Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiffs raised an as-applied challenge to North Carolina's May 17 petition-filing deadline for the formation of new political parties. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs' Rule 50(d) motion where discovery was not necessary to determine the constitutionality of the deadline. Balancing the character and magnitude of the burdens imposed against the extent to which the regulations advanced the state's interests, the court found that North Carolina's choice of May 17 as the operative deadline outweighed the modest burden imposed on plaintiffs. Therefore, the court held that the May 17 petition-filing deadline was constitutional as applied to plaintiffs. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Pisano v. Strach" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed the underlying action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the witness residency requirement on nominating petitions impermissibly burdened their rights to free speech and free association under the First Amendment. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, with the Board's motion premised entirely on its assertion that plaintiffs have not suffered a legally cognizable injury and thus lacked standing. The district court denied the Board's motion as to standing and granted plaintiffs' motion on the merits. The district court declared the witness residency requirement unconstitutional and permanently enjoined its enforcement. Although the Board's witness residency requirement served the Commonwealth's interest in policing fraud potentially permeating the electoral process and therefore meeting the first part of the strict scrutiny standard, the Board produced no concrete evidence of persuasive force explaining why plaintiffs' proposed solution, manifestly less restrictive of their First Amendment rights, would be unworkable or impractical. Accordingly, the court affirmed in all respects the judgment of the district court. View "Libertarian Party of Virginia v. Judd" on Justia Law

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CFIF and WVFL are 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(4) organizations that engage in election-related speech. These organizations and an individual brought suit alleging that West Virginia's campaign finance statutes were constitutionally impermissible. At issue was whether West Virginia's campaign-finance reporting and disclaimer requirements could survive constitutional scrutiny, West Virginia Code section 3-8-1 et seq. The court affirmed the district court's decisions to (1) strike "newspaper, magazine or other periodical" from West Virginia's "electioneering communication" definition; (2) upheld the "electioneering communication" definition's exemption for grassroots lobbying; (3) declined to consider the merits of the CFIF's challenge to the bona fide news account exemption because the organization lacked standing; and (4) prohibited prosecutions for violations that occurred while the earlier injunctions were in effect. However, the court reversed the district court's decision with respect to (1) its conclusion that subsection (C) of the "expressly advocating" definition was unconstitutional; (2) its choice to uphold the "electioneering communication" definition's section 501(c)(3) exemption; and (3) its application of an "earmarked funds" limiting construction to the reporting requirement for electioneering communications. Because WVFL did not file a notice of appeal in this case, the court could not consider its challenge to the district court's finding that the statutory scheme's twenty-four- and forty-eight-hour reporting requirements were constitutional. Consequently, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Center for Individual Freedom v. Tennant, et al." on Justia Law

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The Government appealed the district court's grant of Defendants-Appellees WIlliam Danielczyk and Eugene Biagi's motion to dismiss count four, paragraph 10(b) of their indictment, which alleged that they conspired and facilitated direct contributions to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign in violation of federal election laws. The district court reasoned that in light of "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission" (130 S.Ct. 876 (2010)), section 441b(a) of the Election Campaign Act of 1971 was unconstitutional as applied to Appellees. Upon review, the Fourth Circuit disagreed with the district court and reversed, finding that the lower court misapplied "Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont," (539 U.S. 146 (2003)) as the basis for its dismissal of count four. View "United States v. Danielczyk" on Justia Law

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This suit arose after Project Vote learned that students at Norfolk State University, a historically African-American college, experienced problems in registering to vote in the November 2008 primary and general elections in Virginia. At issue was whether Section 8(i)(l) of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which required public disclosure of "all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters," 42 U.S.C. 1973gg-6(i)(l), applied to completed voter registration applications. The court held that the district court correctly interpreted Section 8(i)(l), concluding that it did not apply to such applications and holding that defendants had violated the NVRA by refusing to disclose the completed applications with voters' Social Security numbers redacted. View "Project Vote v. Long" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a North Carolina registered lobbyist, commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the North Carolina State Board of elections to challenge the constitutionality of North Carolina's "Campaign Contributions Prohibition," N.C. Gen. Stat. 163-278.13C, which prohibited any registered lobbyist from contributing to the campaign of any candidate for the North Carolina General Assembly or the Council of State. Applying the "closely drawn" standard of scrutiny that the court concluded was applicable to such contribution restrictions, the court held that the statute was constitutional, both facially and as applied to plaintiff, as a valid exercise of North Carolina's legislative prerogative to address potential corruption and the appearance of corruption in the State. View "Preston v. Leake, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2010, plaintiff's application for ballot placement as an independent candidate for Congress was denied due to his failure to comply with the state’s requirement that each petition signature be witnessed by a district resident. The district court dismissed a challenge to the requirement, relying in part on a 1985 Fourth Circuit case. The Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded, holding that its rationale in the earlier case has been superseded by subsequent Supreme Court decisions. The district court should determine whether the in-district witness requirement is justified by a state's desire to gauge the depth of a candidate's support. Plaintiff's supporters lack standing, but the plaintiff's challenge is not moot. There is a reasonable expectation that the challenged provisions will be applied against the plaintiff again during future election cycles. View "Lux v. Judd" on Justia Law