through counsel for leave to file an amended complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. On March 18, 2003, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint challenging the validity of (1) New York State's constitutional provision that requires the legislature to enact felon disenfranchisement laws; and (2) New York Election Law § 5-106(2), which disenfranchises convicted felons who are incarcerated or on parole. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that these enactments violate their rights under the VRA; the United States Constitution, specifically the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments; the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960; and customary international law. Defendants filed an answer to plaintiffs' complaint on April 15, 2003.

A discovery schedule was established on May 21, 2003, with initial disclosures due on July 9, 2003. Before discovery commenced, defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Plaintiffs filed their opposition on September 9, 2003. On June 14, 2004, the District Court issued a memorandum and order granting the defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, and dismissing all of plaintiffs' claims. Hayden v. Pataki, No. 00-cv-8586, 2004 WL 1335921 (S.D.N.Y. June 14, 2004). The District Court entered judgment on behalf of defendants on June 16, 2004.

In its decision, the District Court dismissed plaintiffs' claim under section 2 of the VRA in light of our decision in Muntaqim v. Coombe, 366 F.3d 102 (2d Cir.2004). Hayden, 2004 WL 1335921, at *5. Soon thereafter, our Court, nostra sponte, ordered an en banc consideration of plaintiffs' VRA claim and affirmed the District Court's decision by holding that the VRA does not apply to prisoner disenfranchisement laws. Hayden I, 449 F.3d at 329, 370. Thus, this issue has been resolved, and is no longer before us.

The District Court's memorandum and order of June 14, 2004, also decided the remaining issues in favor of defendants. In granting defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, the District Court held that plaintiffs had not alleged facts sufficient to state claims against defendants under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Specifically, the District Court found that plaintiffs' factual allegations were not sufficient to support a finding that New York's constitutional provision requiring the legislature to disenfranchise felons was passed with discriminatory intent. Hayden, 2004 WL 1335921, at *4. The District Court also found that New York's non-uniform legislative practice of disenfranchising only those felons sentenced to incarceration or serving parole "is entirely rational." Id. Accordingly, the District Court held that neither New York's constitutional provision nor its felon disenfranchisement statute violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Fifteenth Amendment. Id. at *5.

Plaintiffs now appeal the District Court's grant of judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the District Court erred in finding that they failed to allege sufficient facts to support their intentional discrimination and equal protection claims. Plaintiffs have abandoned the claims they brought before the District Court under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the First Amendment, federal civil rights statutes, and customary international law.

II. New York's Felon Disenfranchisement Laws

The New York State Constitution requires the legislature to "enact laws excluding from the right of suffrage all persons convicted of bribery or of any infamous crime." N.Y. CONST. art. II, § 3. New York statutory law prohibits convicted felons from voting while they are serving a prison sentence or while they are on parole following a prison sentence. N.Y. ELEC. LAW § 5-106(2). New York law, however, does allow felons to vote if they have completed their sentences, received suspended sentences, or never been sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Id. § 5-106(2), (5). Thus, a felon in New York is disenfranchised only until his "maximum sentence of imprisonment has expired" or "he has been discharged from parole." Id. § 5-106(2).

New York State's constitutional requirement of felon disenfranchisement dates back to the early nineteenth century. The Constitution of 1821 provided that "[l]aws may be passed excluding from the right of suffrage persons who have been, or may be, convicted of infamous crimes." N.Y. CONST. of 1821, art. II, § 2 (emphasis added), reprinted in 1 Charles Z. Lincoln, The Constitutional History of New York 199 (The Lawyers Coop. Publ'g Co.1906) (hereinafter Constitutional History of N.Y.). Similar language was included in the Constitution of 1846, except that the crimes of bribery and larceny were specified, along with convictions for "any infamous crime." See 1 Constitutional History of N.Y., supra, at 233. An amendment adopted in 1874 required the legislature to disenfranchise felons at the next session, but stated that thereafter the provision would revert to being permissive rather than mandatory. See 1 id. at 296-97.2 The Constitution of 1894, however, adopted the mandatory language, making it permanent. See 1 id. at 332. This same language, stating that "[t]he legislature shall enact laws excluding from the right of suffrage all persons convicted of bribery or of any infamous crime," was moved to a different section in the Constitution of 1938 and continues to be in force to the present. See id.; N.Y. CONST. art. II, § 3 (emphasis added), Credits and Historical Notes. Thus, through Article II, § 3 of the New York State Constitution, the state legislature is required to enact laws disenfranchising...

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