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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying Citizens' motion for attorney's fees, expert fees, and costs stemming from a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action that successfully challenged a 2015 state law that redrew Greensboro City Council districts. The court held that civil rights fee-shifting statutes, such as those at issue here, are not meant to punish defendants for a lack of innocence or good faith but rather to "compensate civil rights attorneys who bring civil rights cases and win them." The court explained that "innocence" or a "lack of responsibility" for the enactment of an unconstitutional law was therefore not an appropriate criterion to justify denying a fee award against the party responsible for and enjoined from enforcing the unconstitutional law. View "Brandon v. Guilford County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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In these public interest appeals arising from a mix-up at a high school polling place in the town of Stratford where approximately seventy-six voters received the incorrect ballots, rendering those voters unable to cast a vote for their assembly district's state representative, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court insofar as it dismissed Plaintiff's complaint and reversed the trial court's judgment with respect to its issuance of a temporary injunction, holding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims and similarly lacked jurisdiction to issue a temporary injunction. Plaintiff, a Republic Party's candidate for state representative, brought this action seeking declaratory relief, a new election, and injunction prohibiting certain state defendants from declaring the intervening defendant, the Democratic Party's candidate, as the winner of that election. The trial court dismissed the complaint in part as barred by the elections clause set forth in Conn. Const. art. III, 7 but granted Plaintiff's application for a temporary injunction. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the elections clause gives the state House of Representatives exclusive jurisdiction over this election contest; and (2) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enjoin the state defendants from canvassing the votes and declaring a winner, even temporarily. View "Feehan v. Marcone" on Justia Law

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In this redacted appeal, the DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision refusing to enjoin the FEC from releasing information identifying a trust and its trustee in connection with a misreported federal campaign contribution. Plaintiffs claim that the Commission's release of documents identifying them would violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The court held that FECA's provisions and the regulations thereunder did not bar the disclosure and authorized the Commission's action; Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), foreclosed plaintiffs' claim that the First Amendment barred the Commission from publicly identifying them; and FOIA could not be used to prevent the Commission from publicly revealing plaintiffs' identities. View "Doe 1 v. FEC" on Justia Law

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On May 16, 2017, by write-in vote, Christine Rossi won the Republican nomination for Tax Collector of Nether Providence Township (“the Township”). On June 2, 2017, the Delaware County Bureau of Elections (“the Bureau”) notified Rossi that she was certified as the Republican nominee. The Bureau instructed Rossi to submit a Statement of Financial Interests ("SOFI") to the Bureau and to the Township by June 30, 2017, in order to have her name appear on the November 2017 general election ballot. On June 30, 2017, Rossi filed her SOFI with the Bureau, but failed to file it with the Township. On September 6, 2017, based upon a Right-to-Know Law request submitted to the Township, Christine Reuther and Ani Marie Diakatos (collectively, “Objectors”) discovered that Rossi had not filed her SOFI with the Township. On September 13, 2017, Objectors filed an emergency petition for relief to the Court of Common Pleas, stressing that Subsection 15.3(e) of the State Ethics Commission’s regulations required write-in candidates to file their SOFIs with the appropriate authorities within thirty days of the certification of the election results. Because Rossi failed to file her SOFI with the Township within that period of time, Objectors asserted that, pursuant to Subsection 1104(b)(3) of the Ethics Act, her failure constituted a fatal defect to her candidacy, and her name was required to be stricken from the general election ballot. On September 14, 2017, Rossi filed her SOFI with the Township. Because the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act (“Ethics Act”) imposed this consequence only upon candidates who petition to appear on the ballot, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that it is inapplicable to write-in candidates. Therefore, the Court affirmed the order of the Commonwealth Court. View "Reuther v. Delaware County Bureau of Elections" on Justia Law

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After the district court found that the boundaries for Mississippi State Senate District 22 dilute African-American voting strength and prevented those citizens from having the equal opportunity "to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice" that the Voting Rights Act guarantees, the district court switched 28 precincts between District 22 and a bordering district to remedy the violation. The Governor and Secretary of State sought a stay of the district court's final judgment. The Fourth Circuit granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for a stay. The court held that the rule of construction, the text of the three-judge statute, its lineage, and the caselaw applying it all favor the district court's view that three judges are not required for a claim raising only statutory challenges to state legislative redistricting. The court also held that defendants have not shown a high likelihood of overturning the finding of vote dilution because their legal argument was at odds with "unimpeachable authority" from this court and their factual challenges must overcome deferential standards of review. The court rejected defendants' laches claim. However, the court held that the legislature should have the initial opportunity to draw new lines for District 22 that comply with the Voting Rights Act. Accordingly, the court issued an order granting a temporary stay to allow the legislature to remedy the Section 2 violation. Finally, the court held that defendants have not demonstrated a high likelihood of showing that the district court's narrow redraw was an abuse of discretion, and there was no risk of voter confusion and no outcry from state officials that implementing the district court’s remedy substantially disturbed its election process. View "Thomas v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal denied a petition for writ of mandate seeking to compel defendants to put plaintiff on the primary election ballot for county sheriff. The court affirmed the trial court's ruling that Government Code section 24004.3, which required persons to be elected county sheriff to meet certain law enforcement experience and education, is constitutional. The court explained that there was good reason why the Legislature imposed an experience requirement because, in order to have a true understanding of law enforcement, you must learn about it in the field doing it. The court held that the state Constitution empowers the Legislature to provide for the election of county sheriffs and to set minimum qualifications for sheriff candidates. The court rejected the argument that section 24004.3 conflicts with or was preempted by the California Constitution. The court also held that there was no merit to the argument that the Legislature exceeded its authority pursuant to the California Constitution in enacting section 24004.3 or that the statute violates the First Amendment rights of would-be candidates or the voters at large. Finally, the trial court reasonably concluded that plaintiff's delay in filing and prosecuting the writ petition was prejudicial. View "Boyer v. Ventura County" on Justia Law

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Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, candidates for certain offices, including the Presidency, must file financial disclosures with the Federal Election Commission, 5 U.S.C. 103(e). A presidential candidate’s financial disclosure must include the “identity and category of the total liabilities owed to any creditor.” Reviewing officials determined that then-candidate Trump’s disclosures were “in apparent compliance.” Lovitky alleged that the disclosure included both personal and business liabilities, in violation of the Act, which “requires disclosure of only those liabilities for which candidates are themselves liable . . . or for which the spouse or dependent child of the candidate are liable.” Candidate Trump, Lovitky argued, “obscured his liabilities by commingling them with the liabilities of business entities.” Lovitky sought an order requiring amendment of the report. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The only possible basis of jurisdiction, the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. 1361, refers to actions “to compel an officer of the United States to perform his duty.” The Ethics Act obligation is not a “duty” under the Mandamus Act, which includes only those obligations that pertain to a defendant’s public office. Detaching the duty from the office could lead to serious incongruities. For example, where an officer is sued in his official capacity, FRCP 25(d) automatically substitutes as defendant the official’s successor in office, so that, under the Ethics Act, a public official could be compelled to perform the personal financial disclosure duties of his predecessor. View "Lovitky v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The board of directors of the Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District (District) passed a resolution to apply to the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (Commission) to dissolve the District. A group of Julian residents (plaintiffs) sought to prevent the District's dissolution by presenting a referendum petition to the District board. The District did not act on the referendum petition, and the trial court denied plaintiffs' petition for writ of mandate to set an election on the District's resolution. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal was whether the District's resolution to apply to the Commission for a dissolution could be challenged through the voter referendum process. The Court concluded the District's resolution was not subject to referendum because, among other reasons, the Reorganization Act prescribed the exclusive method for dissolving, and/or protesting the proposed dissolution of, a fire protection district and the resolution was administrative in nature under the Reorganization Act. Accordingly, the trial court did not err, and the judgment was affirmed. View "Southcott v. Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection Dist." on Justia Law

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This case involved Florida's practice of counting vote-by-mail ballots only after verifying that the voter's signature provided with the ballot matches the voter's signature in the state's records. At issue in this appeal was NRSC's motion for emergency stay. The court denied NRSC's motion and held that NRSC failed to satisfy the requirements for the issuance of a stay. The court applied the factors in Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434 (2009), and held that NRSC has not made a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on appeal. In this case, NRSC has not made a strong showing that the burden imposed on the right to vote is constitutional as judged by the Anderson-Burdick balancing test and NRSC has not made a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on the merits of its laches argument. The court also held that the remaining Nken factors similarly disfavored a stay. View "Democratic Executive Committee of Florida v. Lee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court for Defendants Michael Telesca and Rocco Frank, Jr. in this battle between the Danbury faction and the Waterbury faction over the control of the state’s Independent Party, holding that the trial court’s decision was timely and that the trial court properly construed Conn. Gen. Laws 9-374. In its decision, the trial court ordered Secretary of State Denise W. Merrill to accept candidate endorsements made pursuant to the 2010 bylaws of the Independent Party of CT-State Central - which, together with its officers, led the Danbury faction and filed the complaint - which, in effect, gave the Waterbury faction control over the Independent Party’s statewide nominations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court’s order of supplemental briefing and oral argument concerning its subject matter jurisdiction preserved its personal jurisdiction over the parties by stopping and later restarting the decision period, thus rendering the court’s decision timely; and (2) the trial court properly determined that section 9-374 rendered the 2010 bylaws controlling, as opposed to bylaws that the Danbury faction had previously filed with the Secretary. View "Independent Party of CT-State Central v. Merrill" on Justia Law