Kumar v. Frisco Indep. Sch. Dist.

Decision Date06 March 2020
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 4:19-CV-00284
Parties Suresh KUMAR, Plaintiff, v. FRISCO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas

Dallas Zachary Flick, Griffith Barbee PLLC, Donna P. Zinke, Michael Joseph Collins, William Andrew Brewer, III, Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors, Dallas, TX, for Plaintiff.

Charles Joseph Crawford, Chad Dale Timmons, Lucas Christopher Henry, Abernathy Roeder Boyd & Hullett, PC, McKinney, TX, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMOS L. MAZZANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing Pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1) (Dkt. #41). Having considered the motion and the relevant pleadings, the Court finds that Defendants' Motion is DENIED , subject to reinstatement, pending Kumar's filing of his Amended Complaint.

BACKGROUND

The present action concerns allegations of voting rights discrimination brought pursuant to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Specifically, Plaintiff Suresh Kumar ("Kumar") alleges that, among other things, Frisco Independent School District ("FISD") and its Board of Trustees ("Board") (collectively "Defendants") have instituted an at-large electoral system that "dilutes the voting strength of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and other minority voting populations" (Dkt. #23). Defendants deny all allegations.

Kumar moved from India to the United States in 1994 (Dkt. #23). He became a United States Citizen in 2006 (Dkt. #23). In 2014, Kumar, and his family, purchased a home in the City of Frisco and his two daughters were accordingly enrolled in FISD schools (Dkt. #23). Because of his daughters' enrollment in FISD schools, Kumar states that he developed a "deep personal interest in the academic success of the school district" (Dkt. #23). Despite Kumar's interest in the success of FISD, and his hopes for "greater diversity and cultural sensitivity," Kumar avers that he has "watched with concern" as FISD has failed to keep "pace with the demographic changes" it has experienced" (Dkt. #23).1

According to Kumar, the Board of Trustees of FISD has, allegedly, failed to adequately represent Kumar and other minorities (Dkt. #23). The Board's failure to represent Kumar, Kumar continues, is due to the inability of "candidates of color" to win elections; notably, seven candidates of color have purportedly run for the Board since 2015 and all seven candidates have lost (Dkt. #23). Moreover, Kumar points to the fact that "only one of the seven current [B]oard members lives within the zone established by FISD for the high school that Mr. Kumar's daughter attends" (Dkt. #23). Additionally, Kumar points out that the Board is comprised of six white Trustees and one minority Trustee (Dkt. #23). These statistics are not merely coincidences, according to Kumar; rather, these statistics represent the concrete effects of a discriminatory at-large election system (Dkt. #23).

FISD's at-large election system is discriminatory, Kumar maintains, because the system discourages minority participation in the electoral process (Dkt. #23). More specifically, Kumar argues that:

Under the current at-large election system, all voters within FISD are permitted to vote on the candidates for every trustee position. Trustees serve three-year, staggered terms in positions called "Places"—which have no geographic significance. In other words, elected trustees do not represent any specific territory or sub-district within FISD. The at-large system discourages minority or minority-preferred candidates from seeking office because it effectively functions as a White-controlled referendum on all candidates, where a bloc of White voters controls all seven trustee positions.
As a result, the Board sets District policy without the input of or participation from the communities where the majority of students reside. Taken together—the chilling effects of the at-large system and the obvious polarization between the White voters and all others—the current Board fails to reflect the composition of the real stakeholders of the public-school system.

(Dkt. #23). In sum, Kumar contends that Defendants' at-large electoral system, which requires a district-wide plurality for staggered positions, has resulted in a system that is not only "disconnected from the diverse multiethnic, multiracial, and multilingual community," but that has failed to prevent discriminatory actions (Dkt. #23).

Defendants' failure to prevent discriminatory actions has led to "[i]ncidents of overt racism ... in FISD" and cultural insensitivity according to Kumar (Dkt. #23). For example, according to the Amended Complaint, such racism, or insensitivity, includes African American students being threatened with physical harm if they misbehaved, Latino students being referred to by the Spanish slang term "esé," a Hindu student—Kumar's daughter—being "aggressively" questioned for her absences due to a "13-day Hindu mourning period for her grandmother," and disparate pay for campuses which are comprised of predominantly economically disadvantaged students and/or students of color (Dkt. #23). These are all side-effects, according to Kumar, of a system that both prevents candidates of color from winning seats on the Board and discourages minority participation in the electoral process. To prevent what Kumar views as a discriminatory system from continuing to "dilute the votes of Asian, Hispanic, and African American voters," Kumar, as the sole plaintiff, instituted the present action on April 16, 2019.

On October 17, 2019, Defendants filed Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing Pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1) (Dkt. #41). In their Motion, Defendants aver that Kumar may only represent the Indian (Asian) minority group as he failed to add an African American, Hispanic, or other minority plaintiff to this action (Dkt. #41). On November 14, 2019, Kumar filed Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing (Dkt. #48). In his Motion, Kumar counters that he is not asserting third party standing and that there is no authority that requires a named plaintiff for every minority group affected by an alleged violation (Dkt. #48). Finally, on November 21, 2019, Defendants filed Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) (Dkt. #52). Notably, both in Defendants' Motion and Reply, Defendants maintain that Kumar should be permitted to pursue his claims as they relate to the Indian (Asian) minority group because Kumar has established standing for those claims (Dkt. #23; Dkt. #52). Kumar is only precluded, Defendants continue, from representing minority groups to which he does not belong and has not added a named plaintiff (Dkt. #23; Dkt. #52).

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) authorizes dismissal of a case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the district court lacks statutory and constitutional power to adjudicate the case. Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison , 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998). If a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is filed in conjunction with other Rule 12 motions, the Court will consider the jurisdictional attack under Rule 12(b)(1) before addressing any attack on the legal merits. Ramming v. United States , 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001).

In deciding the motion, the Court may consider "(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by the undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the [C]ourt's resolution of disputed facts." Lane v. Halliburton , 529 F.3d 548, 557 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting Barrera-Montenegro v. United States , 74 F.3d 657, 659 (5th Cir. 1996) ). The Court will accept as true all well-pleaded allegations set forth in the complaint and construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Truman v. United States , 26 F.3d 592, 594 (5th Cir. 1994). Once a defendant files a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) and challenges jurisdiction, the party invoking jurisdiction has the burden to establish subject matter jurisdiction. See Menchaca v. Chrysler Credit Corp. , 613 F.2d 507, 511 (5th Cir. 1980). The Court will grant a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction only if it appears certain that the claimant cannot prove a plausible set of facts to support a claim that would entitle it to relief. Lane , 529 F.3d at 557.

ANALYSIS

The Court is presented with a challenge to Kumar's standing to assert a Voting Rights Act violation on behalf of African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities as a member of the Indian (Asian) community. Specifically, Defendant's aver that Kumar is impermissibly asserting legal rights and interests of third parties not properly joined to this action. Defendants do not dispute, however, that Kumar is permitted to assert claims on behalf of the minority group—Indian (Asian)—to which he is a member. While the Court recognizes that both parties believe that Kumar has established constitutional standing, the Court must zealously guard against exercising its Article III power over a matter erroneously. Moreover, constitutional standing necessarily affects the prudential standing analysis that the Court must conduct under Kowalski v. Tesmer , 543 U.S. 125, 129–130, 125 S.Ct. 564, 160 L.Ed.2d 519 (2004). As such, the Court will first address whether Kumar has established constitutional standing to assert violations of the Voting Rights Act on behalf of himself. The Court will then proceed to determining whether Kumar is impermissibly asserting the legal rights and interests of third parties not before the Court.

I. Constitutional Standing

The "judicial Power of the United States" extends...

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