In Parker v. Lyons, 2013 WL 1624336 (C.D. Ill. 2013), a candidate filed a nominating petition with the requisite number of signatures and was later served with a quo warranto action by the State’s Attorney. The quo warranto action alleged that the candidate’s prior felony theft conviction made him ineligible to hold a school board seat under Illinois law and sought to have the candidate’s name removed from the ballot. The circuit court enjoined the candidate from running and ordered that his name be removed from the ballot. The candidate then filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

Specifically, the candidate alleged that the State’s Attorney “selectively targeted” him with a “rarely-used enforcement mechanism” because of his reputation in the community. The Court held that the candidate could not challenge the State’s Attorney’s decision. Applying the reasoning described in Enquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture, a U.S. Supreme Court case, the Court stated that the decision of what actions to commence is an exercise of discretion on the part of the States Attorney.

The candidate’s second claim alleged that, as a black male, he was subjected to race discrimination when he was removed from the election in order to preserve a white majority on the school board. The Court found that this claim survived the motion to dismiss because the candidate alleged the circumstances leading to his discrimination claim in detail. The third claim alleged that the Illinois law preventing an individual with a prior felony conviction from running for school board violated the First, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. The Court found that the candidate adequately pled this allegation with respect to the First and Fourteenth Amendments, stating that the claim is plausible. We will provide updates as this case develops. 

Caitlyn Sharrow