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Patterson v. United States Senate

United States District Court, N.D. California, Oakland Division

March 31, 2014

R. WAYNE PATTERSON, Pro Se, Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNITED STATES SENATE, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION; AND DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION Docket 18

SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG, District Judge.

R. Wayne Patterson ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, brings the instant action against Defendants[1] seeking, among other things, a declaratory judgment that Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the United States Senate (the "Cloture Rule")[2] is unconstitutional. See Compl., Dkt. 1. The parties are presently before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Dkt. 18. Plaintiff opposes the motions. Dkt. 19. Having read and considered the papers filed in connection with these matters and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and DENIES Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction as MOOT. The Court, in its discretion, finds these matters suitable for resolution without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b).

I. BACKGROUND

A. Cloture Rule

Article I, § 5 of the Constitution provides that "[e]ach House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings...." U.S. Const, Art. I, § 5, cl. 2. In 1917, the Senate adopted the Cloture Rule, which allowed the Senate to end a debate with a two-thirds majority vote. See http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Filibuster_Cloture.htm. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths, or 60 of the 100 Senators. Id . Prior to the adoption of the Cloture Rule, Senators had the right to speak as long as necessary on any issue, there was no rule limiting the amount of time an issue could be debated. Id.

The Cloture Rule provides, in relevant part:

Notwithstanding the provisions of rule II or rule IV or any other rule of the Senate, at any time a motion signed by sixteen Senators, to bring to a close the debate upon any measure, motion, other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, is presented to the Senate, the Presiding Officer, or clerk at the direction of the Presiding Officer, shall at once state the motion to the Senate, and one hour after the Senate meets on the following calendar day but one, he shall lay the motion before the Senate and direct that the clerk call the roll, and upon the ascertainment that a quorum is present, the Presiding Officer shall, without debate, submit to the Senate by a yea-and-nay vote the question:
Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?' And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn - except on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules, in which case the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting - then said measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of.

Standing Rules of the Senate Rule XXII, § 2. In short, the Cloture Rule requires a vote of 60 Senators to end debate on a pending matter (i.e., to "invoke cloture"), and a two-thirds vote of the Senators present and voting to end debate on proposed amendments to the Senate Rules. See id. After cloture has been invoked, a simple majority is all that is required to pass any bill in the Senate.

B. Allegations in the Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that the Cloture Rule is invalid because it "substantively" violates Article I, § 3 and the Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution, Compl. at 1, 4, which provide that "each Senator shall have one vote."[3] Specifically, Plaintiff, a resident of California, alleges that the Cloture Rule has reduced "the value of the Senate vote of each Senator from... California" to "less than that of [ ]other Senator[s], " which has concomitantly made "the value of [his] vote in Congressional elections substantively less than that of other qualified voters." Id. at 4, 6. According to Plaintiff:

Because of Rule XXII, if 51 Senators wish to vote for any legislation, motion or judicial nomination and 41 Senators refuse to change their votes against closure of debate on that question, that question cannot be passed. Thus, the votes of the 51 Senators in the affirmative are negated by the negative votes of the 41 Senators; that reduces the value of the vote of each of said 51 Senators to 19.6% less than that of said 41 Senators [(1-41 ÷ 51) × 100]. Similarly, if 59 Senators wish to vote for any legislation, motion or judicial nomination and 41 Senators vote against closure of debate on that question, that question cannot be passed. Thus, the votes of the 59 Senators in the affirmative are negated by the negative votes of the 41 Senators; that reduces the value of the vote of each of said 59 Senators to 30.5% less than that of said 41 Senators [(1-41 ÷ 59) × 100].

Id. at 3.

In other words, Plaintiff alleges that the Cloture Rule is unconstitutional because it dilutes the "value" of the votes of each of the Senators from California, which, in turn, dilutes his voting power as a resident of California. Plaintiff claims that the Cloture Rule functions as a de facto supermajority voting rule that violates the one Senator one vote language of the Constitution. According to Plaintiff, "a majority that wishes to vote in the affirmative on the ...


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