Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

by
The LNC filed suit alleging that the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which imposes limits on both donors and recipients of political contributions, violates its First Amendment rights. This case stemmed from a dispute regarding how the LNC can spend the $235,000 Joseph Shaber left to it when he passed away. The LNC argued that FECA violates its First Amendment rights in two ways: first, by imposing any limits on the LNC's ability to accept Shaber's contribution, given that he is dead; and second, by permitting donors to triple the size of their contributions, but only if the recipient party spends the money on specified categories of expenses. The DC Circuit held that the current version of FECA—both its application of contribution limits to Shaber's bequest and its use of a two-tiered contribution limit—has achieved a constitutionally permissible balance. Although the court denied the Commission's motion to dismiss for lack of standing, the court rejected LNC's constitutional challenges on the merits. View "Libertarian National Committee v. FEC" on Justia Law

by
In this redacted appeal, the DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision refusing to enjoin the FEC from releasing information identifying a trust and its trustee in connection with a misreported federal campaign contribution. Plaintiffs claim that the Commission's release of documents identifying them would violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The court held that FECA's provisions and the regulations thereunder did not bar the disclosure and authorized the Commission's action; Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), foreclosed plaintiffs' claim that the First Amendment barred the Commission from publicly identifying them; and FOIA could not be used to prevent the Commission from publicly revealing plaintiffs' identities. View "Doe 1 v. FEC" on Justia Law

by
Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, candidates for certain offices, including the Presidency, must file financial disclosures with the Federal Election Commission, 5 U.S.C. 103(e). A presidential candidate’s financial disclosure must include the “identity and category of the total liabilities owed to any creditor.” Reviewing officials determined that then-candidate Trump’s disclosures were “in apparent compliance.” Lovitky alleged that the disclosure included both personal and business liabilities, in violation of the Act, which “requires disclosure of only those liabilities for which candidates are themselves liable . . . or for which the spouse or dependent child of the candidate are liable.” Candidate Trump, Lovitky argued, “obscured his liabilities by commingling them with the liabilities of business entities.” Lovitky sought an order requiring amendment of the report. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The only possible basis of jurisdiction, the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. 1361, refers to actions “to compel an officer of the United States to perform his duty.” The Ethics Act obligation is not a “duty” under the Mandamus Act, which includes only those obligations that pertain to a defendant’s public office. Detaching the duty from the office could lead to serious incongruities. For example, where an officer is sued in his official capacity, FRCP 25(d) automatically substitutes as defendant the official’s successor in office, so that, under the Ethics Act, a public official could be compelled to perform the personal financial disclosure duties of his predecessor. View "Lovitky v. Trump" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners, CREW and its executive director, filed suit alleging that the Commission acted "contrary to law" in 2015 when it dismissed their administrative complaint against an unincorporated association. On appeal, CREW raised the judicial review provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DC Circuit affirmed, holding that the Commission's dismissal of the complaint constituted the "agency action" supporting the district court's jurisdiction. In this case, the district court held that the Commission's explanation of its failure to prosecute was a rational exercise of prosecutorial discretion. The court dismissed CREW's arguments to the contrary. The court addressed remaining issues and the dissent's position before affirming the judgment. View "Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. FEC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act's (FECA), 52 U.S.C. 30116(a)(1)(A), base limits on individual contributions to candidates. The DC Circuit rejected plaintiffs' challenge to Congress's decision to fashion FECA's base contribution limits for individuals as per-election ceilings. The court explained that the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), rejected a constitutional challenge to those ceilings, and that holding remains undisturbed. The Supreme Court reasoned that, as long as a contribution limit is not so low as to prevent candidates from mounting effective campaigns, the judiciary would generally defer to Congress's determination of the limit’s precise amount. The court concluded that the same was true of Congress's intertwined choice of the timeframe in which that amount may be contributed. View "Holmes v. FEC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, the Libertarian Party's presidential and vice presidential candidates in the 2012 elections, filed suit claiming that they were excluded pursuant to an agreement between the Obama for America and Romney for President campaigns. Plaintiffs alleged that the parties' agreement reflected in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) stipulated to three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate, and designated dates, locations, moderators, and topics. Plaintiffs challenged the MOU as an unlawful agreement to monopolize and restrain competition in violation of sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1–2. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case. The court held that the doctrine of constitutional avoidance permitted the court to resolve this case on alternative grounds, based on antitrust standing. The court explained that the injuries plaintiffs claim were simply not those contemplated by the antitrust laws. Furthermore, plaintiffs failed to allege a clear legal claim, let alone identified a cognizable injury, in regard to their First Amendment claim. View "Johnson v. Commission on Presidential Debates" on Justia Law