Newsom v. Tennessee Republican PartyAnnotate this Case
Starbuck filed a nominating petition seeking to be placed on the ballot for the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District for the U.S. House of Representatives. The Tennessee Republican Party, through the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee (TRP SEC), determined that Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican, and would not appear on the ballot. Starbuck sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the defendants violated the Tennesse Open Meetings Act (TOMA), Tenn. Code 8-44-101-111, by determining in a non-public meeting that he is not a bona fide Republican.
The trial court concluded that the defendants violated TOMA and ordered that Starbuck be restored to the ballot. The Tennessee Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction and vacated. Only the state primary boards, not the state executive committees, are required to comply with TOMA (Tenn. Code 2-13-108(a)(2)). Section 2-13-104 provides that “a party may require by rule that candidates for its nominations be bona fide members of the party.” Under section 2-5-204(b)(2), a party’s state executive committee makes the determination of whether a candidate is a bona fide member of the party. TRP SEC, by statute, was acting as a state executive committee, and not a state primary board, when it determined that Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican and was not required to comply with TOMA.
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins
Plaintiff Robert Starbuck Newsom a/k/a Robby Starbuck sought to be a Republican candidate for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District for the United States House of Representatives. The Tennessee Republican Party and the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee ( Defendants ), acting under relevant statutory authority and party rules, determined that Mr. Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican and informed the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections of the decision to exclude Mr. Starbuck from the ballot. Mr. Starbuck initially sought relief in federal court and failed to obtain injunctive relief. After voluntarily dismissing his federal action, Mr. Starbuck filed a complaint in the Davidson County Chancery Court alleging, among other things, that Defendants violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act by determining in a non-public meeting that he was not a bona fide Republican. The chancery court granted Mr. Starbuck a temporary injunction on the basis that Defendants violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act and ordered that Mr. Starbuck be restored to the ballot. Defendants filed an application for extraordinary appeal under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 10. This Court assumed jurisdiction over the appeal pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 16-3-201(d) and Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 48 and granted the application for extraordinary appeal. We conclude that the trial court erred by granting the injunction because the Tennessee Open Meetings Act does not apply to Defendants. We vacate the injunction and remand to the trial court.