Articles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Eight defendants who held positions with Clay County, Kentucky, were charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d), based on participation in a vote-buying scheme in three election cycles, 2002 to 2007. Candidates pooled money to pay “vote haulers” to deliver voters for a particular slate of candidates. To ensure that they voted for the correct slate, co-conspiring election officers and poll workers reviewed the ballots. When the proper slate was confirmed, the voter got a token or marking and was paid in a location away from the polls. Conspirators retained lists to avoid double payments and to keep track of whose votes could be bought in future elections and used absentee voting and voter-assistance forms to implement the scheme. When electronic voting machines were introduced, conspiring poll workers misinformed voters that they did not need to click “cast ballot” after selecting candidates; poll workers would enter the voting booth after the voter exited and change the electronic ballot to reflect the slate before casting the ballot. The Clay County Board of Elections was alleged to be the racketeering enterprise in the conspiracy. They were convicted after a seven week trial. The Sixth Circuit vacated, based on cumulative errors in evidentiary rulings. View "United States v. Adams" on Justia Law

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Governor Strickland appointed Terry to fill a vacancy on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Terry sought reelection to retain the seat and enlisted the help of County Auditor Russo, a presence in Cleveland politics. The FBI was investigating Russo and had tapped his phones. Russo had a phone conversation with an attorney about foreclosure cases on Terry’s docket and promised to make sure Terry did what he was “supposed to do.” Later, by phone, Russo told Terry to deny motions for summary judgment. Terry said he would and did so. Russo ultimately pled guilty to 21political corruption counts and received a 262-month prison sentence. Terry was convicted of conspiring with Russo to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud; and honest services fraud by accepting things of value from Russo and others in exchange for favorable official action, 18 U.S.C. 201(b)(2).. The district court sentenced him to 63 months. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, quoting once-Speaker of the California General Assembly, Jesse Unruh, “If you can’t eat [lobbyists’] food, drink their booze, . . . take their money and then vote against them, you’ve got no business being [in politics],” View "United States v. Terry" on Justia Law

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Minor political parties sought ballot access (Green Party of Tennessee and Constitution Party of Tennessee) and sued, alleging that requirements to qualify for the Tennessee ballot as a “recognized minor party” were overly restrictive and impermissibly burdened First Amendment rights and were unconstitutionally vague and constituted improper delegation of legislative authority; that provisions governing the order in which political parties are listed on the general-election ballot violate the Equal Protection Clause; and that prohibition on the use of the words “independent” and “nonpartisan” in minor-party names contravenes the First Amendment. The district court granted plaintiffs summary judgment on all claims, enjoined enforcement, ordered that the plaintiffs be placed on the November 2012 ballot, and directed the state to conduct random drawing to determine the order in which each party would appear on the ballot. The Sixth Circuit granted a stay with respect to the random-public-drawing. In the meantime, the Tennessee General Assembly amended some, but not all, of the invalidated provisions, relaxing the requirements. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court erred on some claims, that some claims were moot, and that the trial court should initially determine the validity of the amendments. View "Green Party of TN v. Hargett" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit granted Ohio a stay of the district court’s October 26 order granting a preliminary injunction that requires the state to count provisional ballots cast in the wrong polling place due to poll-worker error (wrong-place/wrong-precinct ballots) in the November election. The court previously affirmed an order that Ohio count right-place/wrong-precinct provisional ballots caused by poll-worker error. Plaintiffs failed to show strong likelihood of success on the merits of constitutional claims concerning wrong-place/wrong-precinct ballots. The salient feature of the right-place/ wrong-precinct problem was disenfranchisement, by worker error, of voters who arrive at the correct place, a situation caused by Ohio’s system of multi-precinct polling places. Though voters rely on workers to direct them to the proper precinct in the polling place, they are not as dependent in identifying their correct polling place. Ohio law requires officials to provide notice of where they are eligible to vote; information is easily accessible. There is sparse evidence of workers sending voters to the wrong polling location. The state has a legitimate interest in maintaining its precinct-based voting system; there is a strong public interest that militates against changing the rules during early voting. The injunction would interfere with orderly election administration and cause confusion among poll workers and voters. View "Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Local 1 v. Husted" on Justia Law

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Ohio requires that provisional ballots be cast in the correct precinct, with a completed voter affirmation, making no exception for wrong-precinct and deficient-affirmation ballots caused by poll-worker error, O.R.C. 3505.183(B)(4)(a)(ii)–(iii) and (B)(4)(b)(ii). A 2010 consent decree required the counting of certain wrong-precinct and deficient-affirmation provisional ballots where poll-worker error caused the nonconformity and the voters used the last four digits of their social security number for identification to cast their ballots. The ballot of a provisional voter using any other form of identification (e.g., current photo identification, current utility bill, paycheck) would not be counted.The district court denied a motion to vacate the decree and entered a preliminary injunction requiring the counting of all wrong-precinct and deficient-affirmation provisional ballots to remedy systemic exclusion of nonconforming ballots caused by poll-worker error. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the wrong-precinct remedy and reversed the deficient affirmation remedy and remanded for the district court to address the equal protection issue created by the consent decree’s provision for counting deficient-affirmation ballots by voters providing social security numbers, and a motion to modify the consent decree in light of the equal protection concerns raised by the consent decree’s differential treatment of provisional ballots. View "NE Coal. for the Homeless v. Husted" on Justia Law

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In July 2012, Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee, and the Ohio Democratic Party filed a complaint, alleging that Ohio Rev. Code 3509.03 was unconstitutional insofar as it imposed on non-military voters a deadline of 6:00 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day for in-person early voting. Military service associations were allowed to intervene. The district court entered a preliminary injunction, finding that the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding the plaintiffs likely to succeed on the merits. Neither of the state’s justifications was sufficient to justify the distinction imposed by the law. View "Obama for Am. v. Husted" on Justia Law

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Jolivette served as a Republican State Legislator and Butler County Commissioner, 1997-2010; he also served on the Butler County Republican Party’s Central Committee. In November 2011, Jolivette filed a Declaration of Candidacy to run as a Republican for the Office of State Representative for Ohio’s 51st House District. Pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code 3513.05, Jolivette submitted part-petitions containing 72 signatures; he failed to sign one, containing 17 signatures, and six signatures on the other signed petitions were of “questionable validity.” The Board of Elections met; Jolivette argued in favor of certifying his petition. Two weeks later Jolivette withdrew his candidacy as a Republican and resigned from the Republican Party Central Committee. He prepared a nominating petition to run as an independent candidate for the same office and did not vote in any party primary. Members of the Republican Party challenged his candidacy on the basis that he was not unaffiliated from the Republican Party. The Board of Elections approved Jolivette’s petition, but scheduled a protest hearing. After the protest was granted, Jolivette filed suit. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding no merit to Jolivette’s constitutional claims. View "Jolivette v. Husted" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Service Employees International Union, Local 1199 sued Blackwell, then Ohio Secretary of State, challenging provisions of Ohio’s 2006 Voter ID law under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The parties negotiated consent orders in 2006 and 2008. NEOCH and SEIU successfully sought attorneys’ fees with respect to the 2008 orders. The Ohio Secretary of State appealed the fee and cost award, and the parties ultimately negotiated a consent decree signed by the district court in April 2010. In June 2010, the plaintiffs again sought attorneys’ fees and costs, for work performed regarding prior motions for attorneys’ fees submitted in the litigation, during the appeal of the award of attorneys’ fees, and negotiating the consent decree. The district court granted the motion in part, but because it found that the motion regarded a supplemental fee request, it reduced the fee award to three percent of the award granted in the main case. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting the state’s argument that the 2010 consent decree was a settlement in full of all of the plaintiffs’ claims, waiving any claim for further attorneys’ fees. View "NE OH Coalition for Homeless v. Sec'y of State of OH" on Justia Law

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State Attorney-General and county-prosecutor candidates may not accept campaign contributions from Medicaid providers or any person with an ownership interest in a Medicaid provider, Ohio Rev. Code 3599.45. The plaintiff physicians are Medicaid providers who attempted to contribute to Cordray’s 2010 campaign for reelection as Ohio Attorney General. When the campaign learned that the plaintiffs were Medicaid providers, however, it refused to accept their contributions. The plaintiffs challenged the statute. The district court upheld the law as supported by a general interest in “preventing corruption,” stating that the court should not “second guess” the Ohio Legislature’s means of furthering that interest. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The contribution ban is not closely drawn to “avoid unnecessary abridgement of associational freedoms.” A claim that the law prevents corruption, is “dubious at best.” View "Lavin v. Husted" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of MCL 169.252(1), which sets limits on individual campaign contributions per “election cycle,” and includes criminal penalties. Plaintiff attested that he wished to make contributions to the candidate committees of individuals running for state House and state Senate in Michigan in 2010 in excess of the limits imposed for an individual. The district court denied a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court properly considered that there was no showing of irreparable harm to plaintiff while there would be significant harm to defendant and the public if a preliminary injunction issued; that the only hard evidence in the case was that the statutory limits are not indexed to inflation, a showing that did not lead to the conclusion that plaintiff had a strong likelihood of success on the merits; and that there was no empirical evidence to determine the effect of individual contribution limits on the power to mount a campaign. View "McNeilly v. Land" on Justia Law