Justia Election Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Farris, et al. v. Seabrook, et al.
The district court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the State of Washington from enforcing its limitation on contributions to political committees supporting the recall of a state or county official. The court concluded that plaintiffs satisfied their burden under Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., to demonstrate that the contribution limit was likely an unconstitutional and harmful burden on plaintiffs' rights of free speech under the First Amendment. Accordingly, the district court did not err in granting the injunction and the court affirmed the judgment. View "Farris, et al. v. Seabrook, et al." on Justia Law
Washington State Republican Party, et al. v. Washington State Grange, et al.
This case concerned the Washington State Grange's proposed People's Choice Initiative of 2004, or Initiative 872. I-872 created a "top two" primary in which the primary served as a means of winnowing the candidates to two rather than selecting party nominees. At issue was whether the State of Washington had designed its election ballots in a manner that eliminated the risk of widespread voter confusion, a question left unresolved in Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party. The court held that the state had done so. The ballots, and related informational material, informed voters that, although each candidate for partisan office could specify a political party that he or she preferred, a candidate's preference did not imply that the candidate was nominated or endorsed by the party, or that the party approved of or associated with that candidate. Given the design of the ballot, and in the absence of evidence of actual voter confusion, the court held that Washington's top primary system, as implemented by the state, did not violate the First Amendment associational rights of the state's political parties. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' ballot access and trademark claims. The court reversed the district court's order granting the state's request for reimbursement of attorney's fees paid in accordance with a 2006 stipulation. View "Washington State Republican Party, et al. v. Washington State Grange, et al." on Justia Law
Family Pac v. McKenna, et al.
Plaintiff, a continuing political committee, alleged that three provisions of Washington election law violated the First Amendment as applied to ballot measure committees. The court held that Washington's disclosure requirements, Washington Revised Code, 42.17.090, and Washington Administrative Code 390-16-034, which required these committees to disclose the name and address of contributors giving more than $25, and additionally to disclose the employer and occupation of contributors giving more than $100, survived exacting scrutiny because they were substantially related to the important governmental interest in informing the electorate. The court held that Washington Revised Code 42.17.105(8), which prohibited a political committee from accepting from any one person contributions exceeding $5,000 within 21 days of a general election, was not closely drawn to achieve the state's important interest in informing the electorate. Therefore, section 42.17.105(8) was therefore unconstitutional as applied to ballot measure committees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Family Pac v. McKenna, et al." on Justia Law
Drake, et al. v. Obama, et al.; Barnett, et al. v. Obama, et al.
Plaintiffs contended that Barack Obama was constitutionally ineligible to be President of the United States. In addition to plaintiffs' constitutional claims, as well as their claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their quo warranto claims for improper venue; their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552 et seq., claims for failure to state a claim; and their Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq., claims against defendants First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, for failure to state a claim. The court adopted the district court's classification of the parties and held that each plaintiff lacked standing; the proper venue for plaintiffs' quo warranto claims was in the District of Columbia, pursuant to D.C. Code 16-3503; FOIA did not apply to any of defendants because they were all individuals, not agencies; and plaintiffs had six months between the original complaint and the amended complaint to attempt to set forth civil RICO allegations and their failure to do so was inexcusable. Accordingly, the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' constitutional claims for lack of Article III standing and the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' quo warranto, FOIA, or RICO claims. The dismissal of the district court was affirmed and the emergency petition for writ of mandamus was denied. View "Drake, et al. v. Obama, et al.; Barnett, et al. v. Obama, et al." on Justia Law
United States v. Bagdasarian
This case stemmed from defendant's convictions for making two statements regarding Barack Obama on an online message board two weeks before the presidential election. At issue was whether the district court properly convicted defendant under 18 U.S.C. 879(a)(3), which made it a felony to threaten to kill or do bodily harm to a major presidential candidate. The court held that, taking the two statements at issue in the context of all of the relevant facts and circumstances, the court held that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant had the subjective intent to threaten a presidential candidate. For the same reasons, given any reasonable construction of the words in defendant's postings, these statements did not constitute a "true threat," and were therefore protected speech under the First Amendment. Accordingly, defendant's convictions were reversed. View "United States v. Bagdasarian" on Justia Law
Thalheimer, et al. v. City of San Diego
This action stemmed from the City of San Diego's Municipal Election Campaign Control Ordinance, San Diego, Cal., Municipal Code ch. 2, art. 7, div. 29, which imposed limitations on campaign finance. Plaintiffs raised a First Amendment challenge to the campaign finance laws. The district court considered the provisions and generally upheld the city's pure contribution limits but enjoined a provision that restricted both the fundraising and spending of independent political committees. Both parties cross-appealed the district court's grant in part of preliminary injunctions for certain provisions at issue. The court affirmed the district court's judgment because the district court properly applied the applicable preliminary injunction standard in the context of the presently discernible rules governing campaign finance restrictions. View "Thalheimer, et al. v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law
Dudum, et al v. Arutz, et al
Plaintiffs filed a suit in federal court seeking injunctive relief against the City and County of San Francisco and its election officials (collectively, "city") alleging that when more than four candidates run for a particular office, the restricted instant runoff voting ("IRV") system precluded some groups of voters from participating to the same extent as others. At issue was whether the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the city where plaintiffs alleged that the restricted IRV system was unconstitutional by violating the First Amendment, the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court held that, if the aspects of the city's restricted IRV system scheme imposed any burdens on voters' constitutional rights to vote, they were minimal at best. The court also held that the city had advanced valid, sufficiently-important interests to justify using its system. Accordingly, the court held that plaintiffs had not established that the city's chosen IRV system was unconstitutional and affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city.