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Frost v. Manlove

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

August 14, 2018

NADINE FROST, SEAN GO WARD, and WILLIAM MCVAY, Petitioners,
v.
ELAINE MANLOVE, Commissioner of Elections, Respondent.

          Submitted: August 3, 2018

          OPINION AND ORDER

          NOEL EASON PRIMOS, JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Respondent Elaine Manlove's (hereinafter "Respondent") motion to dismiss and Petitioners Nadine Frost's, William McVay's, and Sean Go ward's motion for summary judgment (hereinafter "Petitioners"), as well as their written responses and oral arguments presented by all parties at a hearing held August 3, 2018. For the reasons stated below, Respondent's motion to dismiss is GRANTED, and consequently, Petitioners' motion for summary judgment is DISMISSED as moot.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This matter was initiated by Petitioners' filing of their pro se complaint on April 6, 2018, in which Petitioners sought a writ of mandamus to compel Respondent to recognize Petitioner Nadine Frost's (hereinafter "Ms. Frost") candidacy for the United States Senate, and the Libertarian Party of Delaware's (hereinafter "LPD") status as the "regularly organized and constituted governing authority for the Libertarian Party" in Delaware. The facts recited below are as alleged in Petitioners' amended complaint.[1]

         Petitioners allege that Ms. Frost is the duly nominated candidate of the LPD for the United States Senate, and that her fellow petitioners, William McVay and Sean Goward, are the duly elected State Chair and State Secretary of the LPD. On February 12, 2018, Petitioners sought written acknowledgment from the State Board of Elections of the LPD's status as the official political party bearing the Libertarian title in Delaware. Petitioners received no response from the State Board of Elections or from Respondent.

         On March 28, 2018, Ms. Frost delivered a completed certificate of nomination concerning her candidacy for the United States Senate to Respondent. Despite this, Respondent failed to list Ms. Frost on a website maintained by Respondent that lists the other various ballot-qualified candidates up for election in 2018. On April 6, 2018, Petitioners filed this complaint, alleging that they are suffering harm for every moment Ms. Frost is not listed on Respondent's website. Petitioners sought a writ of mandamus to compel Respondent to recognize Ms. Frost's candidacy in writing, and on the website, and to acknowledge the LPD as the regularly organized and constituted governing authority for the Libertarian Party in Delaware.

         Respondent's motion to dismiss argues that Petitioners have failed to plead facts demonstrating entitlement to a writ of mandamus. Specifically, Respondents argue that (1) Petitioners have failed to plead facts indicating a "clear right" to a written recognition by Respondent of the LPD's status as the regularly organized and constituted governing authority for the Libertarian Party in Delaware; (2) Petitioners have an adequate remedy at law, namely, the relief offered by 15 Del. C. § 3302(b), which determines to which faction the name, title or figure of a political party properly belongs; and (3) Petitioners William McVay and Sean Goward lack standing.

         Petitioners respond that the clear right to a written recognition of Ms. Frost's candidacy and the LPD's status is provided by 15 Del. C. § 8041(2). They further assert that the alternative remedy offered by 3302(b) is "irrelevant," and that Petitioners William McVay and Sean Goward have standing because any citizen or taxpayer can bring a mandamus proceeding regardless of that individual's lack of a special interest in the result of the proceedings.

         II. RELEVANT LAW

         Upon this Court's review of a motion to dismiss, "(i) all well-pleaded factual allegations are accepted as true; (ii) even vague allegations are well-pleaded if they give the opposing party notice of the claim; (iii) the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party; and (iv) dismissal is inappropriate unless the plaintiff would not be entitled to recover under any reasonably conceivable set of circumstances susceptible of proof."[2]

         A writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that a Court may issue to compel an agency to perform a nondiscretionary duty. Before a writ shall issue, the petitioner must demonstrate that (1) he or she has "a clear right to the performance of the duty;" and (2) he or she has no adequate remedy at law; and (3) the agency has "arbitrarily failed or refused to perform that duty."[3]

         Chapter 80 of Title 15 of the Delaware Code contains various provisions relating to funds used in Delaware political campaigns. 15 Del. C. § 8041(2) requires that commissioners, "[a]t the request of any person, make a ruling that applies this chapter to a set of facts specified by the person."

         In contrast, Chapter 33 of Title 15 concerns the nominations of particular candidates made by political parties, and Section 3302 provides a mechanism by which the Board of Elections may resolve contests between factions claiming to represent a political ...


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