Court Dismisses Florida Primary Lawsuit

ATLANTA (AP) -- A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee over the party's decision to strip Florida of its delegates to its national convention.

But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling released Friday, said the lawsuit "raises a number of interesting and potentially significant questions," and gave the plaintiff an opening to amend and refile the lawsuit.

The plaintiff, Victor DiMaio, a Democratic Party activist from Tampa, Fla., said he would refile.

DiMaio filed the lawsuit in 2007 accusing the party of disenfranchising Florida's Democratic voters by barring them from having their say in choosing their party's nominee. The party stripped both Florida and Michigan of their national convention delegates because they moved their primaries to January dates that were earlier than party rules allowed.

The Democratic National Committee argued the party has the right to set its own rules and not seat delegates who refuse to follow them.

The three-judge panel agreed with a U.S. district judge in Tampa who dismissed the challenge, saying that DiMaio "undeniably" lacked standing to bring the lawsuit because he had yet to vote in the Florida primary when it was filed.

"Since DiMaio's complaint does not allege any actual or imminent injury, nor suggest in any way how that 'injury' could be redressed by a favorable judgment, we are without jurisdiction to entertain the appeal," the ruling said.

But the ruling suggested he could file another challenge, now that he has voted in the Jan. 29 contest, and mentioned case law that could be included in the lawsuit.

The Democratic National Committee said it was pleased with the decision.

"As two U.S. District Courts in Florida have found, and as the Supreme Court has consistently recognized, national political parties have a constitutionally protected right to manage and conduct their own internal affairs, including the enforcement of delegate selection rules," it said in a statement.

DiMaio told The Associated Press he was encouraged by the ruling and would amend his lawsuit and return to court.

"This is a big victory," said DiMaio, who said he is neutral in the presidential race. "As close as this election can be, these little votes can make a big difference in who could be the next president of the United States. That's why I'm anxious and ready to go. And the clock is really ticking."

Florida and Michigan have had so far fruitless discussions about possibly redoing their primaries. Any redo would have to be completed by June 10 to be counted under Democratic National Committee rules.

DiMaio's attorney, Michael Steinberg said he hopes the case is decided before the party's national convention starts on Aug. 25 in Denver.


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