Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Legal Ethics
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Adams, a resident and member of the State Bar of Delaware, wanted to be considered for a state judicial position. Following the announcement of several judicial vacancies, Adams considered applying but ultimately chose not to because the announcement required that the candidate be a Republican. Because Adams was neither a Republican nor a Democrat, he concluded that any application he submitted would be futile. Adams challenged the Delaware Constitution's provision that effectively limits service on state courts to members of the Democratic and Republican parties, citing Supreme Court precedent: A provision that limits a judicial candidate’s freedom to associate (or not to associate) with the political party of his choice is unconstitutional. The governor responded that because judges are policymakers, there are no constitutional restraints on his hiring decisions. The Third Circuit ruled in favor of Adams, concluding that judges are not policymakers because whatever decisions judges make in any given case relates to the case under review and not to partisan political interests. The portions of Delaware’s constitution that limit Adams’s ability to apply for a judicial position while associating with the political party of his choice violate his First Amendment rights. View "Adams v. Governor of Delaware" on Justia Law

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In Ohio, judges in all courts of record are selected by election. Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 4, governs the fundraising and political conduct of judicial candidates. Platt, an Ohio attorney, formed the Platt for Judge Campaign Committee in 2013. Platt believes that parts of Canon 4 violate his rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection: Rule 4.1(A)(2), which prohibits a candidate from making speeches on behalf of a political party or another candidate for office; Rule 4.1(A)(3), which prohibits a candidate from publicly endorsing or opposing a candidate for another public office; Rule 4.4(A), which, save for three exceptions, prohibits a judicial candidate from personally soliciting campaign contributions; Rule 4.4(E), which creates a permissible window for soliciting and receiving campaign contributions; Rule 4.4(F), which limits the solicitation and receipt of contributions for candidates defeated before the general election; and Rule 4.4(G), which regulates the solicitation and receipt of contributions for candidates who die or withdraw from the election. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rejection of all of Platt’s claims. Ohio’s rules strike the delicate balance between the Constitution’s commands and the state’s desire to protect judicial integrity. View "Platt v. Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline of the Ohio Supreme Court" on Justia Law

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Judge Persky was appointed to the superior court in 2003 and has been reelected. Dauber and others submitted a “Petition for Recall of Judge Aaron Persky” to the Registrar of Voters (Elections Code 11006, 11020-11022). Judge Persky responded that under the California Constitution, the Secretary of State was the proper official for the recall of state officers and that the petition contained an “incorrect and misleading” demand for an election to choose a successor because a vacancy would be filled by the Governor. An amended recall petition was submitted to the Registrar and approved for circulation. Judge Persky sought a temporary restraining order to compel the Registrar to withdraw its certification and refer the matter to the Secretary of State; to enjoin the petition’s circulation until the Secretary of State certified it; and to enjoin circulation while the petition contained the "misleading" statement. The court of appeal affirmed that the Registrar was the proper official to approve recall petitions for superior court judges and that the Persky recall petition was not misleading. The statutory process for recall of a “local officer” was expressly made applicable to recall of a superior court judge and is not contrary to the state constitution; it does not impermissibly distinguish between appellate courts and superior courts, including their classification as “state” or “local” officers. View "Perksy v. Bushey" on Justia Law

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Judge Persky was appointed to the superior court in 2003 and has been reelected. Dauber and others submitted a “Petition for Recall of Judge Aaron Persky” to the Registrar of Voters (Elections Code 11006, 11020-11022). Judge Persky responded that under the California Constitution, the Secretary of State was the proper official for the recall of state officers and that the petition contained an “incorrect and misleading” demand for an election to choose a successor because a vacancy would be filled by the Governor. An amended recall petition was submitted to the Registrar and approved for circulation. Judge Persky sought a temporary restraining order to compel the Registrar to withdraw its certification and refer the matter to the Secretary of State; to enjoin the petition’s circulation until the Secretary of State certified it; and to enjoin circulation while the petition contained the "misleading" statement. The court of appeal affirmed that the Registrar was the proper official to approve recall petitions for superior court judges and that the Persky recall petition was not misleading. The statutory process for recall of a “local officer” was expressly made applicable to recall of a superior court judge and is not contrary to the state constitution; it does not impermissibly distinguish between appellate courts and superior courts, including their classification as “state” or “local” officers. View "Perksy v. Bushey" on Justia Law

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Intervening defendants could not be required to pay a portion of prevailing plaintiffs' attorneys fees and costs, awarded under 42 U.S.C. 1988(b) and 52 U.S.C. 10310(e), when intervening defendants were not charged with any wrongdoing and could not be held liable for the relief that plaintiffs sought. In Independent Federation of Flight Attendants v. Zipes, 491 U.S. 754 (1989), the Supreme Court precluded the assessment of attorneys fees and costs against intervenors who were "blameless," meaning that they were not charged as wrongdoers and legal relief could not have been obtained from them. In this racial gerrymandering case, the Fourth Circuit held that Zipes was controlling and that the Commonwealth could not be held liable for attorneys fees and costs incurred by plaintiffs in litigating against the entry of Intervening Congressmen or against Intervening Congressmen's positions. Under the traditional American rule, plaintiffs must bear those intervention-related fees. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order awarding attorneys fees and costs, remanding for reconsideration of plaintiffs' petitions for fees. View "Brat v. Personhuballah" on Justia Law

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Intervening defendants could not be required to pay a portion of prevailing plaintiffs' attorneys fees and costs, awarded under 42 U.S.C. 1988(b) and 52 U.S.C. 10310(e), when intervening defendants were not charged with any wrongdoing and could not be held liable for the relief that plaintiffs sought. In Independent Federation of Flight Attendants v. Zipes, 491 U.S. 754 (1989), the Supreme Court precluded the assessment of attorneys fees and costs against intervenors who were "blameless," meaning that they were not charged as wrongdoers and legal relief could not have been obtained from them. In this racial gerrymandering case, the Fourth Circuit held that Zipes was controlling and that the Commonwealth could not be held liable for attorneys fees and costs incurred by plaintiffs in litigating against the entry of Intervening Congressmen or against Intervening Congressmen's positions. Under the traditional American rule, plaintiffs must bear those intervention-related fees. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order awarding attorneys fees and costs, remanding for reconsideration of plaintiffs' petitions for fees. View "Brat v. Personhuballah" on Justia Law

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Once removed from office, a justice court judge may not return to it by reelection or otherwise Former Justice Court Judge Rickey Thompson challenged the Lee County Democratic Executive Committee’s decision to withhold his name from the general-election ballot for a new term as a justice court judge, based on the Court’s order removing him from the office of justice court judge prior to the election. The circuit court dismissed Thompson’s case, finding him ineligible for judicial office. The Mississippi Supreme Court concurred with the circuit court and affirmed. Thompson also claimed that the proper procedures for removing him from the ballot were not followed, as neither the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance nor the Lee County Election Commission had authority to disqualify him. Because the Supreme Court held that Thompson’s removal was permanent, it did not address whether the proper procedures for removing him from the ballot were followed. View "Thompson v. Mississippi Attorney General" on Justia Law

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In 1976, Nevada’s voters approved the creation of the Commission on Judicial Discipline through constitutional amendment. In this case, a group of individuals within the City of North Las Vegas sought to remove a municipal judge through a special recall election rather than through the system of judicial discipline established by the majority of voters in 1976. The municipal judge sought an emergency injunction from the district court and also filed a complaint challenging the legal sufficiency of the recall petition. The district court denied all of the municipal judge’s claims, concluding that judges are “public officers” subject to recall under the Nevada Constitution and that the form of the petition did not violate the judge’s constitutional rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the recall petition against the municipal judge was invalid because the drafters of the constitutional amendment at issue and the electorate who approved it intended that recall no longer be an available means of removing a judge from office. View "Honorable Catherine Ramsey v. City of North Las Vegas" on Justia Law

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), intended “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education,” 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A), permits parents and legal guardians to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs if they prevail in certain statutorily prescribed proceedings. In calculating a fee award, courts consider the “number of hours reasonably expended in litigation” and the “reasonable hourly rate,” determined in part by reference to the prevailing market rate for attorneys’ services. The plaintiffs, having prevailed in IDEA proceedings, sought attorneys’ fees and costs related to those proceedings and an award of “fees-on-fees” for work done in connection with their pursuit of fees for the IDEA proceedings. The district court granted both requests, but did not award the full amounts requested. The D.C. Circuit reversed in part, agreeing that the district court erred in excluding certain hours spent at “settlement conferences.” The court upheld determinations that the IDEA matters were not “complex federal litigation” to which the Laffey Matrix should apply and to apply the same rate to the initial fee and fees-on-fees awards. Plaintiffs forfeited claims raised for the first time on appeal: that their affidavits independently demonstrated a prevailing IDEA market rate that aligns with the Laffey Matrix and that the rates awarded were insufficient to attract competent counsel. View "Reed v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Months before the 2012 presidential election, based on a change in state law, Ohio sought to undo a federal consent decree (Decree) that required Ohio to count provisional ballots cast by voters who appeared in the correct polling location but lacked certain identification and ballots cast in the right polling place but wrong precinct due to poll-worker error. In the NEOCH decision, the Decree was upheld and extended for one presidential cycle; the SEIU plaintiffs obtained injunctive relief requiring Ohio to count the votes. The plaintiffs sought attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988 for their 2012 work defending the Decree, their 2013 work obtaining an extension of the Decree, and the work performed to obtain a 2012 preliminary injunction and a 2013 permanent injunction. Using the lodestar method, the court awarded fees in both cases, limiting the fees for pursuing fees to 3% of the main case, citing the Sixth Circuit’s Coulter rule (capping fees for fees). The court awarded $2 million in fees to 25 attorneys for over 6,000 hours in the two cases. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, as reasonable, the hours and rates, except rates awarded to attorneys from California, and abrogated the Coulter 3% cap on fees for fees as inconsistent with intervening Supreme Court authority. View "NE Ohio Coal. v. Husted" on Justia Law