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Absent controlling authority in this circuit, a Northern District trial judge has adopted the reasoning of a U.S. appellate court in Pennsylvania to find that the Lanham Act does not expressly allow federal courts to enjoin proceedings in state court. U.S. District Judge Norman A. Mordue of Syracuse, N.Y., relied on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in In re General Motors, 134 F. 3d 133 (1998), in declining to intrude on a state court dispute over the use of a political party moniker. Mordue, like the 3rd Circuit, found that since the Lanham Act does not expressly authorize federal interference in state court proceedings, a federal judge has no business enjoining an order by a New York jurist. The case, Mussmann v. Scalera, 03-CV-1068, arose when a renegade established a new political party with a catchy tongue-in-cheek name — the “Bottom Line Party” — only to see it appropriated by her opponent in a mayoral race. Linda L. Mussmann and other residents of Hudson, Columbia County, formed the Bottom Line Party in 2001, the first time she challenged the Democratic incumbent mayor, Richard E. Scalera. Without any political party backing, Mussmann knew she would be relegated to the bottom of the ballot, hence the name of her party. She lost the 2001 race, and is seeking a rematch this year. While Mussmann was busy assembling a full slate of Democratic candidates to challenge the mayor and undermine his foundational support, Scalera, a Democrat, was quietly doing the same to her. The mayor and his allies circulated petitions and gathered enough signatures to take control of the Bottom Line Party — Mussmann’s fallback option if she could not get the Democratic line. Outraged, Mussmann brought an action in state Supreme Court. But Justice Leslie E. Stein ruled against her, holding that since Scalera had deftly filed his Bottom Line designating petitions before Mussmann, he is entitled to use the party name and — to add insult to injury — its distinctive emblem, a house drawn by Mussmann’s domestic partner. Mussmann then brought her gripe to the federal district court, where she alleged violations of the Lanham Act, the federal trademark law, and sought an injunction barring Scalera from using the Bottom Line name and logo in this year’s mayoral race. But Mordue said this is not a federal case. The judge said Mussmann was asking him essentially to enjoin the decision of Justice Stein. That, he said, the court may not do. CRUX OF CASE The crux of the case was whether the Lanham Act trumps state court authority, and that determination required an analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225. In its 1972 opinion, the justices delineated exceptions to the anti-injunction statute, one of which arises when a federal act expressly authorizes an exception. Only one circuit court has applied Mitchum v. Foster to the Lanham Act, the 3rd Circuit, and in In re General Motors concluded that the act did not “clearly create a federal right or remedy that could be given its intended scope only by the stay of a state court proceeding.” Mordue agreed with the 3rd Circuit, and therefore found that he could not order the relief sought by Mussmann. Lanny E. Walter of Walter, Thayer & Mishler in Albany appeared for Mussmann and her allies. Paul C. Rapp of Cohen Dax & Koenig in Albany appeared for Scalera and his supporters.

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