Walgren v. Howes

Decision Date18 July 1973
Docket NumberNo. 73-1045.,73-1045.
Citation482 F.2d 95
PartiesEric WALGREN et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. Merle HOWES et al., Defendants, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Eric Walgren, pro se.

David M. Roseman, Boston, Mass., with whom H. Theodore Cohen and Tyler & Reynolds, Boston, Mass., were on brief, for defendants, appellees.

Before COFFIN, Chief Judge, McENTEE and CAMPBELL, Circuit Judges.

COFFIN, Chief Judge.

Appellants Walgren, Glusco and Sherman,1 proceeding in forma pauperis and pro se, appeal from an order of the district court dismissing their complaint against appellees, the members of the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Amherst, for alleged violation of, principally, the First, Fourteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution in scheduling a special caucus for town elections on January 19, 1973 when the University of Massachusetts was in the midst of a semester recess.2 We vacate the order of the district court and remand for further consideration in accordance with this opinion.

All three appellants claimed to be resident voters of the Town of Amherst, 51 M.G.L.A. ch. 51, § 1. Walgren was a candidate for the office of selectman. Sherman is a full-time undergraduate student at the University, residing in one of its dormitories. They were concerned that the Board of Selectmen, as it had done since 1939, had set the annual town election for the third week in February. In accordance with state law,3 a "special caucus" in the nature of a nonpartisan primary election would be necessary in the event that more than twice as many candidates as the number to be elected for an office might file nomination papers, and such caucus would have to be held at least 31 days, before the town election. Appellants realized that any such special caucus would take place in mid-January when, as alleged in Sherman's affidavit, "most students who reside on compus during the academic year are required by university policy to vacate their residences and therefore do so." In that event, it was claimed, a large number of young persons enfranchised by the Twenty-Sixth Amendment would be discouraged from voting since they would have to use the cumbersome and less meaningful method of voting by absentee ballots.

Appellant Walgren, concerned about the youth and student vote, arranged to appear at a Board meeting on December 11, at which time he endeavored to persuade the Board to rearrange the election schedule to encourage maximum voting in the college community. The Board agreed to do so if it was legally permissible,4 and upon advice of counsel adopted at its December 18 meeting a new election schedule providing for the special caucus to be held on January 29, after the University would have commenced its second semester. Between December 11 and December 18, appellants alleged, the Board received numerous telephone calls from older town residents who objected to plans to accommodate student voters. There being some confusion whether the dates proposed by counsel were in accordance with state law, the Board met and voted on December 19 to adhere to its initial plans to hold the special caucus during the semester recess, simultaneously rejecting another plan prepared by its counsel attempting to eradicate all doubts as to compliance with state law.5

Thereupon appellants filed this suit, contending that the Board action in returning to the initial election schedule, violated the First, Fourteenth and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution; that it "willfully discourages and prevents full participation in the electoral process by an entire constituency of voters — some 30 per cent of the registered voters of the Town of Amherst";6 that the action was arbitrary, discriminatory, and had the purpose to disenfranchise the new student vote in the local elections of Amherst, and to prevent the election of Walgren and others, who might represent the interests of young people . . ." They sought to maintain the suit as a class action.

On January 17 the district court denied temporary relief and the special caucus took place as planned.7 Subsequently appellees replied with a motion to dismiss the suit under F.R.Civ.P. 12 for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and alternatively, moved for summary judgment. They also claimed that the suit was not properly maintainable as a class action.8 Affidavits from various officials at the affected educational institutions were filed. A few weeks later, the court not having ruled on these motions, appellees filed an answer to the complaint which is most easily summarized by stating that it denied virtually all of appellants' allegations. A hearing was held the day the answer was filed, though the record does not contain a transcript or a summary of testimony. Some days later the district court issued its order, granting appellees' motions for summary judgment and dismissal for failure to state a claim.

We first note that the district court should not have granted a summary judgment. F.R.Civ.P. 56 may be utilized only when there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact". Here almost all of the factual claims of appellants were denied by appellees in their answer. Moreover, the affidavits did little to dissolve that real factual controversy. For example, at least one important issue in the case — whether the residence halls at the University were generally closed to students during the semester break so that for this or perhaps another reason a large number of students left town during that period — could not be resolved without an evidentiary hearing. "Summary judgment is not a substitute for the trial of disputed factual issues." 10 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure: Civil § 2712 at 379 (1971); cf. Briggs v. Kerrigan, 431 F.2d 967 (1st Cir. 1970). See Sartor v. Arkansas Natural Gas Corp., 321 U.S. 620, 627, 64 S.Ct. 724, 88 L.Ed. 967 (1944).

That the court improperly granted summary judgment does not end our inquiry, for the court also dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim. F.R. Civ. P. 12(b) (6). A remand, therefore, without addressing appellants' legal arguments in some respect would be less than helpful. We cannot emphasize enough the rule that a court should not dismiss a complaint under 12(b) (6) "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Ballou v. General Electric Corp., 393 F.2d 398 (1st Cir. 1968). For the reasons hereinafter enunciated, we believe that appellants have presented legal issues which can be resolved only after a trial on the merits.9

We first address appellants' equal protection claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. The appellants argue that the town law setting the election date interferes with the equal exercise of the franchise right — i. e., one large, identifiable class is said to have been deprived of the opportunity to visit personally the polls and must utilize instead the allegedly more cumbersome and less effective method of voting by absentee ballot. They add that the right to participate in elections on an equal basis with other citizens has been denominated a fundamental right, Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 86 S.Ct. 1079, 16 L.Ed.2d 169 (1966); see also San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 93 S.Ct. 1278, 36 L.Ed.2d 16 (1973). They conclude therefore that any infringement of that right must be scrutinized under the compelling interest test. Harper, supra; Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89, 85 S.Ct. 775, 13 L.Ed.2d 675 (1965); Kramer v. Union Free School District, 395 U.S. 621, 89 S.Ct. 1886, 23 L.Ed.2d 583 (1969); Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 89 S.Ct. 1897, 23 L.Ed.2d 647 (1969); Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. 419, 90 S.Ct. 1752, 26 L.Ed.2d 370 (1970); City of Phoenix v. Kolodziejski, 399 U.S. 204, 90 S.Ct. 1990, 26 L.Ed.2d 523 (1970); Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U. S. 330, 92 S.Ct. 995, 31 L.Ed.2d 274 (1972).

We do not view the compelling interest test as applicable here. There being no allegation that the town has improperly denied absentee ballots to residents requesting them, it has not "totally denied the electoral franchise to a particular class of residents such that there might be no way in which the members of that class could make themselves eligible to vote." Rosario v. Rockefeller, 93 S.Ct. 1245, 1249 (1973).10 We believe that the instant case, if considered simply as one in which a large, identifiable class is burdened by the choice of a particular election date, must track the analysis in Rosario, rather than apply the more rigorous compelling interest standard.

The Court engaged in three inquiries. It first considered whether the time limitation before it was "so severe as itself to constitute an unconstitutionally onerous burden" on the exercise of the franchise and freedom of political association. It then asked whether it was "an arbitrary time limit unconnected to any important state goal" which must, of course, be "a legitimate and valid state goal". Id. 93 S.Ct. at 1251. Finally, the Court noted that there were no less drastic (and feasible) means to effectuate the state's goal. Id. 93 S.Ct. at 1252 n. 10.

The district court must therefore attempt to assess the nature and weight of the burdens inherent in absentee voting — the separate application, the taking of an oath, and execution of an affidavit, payment of the postage and notary fees, M.G.L.A. ch. 51, § 86 et seq., cf. Bishop v. Lomenzo, 350 F.Supp. 576, 583-584 (E.D.N.Y.1972), the risk of delay, etc. The judicial inquiry should be focused on the extent of other obstacles, not merely technical, to casting an effective and informed vote. The state goals involved would seem to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
21 cases
  • In re All Maine Asbestos Litigation
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • February 23, 1984
    ...486, 491, 7 L.Ed.2d 458 (1962). Summary judgment can be no substitute for trial where there are disputed factual issues, Walgren v. Howes, 482 F.2d 95, 98 (1st Cir.1973), and summary judgment may not be granted if there is a "genuine issue as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. The Court wi......
  • N.C. State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of North Carolina
    • April 25, 2016
    ...how the statutory scheme effectuates, in the least drastic way, some compelling governmental objective.' " Id.(quoting Walgren v. Howes, 482 F.2d 95, 102 (1st Cir.1973) (emphasis added)). The district court purported to apply this test in considering the Twenty-Sixth Amendment claims. Id. N......
  • Veasey v. Perry
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas
    • October 9, 2014
    ...a special burden), aff'd mem. sub nom. Symm v. United States, 439 U.S. 1105, 99 S.Ct. 1006, 59 L.Ed.2d 66 (1979) ; Walgren v. Howes, 482 F.2d 95, 100, 102 (1st Cir.1973) (implicitly recognizing that absentee voting has inherent burdens, additional procedural requirements, and disadvantages,......
  • N.C. State Conference, of the Naacp, Emmanuel Baptist Church, New Oxley Hill Baptist Church, Bethel A. Baptist Church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Clinton Tabernacle Ame Zion Church, Barbee's Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Inc. v. McCrory
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of North Carolina
    • August 8, 2014
    ...the Twenty–Sixth Amendment. While it is true that the Twenty–Sixth Amendment was patterned after the Fifteenth, see Walgren v. Howes, 482 F.2d 95, 101 (1st Cir.1973), no court has ever applied Arlington Heights to a claim of intentional age discrimination in voting. Nor has any court consid......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Twenty-Sixth Amendment enforcement power.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 121 No. 5, March 2012
    • March 1, 2012
    ...River Sioux Tribe v. Andrus, 566 F.2d 1085 (8th Cir. 1977); Walgren v. Bd. of Selectmen, 519 F.2d 1364 (1st Cir. 1975); Walgren v. Howes, 482 F.2d 95 (1st Cir. 1973) ; United States v. Duncan, 456 F.2d 1401 (9th Cir. 1972); Jolicoeur v. Mihaly, 488 P.2d 1 (Cal. 1971); Worden v. Mercer Cnty.......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT