Justia Election Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Chamness v. Maldonado
Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of certain sections of California Senate Bill 6 (SB 6). SB 6, implementing California's Proposition 14 (Prop. 14), fundamentally changes the California election system by eliminating party primaries and general elections with party-nominated candidates, and substituting a nonpartisan primary and a two-candidate runoff. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the appeal; Plaintiff Chamness' case was not moot where his claim was capable of repetition because future election administrators would deny him the ability to use the designation "Independent" on the primary ballot; Plaintiffs Frederick's and Wilson's appeal were moot because they only sought declaratory relief affecting future elections; and Intervenor Galacki's claims regarding his write-in candidacy and the vote he cast for himself in the general election were moot. In Case No. 11-56449, the court held that Chamness failed to establish that SB 6 severely burdened his rights, and upheld the constitutionality of the statute as reasonably related to furthering the state's important interest in efficiently regulating elections. In Case No. 56303, the court held that the trial court acted well within its discretion in concluding that allowing Galacki to intervene would entail substantial delays and inefficiencies resolving the case, and in therefore denying Galacki's motion as untimely. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's order granting defendants summary judgment and denying Galacki's motion to intervene. View "Chamness v. Maldonado" on Justia Law
Sanders Cnty. Republican Cent. Comm. v. Fox, et al.
The Committee filed suit seeking a declaration that certain portions of a Montana statute making it a criminal offense for any political party to "endorse, contribute to, or make an expenditure to support or oppose a judicial candidate" in a nonpartisan judicial election, Mont. Code Ann. 13-35-231, were unconstitutional and requesting an injunction against its enforcement. The court concluded that, to the extent appellants challenged the permanent injunction against enforcement of section 13-35-231's ban on endorsements and expenditures, the court was bound to follow its published decision finding those provisions unconstitutional. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's entry of a permanent injunction as it pertains to those portions of the statute. However, the district court mistakenly entered a permanent injunction against the enforcement of section 13-35-231 in its entirety. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to revise the permanent injunction so that it enjoined only the statute's ban on endorsements and expenditures, and not the statute's ban on contributions. View "Sanders Cnty. Republican Cent. Comm. v. Fox, et al." on Justia Law
Libertarian Party Los Angeles, et al v. Bowen
Plaintiffs brought a pre-enforcement action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against defendant, the California Secretary of State. At issue were the California Elections Code sections 8066 and 8451, which mandated that circulators shall be voters in the district or political subdivision in which the candidate was to be voted on and shall serve only in that district or political subdivision. Plaintiffs alleged that the residency requirement violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments and sought to enjoin its enforcement. The court reversed and remanded the district court's dismissal of the complaint on the ground that plaintiffs lacked standing, holding that plaintiffs have alleged a sufficient injury-in-fact to meet constitutional standing requirements. In light of plaintiffs' concrete plan and defendant's specific threat of enforcement, the court concluded that plaintiffs have met the constitutional "case or controversy" requirement. View "Libertarian Party Los Angeles, et al v. Bowen" on Justia Law
Lair, et al v. Bullock, et al
The district court concluded that the State of Montana's contribution limits in Montana Code Annotated 13-37-216 were unconstitutional under the First Amendment and permanently enjoined the State from enforcing its campaign contribution limits. The State sought a stay of the district court's order, pending appeal. The court concluded that the state was likely to succeed on appeal. The court concluded that the State had made a strong showing that a merits panel of the court would likely conclude that, absent en banc proceedings or an intervening decision of the Supreme Court, the court remained bound by its decision in Mont. Right to Life Ass'n v. Eddleman. The court also concluded that a merits panel was likely to hold that the analytical framework of the Supreme Court's decision in Randall v. Sorrell did not alter the analysis of Buckley v. Valeo or Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC in a way that affected the court's decision in Eddleman. In light of the State's interest in regulating campaign contributions, the lack of evidence that other parties would be substantially injured, and the public's substantial interest in the stability of its electoral system in the final weeks leading to an election, the court will stay the order pending the state's appeal. View "Lair, et al v. Bullock, et al" on Justia Law
Schmidt v. Contra Costa County, et al
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that she broke an unwritten rule and suffered the consequences when she challenged a sitting superior court judge for his seat in a local election while she was serving as a temporary superior court commissioner. The court concluded that, while the timing and targeted effect of the superior court's policy were suspicious, the court did not reach the merits of plaintiff's federal or state law retaliation claims because the judges of the superior court's Executive Committee enjoyed legislative immunity for their decision to alter the minimum qualifications to serve as a temporary commissioner. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Schmidt v. Contra Costa County, et al" on Justia Law
Crowley v. State of Nevada, et al.
Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. Plaintiff alleged that defendants violated the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), 42 U.S.C. 15301-15545, by failing to conduct a general election recount, in which plaintiff lost, in accordance with HAVA provisions. Because HAVA section 301 was not intended to benefit voters and candidates in local elections with respect to recounts, such individuals did not have a private right of action under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims for failure to state a claim. View "Crowley v. State of Nevada, et al." on Justia Law
Gonzalez, et al. v. State of Arizona, et al.
Proposition 200, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-166(F)(the registration provision), required prospective voters in Arizona to provide proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote and required registered voters to show identification to cast a ballot at the polls, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-579(A)(the poll place provision). At issue on appeal was whether Proposition 200 violated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), 42 U.S.C. 1973, was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment or Twenty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution, or was void as inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), 42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq. The court upheld Proposition 200's requirement that voters show identification at the polling place, but concluded that the NVRA superseded Proposition 200's registration provision as that provision was applied to applicants using the National Mail Voter Registration Form to register to vote in federal elections. View "Gonzalez, et al. v. State of Arizona, et al." on Justia Law
United States v. Nguyen
Defendant was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice for failing to disclose the full extent of his knowledge regarding the mailing of a letter that could reasonably be believed to constitute an attempt at voter intimidation. Defendant, a Republican candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives at the time, contended that there was insufficient probable cause to support the issuance of the warrant and that, therefore, the evidence obtained pursuant to it should have been suppressed at his trial. The court held that there was sufficient probable cause to support the issuance of the warrant to search defendant's home and campaign headquarters. The court rejected defendant's First Amendment claim. Although defendant was never prosecuted for a violation of the election laws, in light of the contents of the letter and the facts surrounding its distribution, there was a fair probability that the campaign mailing constituted a tactic of intimidation intended to induce its recipients to refrain from voting. Accordingly, the order of the district court denying the motion to suppress was affirmed. View "United States v. Nguyen" on Justia Law
Angle, et al. v. Miller
The Nevada Constitution authorized the citizens of Nevada to enact statutes and amend the Nevada Constitution through the initiative process. To place an initiative on the ballot, proponents must obtain signatures from a number of registered voters equal to 10 percent of the votes cast in the previous general election. This signature requirement was also subject to a geographic distribution requirement known as the All Districts Rule. Plaintiffs sought an order declaring the All Districts Rule unconstitutional and enjoining the state from enforcing it. The court held that plaintiffs have not demonstrated the existence of a genuine issue on their claims that the All Districts Rule violated either the Equal Protection Clause or the First Amendment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Angle, et al. v. Miller" on Justia Law
Hunt v. County of Orange, et al.
Plaintiff, the Chief of Police Services for the City of San Clemente, sued defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983 after plaintiff was placed on administrative leave after he ran for, and lost, the election of Orange County Sheriff-Coroner. Plaintiff claimed that his placement on administrative leave and subsequent demotion were in unconstitutional retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights. The district court concluded that plaintiff's campaign speech was not protected by the First Amendment because he fell into the narrow "policymaker" exception to the general rule against politically-motivated dismissals. Although the court determined that the district court erred in this conclusion, the court agreed that the district court's alternative holding that Michael Carona, the incumbent Orange County Sheriff who won the election at issue, was entitled to qualified immunity because a government official in his position "reasonably but mistakenly" could have believed that political loyalty was required by someone with plaintiff's job responsibilities at the time he ran against Carona. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Hunt v. County of Orange, et al." on Justia Law