Schulz v. New York State Executive, Pataki

Decision Date14 April 1997
Docket NumberNo. 96-CV-1595.,96-CV-1595.
Citation960 F.Supp. 568
PartiesRobert L. SCHULZ and John Salavador, Jr., Plaintiffs, v. THE NEW YORK STATE EXECUTIVE, George PATAKI, Governor; Michael Finnegan, Chief Counsel to the Governor, and Gary Sheffer, Spokesman for the Governor; The New York State Legislature, Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the Assembly, and Joseph Bruno, Majority Leader of the Senate; The New York State Unified Court System, Judith Kaye, Chief Judge; The New York State Board of Elections, Carol Berman, Chairman, Thomas Wilkey, Executive Director; and The New York State Board of Canvassers, Carol Berman, Chairman, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of New York

Robert L. Schulz, Queensbury, NY, pro se.

John Salvador, Jr., Lake George, NY, pro se.

Dennis C. Vacco, Attorney General, Albany, NY, for Defendants Pataki, State Legislature, and Unified Court System; Darren O'Connor, of counsel.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore, New York City, for Defendants Finnegan and Sheffer; Frederick A.O. Schwarz, of counsel.


McAVOY, Chief Judge.


The present dispute concerns no less than twelve causes of action challenging, inter alia, the constitutionality of New York's Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act; New York's Farm Preservation Act; section 123-b of New York's Finance Law; New York's procedure for choosing delegates to its constitutional conventions; and a number of the New York State Legislature's "Member Items." Defendants include the Governor of New York, the Governor's advisors, the New York State Legislature, key legislators, the New York Unified Court System, and the New York State Board of Elections. Plaintiffs Robert Schulz and John Salvador, although appearing pro se, are frequent litigators in federal and state court.

Not surprisingly, this case has a long and convoluted history. Plaintiffs' initial foray began on September 19, 1996, in Albany County Supreme Court, and continued to the Appellate Division, Third Department, where Plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order, barring defendants Pataki, Finnegan, and Sheffer from advocating in favor of the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, was rejected. See Schulz v. New York State Executive, Index No. 5852-96 (Alb.Cty.Sup.Ct.1996). On October 16, 1996, Plaintiffs discontinued their first state court action and commenced a second state court action seeking similar relief; on October 25, 1996, Justice Teresi denied Plaintiffs' second application for preliminary relief. See Schulz v. New York State Executive, Index No. 6353-96 (Alb.Cty.Sup.Ct.1996).

Not content to fight this battle on merely one front, Plaintiffs hurried to federal court on October 13, 1996, seeking (1) a declaration that certain actions by the defendants violated the New York State and the United States Constitutions, and (2) for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction enjoining the New York Legislature and Executive from implementing Chapters 412 and 413 of the Laws of 1996 (the "Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act" hereinafter "Environmental Bond Act").

On October 17, 1996, this Court denied Plaintiffs' application for temporary relief and denied Plaintiffs' attempt to have their motion heard on an expedited basis. See Memorandum-Decision & Order dated October 18, 1996. On October 23, 1996, while the present matter was pending before this Court, Plaintiffs requested for the second time, and were denied, a Temporary Restraining Order in their state court action. Finally, on November 1, 1996, Justice Harris dismissed Plaintiffs' state action in its entirety. See Schulz v. New York State Executive, Index No. 6353-96 (Alb.Cty.Sup.Ct.1996).

A. The Claims

Although Plaintiffs are concerned with their government's profligate spending, they appear to be less concerned with, or simply incognizant of, the costs associated with their litigating these issues before nine federal and state court judges.

Plaintiffs' Complaint contains both federal and state law causes of action. Although the Complaint is a model of obfuscation, it appears that Plaintiffs are attempting to implicate four provisions in the United States Constitution: the Constitution's guarantee of a "Republican Form of Government," see Article IV section 4; the "privileges and immunities" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and the First Amendment.

The gravamen of Plaintiffs' state law claims is that the Environmental Bond Act violates the New York State Constitution because the debt it authorizes is not for a "single work or purpose," and its purposes are not "distinctly specified therein." N.Y. CONST. art. VII, § 11. Plaintiffs also assert that defendants Pataki, Finnegan, and Sheffer violated the New York State Constitution by using public funds and public credit to "exhort the electorate to vote `yes' on the Bond Act." (Pltfs' Hem. of Law at 44.)

Presently before the Court are Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.


Initially, it is appropriate to identify certain basic principles that limit the power of every federal court. Unlike their state counterparts, federal courts are not courts of general jurisdiction; "they have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto." Bender v. Williamsport Area School Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 540, 106 S.Ct. 1326, 1331, 89 L.Ed.2d 501 (1986); see also Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 173-180, 2 L.Ed. 60 (1803). For example, prior to 1875, see Act of March 3, 1875, c. 137, 18 Stat. 470, federal courts did not even have original jurisdiction over actions that arose under the Constitution or laws of the United States. See, e.g., Hague v. Committee for Indus. Organization, 307 U.S. 496, 507, 59 S.Ct. 954, 960, 83 L.Ed. 1423 (1939). As Chief Justice Ellsworth succinctly noted in 1799:

Will it be affirmed, that in every case, to which the judicial power of the United States extends, the federal courts may exercise a jurisdiction, without the intervention of the legislature, to distribute and regulate the power? The notion has frequently been entertained, that the federal courts derive their judicial power immediately from the constitution; but the political truth is that the disposal of the judicial power (except in a few specified instances) belongs to congress. If congress has given the power to this court, we possess it, not otherwise: and if congress has not given the power to us, or to any other court, it still remains at the legislative disposal. Besides, congress is not bound, and it would, perhaps, be inexpedient, to enlarge the jurisdiction of the federal courts, to every subject, in every form, which the constitution might warrant.

Turner v. Bank of North America, 4 U.S. (4 Dall.) 8, 8, 1 L.Ed. 718 (1799).

Although no consensus as to the framers' intent in creating federal courts of limited jurisdiction, early cases point to a fear of an all powerful federal sovereign. See, e.g., Turner v. Bank of North America, 4 U.S.(4 Dall.) 8, 8, 1 L.Ed. 718 (1799) ("Congress knew that the English courts have amplified their jurisdiction through the medium of legal fictions; and it was readily foreseen, that by the means of a colorable assignment to an alien, or to the citizen of another state, every controversy arising upon negotiable paper might be drawn into the federal courts."). Indeed, federalism concerns are plainly implicated in more recent cases as well. In Healy v. Ratta, 292 U.S. 263, 54 S.Ct. 700, 78 L.Ed. 1248 (1934), the Supreme Court stated:

The power reserved to the states, under the Constitution, to provide for the determination of controversies in their courts, may be restricted only by the action of Congress in conformity to the judiciary sections of the Constitution. Due regard for the rightful independence of state governments, which should actuate federal courts, requires that they scrupulously confine their own jurisdiction to the precise limits which (a federal) statute has defined.

Healy, 292 U.S. at 270, 54 S.Ct. at 703 (citations omitted); see also Romero v. Int'l Terminal Operating Co., 358 U.S. 354, 379-380, 408, 79 S.Ct. 468, 483-484, 498-499, 3 L.Ed.2d 368 (1959) (Brennan, J., dissenting and concurring).

Consequently, subject-matter jurisdiction is both an Article III as well as a statutory requirement. Certain legal consequences necessarily follow from this observation. For example, no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court. Thus, the consent of the parties is irrelevant, see California v. LaRue, 409 U.S. 109, 93 S.Ct. 390, 34 L.Ed.2d 342 (1972), principles of estoppel do not apply, see American Fire & Casualty Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 17-18, 71 S.Ct. 534, 541-542, 95 L.Ed. 702 (1951), and a party does not waive the defense by failing to challenge jurisdiction early in the proceedings. See Insurance Corp. of Ireland, Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702, 102 S.Ct. 2099, 2104, 72 L.Ed.2d 492 (1982); Turner, 4 U.S. (4 Dall.) at 8 ("Silence, inadvertence of consent cannot give jurisdiction, where the law denies it."). Similarly, a court, including an appellate court, must raise lack of subject-matter jurisdiction on its own motion. "[T]he rule, springing from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States is inflexible and without exception, which requires this court, of its own motion, to deny its jurisdiction, and, in the exercise of its appellate power, that of all other courts of the United States, in all cases where such jurisdiction does not affirmatively appear in the record." Mansfield, C. & L.M.R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382, 4 S.Ct. 510, 511, 28 L.Ed. 462 (1884).

Accordingly, a federal district court cannot adjudicate every allegation of injustice, no matter how emphatically a party may argue to the contrary. Moreover, absent a viable...

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