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Case: Wright v. Oklahoma

5:20-cv-00287 | U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma

Filed Date: March 31, 2020

Closed Date: Nov. 20, 2020

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

COVID-19 Summary: This pro se lawsuit was filed on March 31, 2020, by a prospective candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives seeking monetary damages and changes to Oklahoma’s requirements for gaining access to the ballot in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. On November 2, 2020, the court dismissed the case after a motion by the defendant. This case is about the constitutionality of the State of Oklahoma’s ballot requirements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiff, a prospective…

COVID-19 Summary: This pro se lawsuit was filed on March 31, 2020, by a prospective candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives seeking monetary damages and changes to Oklahoma’s requirements for gaining access to the ballot in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. On November 2, 2020, the court dismissed the case after a motion by the defendant.


This case is about the constitutionality of the State of Oklahoma’s ballot requirements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiff, a prospective candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, sued the State of Oklahoma pro se in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on March 31, 2020, arguing that the requirement that he either pay a filing fee or gather in-person signatures to gain access to the ballot, violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection by financially discriminating against him. The plaintiff, suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, requested a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the state’s ballot access laws, in addition to economic damages equaling the salary of a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The case was assigned to Judge Jodi W. Dishman.

On April 14, 2020, the plaintiff moved for a temporary restraining order. Between April 14 and April 22, the plaintiff moved to amend the complaint to join additional defendants to the lawsuit. On June 10, the court filed an order striking the three motions to amend and instructed the plaintiff that he did not need the court’s permission to amend the complaint as long as he met the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1).

On July 9, 2020, the State of Oklahoma moved to dismiss the case. On July 15, the plaintiff moved for a default judgment and for a preliminary injunction. On the same day, the court filed an order striking the plaintiffs’ two motions for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(a), which requires that all filings with the court be signed by at least one attorney of record or by the party personally if unrepresented. The court granted the plaintiff leave to sign the motions and refile them.

On July 29, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint and a motion for a preliminary injunction. The amended complaint changed the named defendant from the State of Oklahoma to an individual identified as a member of the Oklahoma State Election Board. The plaintiff also added information to the complaint detailing his status as a disabled veteran. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant physically stopped him from submitting his declaration for candidacy. The plaintiff reiterated his requests for monetary and injunctive relief, asking that the court require the defendant to pay him $384,000 in damages, as well as require the state to place him on the ballot without requiring fees or signatures.

On July 30, 2020, the court denied the plaintiff’s April 14 motion for temporary restraining order and the State of Oklahoma’s July 9 motion to dismiss as moot due to the filing of the amended complaint. On August 21, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The court stated that the plaintiff failed to comply with Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires notice to the adverse party prior to the court issuing a preliminary injunction. The court noted that the plaintiff had failed to submit any record of service of the motion for a preliminary injunction or the complaint on the defendant.

On August 28, the plaintiff filed another motion for a preliminary injunction. On September 11, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the case. On September 18, the court invited the parties to file optional briefs on whether any of the claims in the case are moot because the plaintiff filed his amended complaint over three months after the deadline to file his Declaration of Candidacy.

On November 2, 2020, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. 499 F. Supp. 3d 1080. The court noted that there was no dispute that the plaintiff did not satisfy either of the requirements to gain access to the state’s ballot for U.S. Representative: a petition supporting the candidate’s filing signed by at least two percent of the number of registered voters in the district or a $1,000 filing fee. First, the court addressed whether there remained a live controversy for the court to decide. The court found that the plaintiff’s claims were moot because the amended complaint was filed over three months over the filing deadline and because the plaintiff did not seek relief from the statutory deadlines. In addition, the court found that the plaintiff had not established that the defendant’s alleged conduct fell into the “capable of repetition, yet evading review” exception to the mootness doctrine. The exception requires that: (1) the duration of the challenged conduct is too short to be fully litigated prior to its cessation or expiration; and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subjected to the same action again. The court concluded that there was no indication that the complications posed by COVID-19 to the election will be repeated in subsequent elections. Since the plaintiff’s constitutional claims for injunctive relief were moot and did not fit into an exception, the court dismissed these claims.

Next, the court addressed the plaintiff’s request for monetary relief and whether the defendant was immune from the plaintiff’s claims under the Eleventh Amendment. The court found that the Oklahoma State Election Board was immune from monetary damages under the Eleventh Amendment, which grants immunity to states from suits by their own citizens. The court found that this immunity extended to officers of a state agency, including the defendant, if he was sued in his official capacity as a member of the state’s election board. While the court noted that Ex Parte Young presents a possible exception to immunity, the court found that this exception only applies to declaratory and injunctive relief, rather than monetary damages. The court therefore concluded that the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant for monetary damages, if brought against him in his individual capacity, must be dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction due to sovereign immunity.

The court then analyzed whether the defendant could be sued for monetary damages in his individual capacity under the doctrine of qualified immunity. The court began its analysis by stating that qualified immunity shields government officials from money damages unless a plaintiff establishes that the official violated a statutory or constitutional right and that the right was clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct. The court found that the plaintiff had not offered any clearly established law demonstrating that the defendant’s alleged conduct violated the plaintiff’s statutory or constitutional rights. The court stated that the plaintiff had failed to show that it was unreasonable for the defendant to refuse the plaintiff’s incomplete Declaration of Candidacy or that the defendant’s conduct was obviously egregious. The court therefore found that the defendant was entitled to qualified immunity against any claims for monetary relief against him in his individual capacity.

The case is now closed.

Summary Authors

Nicholas Gillan (12/22/2021)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attrorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/17030409/parties/wright-v-ziriax/


Judge(s)

Dishman, Jodi Warmbrod None (Oklahoma)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Singer, Desiree D. (Oklahoma)

Judge(s)

Dishman, Jodi Warmbrod None (Oklahoma)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Singer, Desiree D. (Oklahoma)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

5:20-cv-00287

Docket [PACER]

Wright v. Ziriax

Nov. 9, 2020

Nov. 9, 2020

Docket
1

5:20-cv-00287

Plaintiff's Complaint, Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Law, Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order

Wright v. Ziriax

March 31, 2020

March 31, 2020

Complaint
6

5:20-cv-00287

Brief in Support of Temporary Restraining Order

April 14, 2020

April 14, 2020

Pleading / Motion / Brief
25

5:20-cv-00287

Plaintiffs' Complaint

Wright v. Ziriax

July 19, 2020

July 19, 2020

Complaint
29

5:20-cv-00287

Order

Wright v. Ziriax

Aug. 21, 2020

Aug. 21, 2020

Order/Opinion
41

Order on Motion to Dismiss

Wright v. Ziriax

Nov. 2, 2020

Nov. 2, 2020

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/17030409/wright-v-ziriax/

Last updated Oct. 28, 2022, 3:07 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

Plaintiff's COMPLAINT, Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Law, Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order against Oklahoma State of filed by Stephen Christopher Wright. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)(em) (Entered: 03/31/2020)

1 Civil Cover Sheet

View on PACER

March 31, 2020

March 31, 2020

Clearinghouse
2

MOTION for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis by Stephen Christopher Wright. (em) (Entered: 03/31/2020)

March 31, 2020

March 31, 2020

RECAP
3

ENTER ORDER REFERRING MOTION: 2 MOTION for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis filed by Stephen Christopher Wright Motions referred to Gary M. Purcell. Signed by Honorable Jodi W. Dishman on 04/01/2020. (em) (Entered: 04/01/2020)

April 1, 2020

April 1, 2020

RECAP
4

ORDER granting 2 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. Let the applicant proceed without prepayment of costs or fees or the necessity of giving security therefor. Signed by Magistrate Judge Gary M. Purcell on 4/1/2020. (cps) (Entered: 04/01/2020)

April 1, 2020

April 1, 2020

RECAP
5

MOTION for Temporary Restraining Order by Stephen Christopher Wright. (Attachments: # 1 Attachment Proposed Order)(em) (Entered: 04/14/2020)

1 Attachment Proposed Order

View on PACER

April 14, 2020

April 14, 2020

RECAP
6

BRIEF IN SUPPORT re 5 MOTION for Temporary Restraining Order by Stephen Christopher Wright. (em) (Entered: 04/14/2020)

April 14, 2020

April 14, 2020

Clearinghouse
7

MOTION for Alternative Service by Stephen Christopher Wright. (em) (Entered: 04/14/2020)

April 14, 2020

April 14, 2020

RECAP
8

STRICKEN MOTION to Amend 1 Complaint to Join Parties by Stephen Christopher Wright. (em) Modified on 6/10/2020 striking motion per 15 Order (nv). (Entered: 04/14/2020)

April 14, 2020

April 14, 2020

RECAP
9

STRICKEN MOTION to Amend 1 Complaint to Join Parties by Stephen Christopher Wright. (em) Modified on 6/10/2020 striking motion per 15 Order (nv). (Entered: 04/14/2020)

April 14, 2020

April 14, 2020

PACER
10

STRICKEN MOTION to Amend/Correct 1 Complaint to Join Parties by Stephen Christopher Wright. (knt) Modified on 6/10/2020 striking Motion per 15 Order (nv). (Entered: 04/22/2020)

April 22, 2020

April 22, 2020

PACER
11

MOTION for Order titled "Motion for Alternative Service" by Stephen Christopher Wright. (knt) (Entered: 04/22/2020)

April 22, 2020

April 22, 2020

PACER
12

MOTION for Order titled "Plaintiff's Motion for Alternative Service" by Stephen Christopher Wright. (knt) (Entered: 05/13/2020)

May 13, 2020

May 13, 2020

RECAP
13

MOTION for Order titled "Motion for Alternative Service" by Stephen Christopher Wright. (em) (Entered: 06/09/2020)

June 8, 2020

June 8, 2020

PACER
14

ORDER granting 7 Motion for Alternative Service. The Court ORDERS service in this case be made by a United States marshal or deputy marshal. Signed by Honorable Jodi W. Dishman on 06/09/2020. (nv) (Entered: 06/09/2020)

June 9, 2020

June 9, 2020

PACER
15

ORDER. Plaintiff Stephen Christopher Wright has filed three motions to amend his complaint to add defendants"). [Doc. Nos. 8-10]... Mr. Wright does not need the Court's permission to amend his complaint at this juncture if he meets the requirements of (A) or (B) of Rule 15(a)(1). For the reasons stated above, the Court STRIKES the Motions [Doc. Nos. 8-10]. The Court refers Plaintiff to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1) regarding amending once as a matter of course. Signed by Honorable Jodi W. Dishman on 06/10/2020. (nv) (Entered: 06/10/2020)

June 10, 2020

June 10, 2020

PACER
16

Summons Issued Electronically as to Oklahoma State of. (knt) (Entered: 06/11/2020)

June 11, 2020

June 11, 2020

RECAP
17

SUMMONS Returned Executed by Stephen Christopher Wright. Oklahoma State of served on 6/18/2020. (kmt) (Entered: 06/22/2020)

June 22, 2020

June 22, 2020

PACER
18

NOTICE of Change of Address by Stephen Christopher Wright. Address updated accordingly. (em) (Entered: 06/25/2020)

June 23, 2020

June 23, 2020

PACER
19

ENTRY of Appearance by Desiree D Singer on behalf of Oklahoma State of (Singer, Desiree) (Entered: 07/09/2020)

July 9, 2020

July 9, 2020

PACER
20

MOTION to Dismiss and Brief in Support by Oklahoma State of. (Singer, Desiree) (Entered: 07/09/2020)

July 9, 2020

July 9, 2020

PACER
21

STRICKEN MOTION for Default Judgment as to by Stephen Christopher Wright. (Attachments: # 1 Attachment Proposed Order)(em) (Entered: 07/15/2020)

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

PACER
22

STRICKEN MOTION for Preliminary Injunction by Stephen Christopher Wright. (Attachments: # 1 Attachment Proposed Order)(em) (Entered: 07/15/2020)

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

PACER
23

ENTER ORDER. Before the Court is Plaintiff Stephen Christopher Wright's Motion for Default Order and Motion for Preliminary Injunction Doc. Nos. 21 and 22 ("Motions"). The Motions are hereby STRICKEN as they do not comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(a), "Every pleading, written motion, and other paper must be signed by at least one attorney of record in the attorney's name or by a party personally if the party is unrepresented." Plaintiff is granted leave to sign the Motions in compliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and then refile. Entered at the direction of the Honorable Jodi W. Dishman on 07/15/2020. (nv) (Entered: 07/15/2020)

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

PACER

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (OKWD) is upgrading its current CM/ECF system to the Next Generation of CM/ECF (NextGen CM/ECF) on Monday, August 3, 2020. Complete information regarding the OKWD NextGen CM/ECF implementation is available at http://www.okwd.uscourts.gov/nextgen-information.****Currently, you may share a single PACER account with other attorneys in your firm. With the new OKWD NextGen CM/ECF system, sharing of individual PACER accounts is prohibited. You must have an individual upgraded PACER account linked to your e-filing account. Once again, shared PACER accounts cannot be used by OKWD e-filing attorneys. ****Preparing for NextGen CM/ECF is a two-step process. Step one is to upgrade your PACER account and step two is to link your upgraded PACER account to the OKWD e-filing account in the upgraded NextGen CM/ECF system. This notice only addresses the first step because the second step cannot be completed until on or after August 3, 2020. ****Many PACER accounts have already been upgraded. The first step is to determine whether you have an "Upgraded" PACER account. If any of the following is true, you have an upgraded PACER account and no action is required until after the OKWD NextGen CM/ECF upgrade on August 3, 2020: 1) You have an upgraded PACER account for another NextGen court or 2) Your PACER account was created after August 10, 2014. If neither of these is true, you must upgrade your legacy PACER account before you can link your PACER account to your new NextGen CM/ECF account. ****OKWDs current CM/ECF system will NOT be available from 11:00 AM on 07/31/20 until 8:00 AM on 08/03/20 due to the upgrade. ****Additional notices will be sent at a later date regarding the second step of this process. If you have questions, please contact the PACER Service Center at 800-676-6856 or the OKWD Clerk's Office CM/ECF Help Desk at 405-609-5555. (Pigott, William) (ADI)

July 20, 2020

July 20, 2020

PACER

~Notice (other)

July 21, 2020

July 21, 2020

PACER
24

RESPONSE in Opposition re 20 MOTION to Dismiss and Brief in Support filed by Stephen Christopher Wright. (em) (Entered: 07/29/2020)

July 29, 2020

July 29, 2020

PACER
25

AMENDED COMPLAINT against Paul Ziriax filed by Stephen Christopher Wright. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)(em) (Entered: 07/29/2020)

July 29, 2020

July 29, 2020

Clearinghouse
26

MOTION for Preliminary Injunction, by Stephen Christopher Wright. (Attachments: # 1 Attachment 1 - Proposed Order)(nv) (Entered: 07/29/2020)

1 Civil Cover Sheet

View on PACER

July 29, 2020

July 29, 2020

RECAP
27

ORDER. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(B). See Doc. No. 25 . IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Motion for TRO Doc. No. 5 and the Motion to Dismiss Doc. No. 20 are DENIED as MOOT. Signed by Honorable Jodi W. Dishman on 07/30/2020. (nv) (Entered: 07/30/2020)

July 30, 2020

July 30, 2020

PACER
28

Summons Issued Electronically as to Paul Ziriax. (knt) (Entered: 08/03/2020)

Aug. 3, 2020

Aug. 3, 2020

PACER
29

ORDER denying 26 Motion for Preliminary Injunction, without prejudice. Notice has not been provided as required by Rule 65(a). See Order for all details. Signed by Honorable Jodi W. Dishman on 08/21/2020. (nv) (Entered: 08/21/2020)

Aug. 21, 2020

Aug. 21, 2020

Clearinghouse
30

SUMMONS Returned Executed Paul Ziriax served on 8/26/2020. (em) (Entered: 08/27/2020)

Aug. 27, 2020

Aug. 27, 2020

PACER
31

ENTRY of Appearance by Desiree D Singer on behalf of Paul Ziriax (Singer, Desiree) (Entered: 08/28/2020)

Aug. 28, 2020

Aug. 28, 2020

PACER
32

MOTION for Preliminary Injunction by Stephen Christopher Wright. (Attachments: # 1 Attachment Proposed Order)(em) (Entered: 08/28/2020)

Aug. 28, 2020

Aug. 28, 2020

PACER
33

MOTION to Dismiss by Paul Ziriax. (Singer, Desiree) (Entered: 09/11/2020)

Sept. 11, 2020

Sept. 11, 2020

PACER
34

RESPONSE to Motion re 32 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction filed by Paul Ziriax. (Singer, Desiree) (Entered: 09/18/2020)

Sept. 18, 2020

Sept. 18, 2020

RECAP
35

ORDER. The Court invites the parties to file optional briefs on the issue of whether any or all of the claims in this case are moot because Mr. Wright filed the Amended Complaint over three months after the deadline to file his Declaration of Candidacy. Optional briefs are limited to twenty pages. No response briefs are permitted. These optional briefs are due in ten days, or by Monday, September 28, 2020. Signed by Honorable Jodi W. Dishman on 09/18/2020. (nv) (Entered: 09/18/2020)

Sept. 18, 2020

Sept. 18, 2020

PACER
36

NOTICE of Change of Address by Stephen Christopher Wright. Address updated accordingly.(em) (Entered: 09/28/2020)

Sept. 25, 2020

Sept. 25, 2020

PACER
37

RESPONSE re 35 Order, Supplemental Brief filed by Paul Ziriax. (Singer, Desiree) (Entered: 09/28/2020)

Sept. 28, 2020

Sept. 28, 2020

PACER
38

RESPONSE to 33 Motion to Dismiss titled, "Plaintiffs Motion to Strike the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss" by Stephen Christopher Wright. (Attachments: # 1 Attachment Brief in Support)(kah) Modified on 9/28/2020 to correct the filing event to represent the pleading reads as a response to the 33 Motion to Dismiss, rather than a motion. (nv). (Entered: 09/28/2020)

Sept. 28, 2020

Sept. 28, 2020

PACER
39

RESPONSE re 35 Order, Plaintiff's Brief filed by Stephen Christopher Wright. (kah) (Entered: 09/28/2020)

Sept. 28, 2020

Sept. 28, 2020

PACER
40

RESPONSE in Opposition re 38 RESPONSE to MOTION to Dismiss Response to Motion to Strike filed by Paul Ziriax. (Singer, Desiree) (Entered: 10/16/2020)

Oct. 16, 2020

Oct. 16, 2020

PACER
41

ORDER granting 33 Motion to Dismiss. The Court DISMISSES Mr. Wright's claims and this action in its entirety without prejudice. All other pending motions are denied as moot. Signed by Honorable Jodi W. Dishman on 11/02/2020. (nv) (Entered: 11/02/2020)

Nov. 2, 2020

Nov. 2, 2020

RECAP
42

JUDGMENT. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58(a), and in accordance with the Court's Order issued this date, the Court dismisses this action without prejudice. Signed by Honorable Jodi W. Dishman on 11/02/2020. (nv) (Entered: 11/02/2020)

Nov. 2, 2020

Nov. 2, 2020

PACER
43

Mail Returned as Undeliverable re 41 Order on Motion to Dismiss, 42 Judgment as to Stephen Christopher Wright (em) (Entered: 11/09/2020)

Nov. 9, 2020

Nov. 9, 2020

PACER

Case Details

State / Territory: Oklahoma

Case Type(s):

Election/Voting Rights

Special Collection(s):

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Healthy Elections COVID litigation tracker

Key Dates

Filing Date: March 31, 2020

Closing Date: Nov. 20, 2020

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A prospective candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

State of Oklahoma, State

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief denied

Issues

General:

Voting

Voting:

Candidate qualifications