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Miller v. Dunkerton

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Danbury, Danbury

August 18, 2015

Jane Miller
v.
Thomas Dunkerton

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE PLAINTIFF'S PETITION PURSUANT TO GENERAL STATUTES § 9-63

Anthony D. Truglia, J.

Before the court is a petition filed by the plaintiff, Jane Miller, a resident of the town of Brookfield, Connecticut, to have her name restored to the list of Republican electors in Brookfield. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant, Thomas Dunkerton, the Republican Registrar of Voters for the town of Brookfield, on or about April 23, 2015, unlawfully and improperly erased her name from the town's list of Republican electors. The defendant has filed an answer to the plaintiff's petition admitting that he removed her name from the enrollment list of the Brookfield Republican Party, but denying any improper actions on his behalf. The plaintiff petitions this court from the decision of the defendant and seeks a writ of mandamus compelling the defendant to restore her name to the enrollment list.

The plaintiff brings this petition on the following specific grounds. First, that the defendant " conducted a hearing where the evidence presented substantiates a finding which does not support the Defendant's actions." Second, that the " conduct of the hearing violated the Petitioner's right to due process of law." Third, that " the Defendant failed to establish a standard of conduct to qualify as a member of the Brookfield Republican Party and, as a result, the Petitioner has been prejudiced." Fourth, that " the accepted standard for membership in the Brookfield Republican Party allows active membership in other political parties and encourages members to run for political office on other political slates while enrolled in the Brookfield Republican Party." Fifth, that the " action of the Defendant holds Petitioner to a standard not required by others." Finally sixth, that General Statutes § 9-60 is unconstitutional both on its face and as applied by the defendant.

General Statutes § 9-63[1] provides an expedited summary appeal procedure for persons claiming to be aggrieved by a registrar's erasure or exclusion from a party enrollment list. Pursuant to § 9-63, the court held an evidentiary hearing on the petition on July 27, 2015, in which both parties appeared.

Having heard the testimony of the parties and reviewed the evidence presented in support of their respective positions, the court makes the following de novo findings:

1. The plaintiff in this action is a resident of Brookfield, Connecticut. She moved to Brookfield in 1992 and, in 2002, registered as a member of the Brookfield Republican Party.

2. In 2009 municipal elections, she ran successfully for a seat on the Brookfield Board of Education as a Republican. Prior to that election, the plaintiff was a loyal party member and worked actively on behalf of Republican candidates for election. While serving as an incumbent Republican member on the Board of Education, she remained an active and loyal party member.

3. In June of 2013, the plaintiff spoke with members of the Brookfield Republican Party's vacancy committee regarding the upcoming November 2013 election. The committee interviewed the plaintiff for one of the Republican vacancies on the Board of Education for that year, but chose not to give her a nomination. The plaintiff was informed on July 17, 2013 that she would likely not be nominated at the party caucus to be held later that month to stand for election to the Board of Education in November of 2013. The plaintiff attended the caucus on July 23, 2013, notwithstanding, hoping to receive a floor nomination to the Board of Finance from supporters.

4. Earlier that same day, July 23, 2013, the plaintiff filed a form SEEC 1 registering herself as an unaffiliated candidate for the Board of Finance for the 2013 election (Defendant's Ex. B), and certifying under penalties of false statement that her campaign would be sponsored by the Brookfield Democratic Town Committee.

5. The Brookfield Democratic Party also held its nominating caucus on July 23, 2013. The plaintiff did not attend the Democratic caucus, but had been advised previously by members of the Democratic Party that she might receive the party's endorsement to run for the Board of Finance. The plaintiff learned either later that night or the following morning that she had been endorsed to run on the November 2013 ballot on the Democratic line (Defendant's Ex. A). On the following day, July 24, 2013, the plaintiff changed her party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated (Plaintiff's Ex. 3, p. 2).

6. The plaintiff's name appeared on the November 5, 2013 ballot on the Democratic line (Defendant's Ex. E) for the Town of Brookfield Board of Finance. The plaintiff's name also appeared on campaign literature distributed by the Brookfield Democratic Party for the 2013 election (Defendant's Exhibits C & D). The plaintiff worked to promote her candidacy and the candidacies of the other Democratic nominees in the November 2013 election by, among other things, allowing Democratic Party lawn signs to be placed on her property and by distributing Democratic campaign literature outside polling places on election day (Plaintiff's Ex. 4).

7. The plaintiff did not prevail in her bid for a seat on the Board of Finance, losing instead to the Republican candidates.

8. On December 3, 2013, the plaintiff filed a party enrollment change form declaring her intention to be re-enrolled in the voter list of the Brookfield ...


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