Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

by
In Ohio, judges in all courts of record are selected by election. Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 4, governs the fundraising and political conduct of judicial candidates. Platt, an Ohio attorney, formed the Platt for Judge Campaign Committee in 2013. Platt believes that parts of Canon 4 violate his rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection: Rule 4.1(A)(2), which prohibits a candidate from making speeches on behalf of a political party or another candidate for office; Rule 4.1(A)(3), which prohibits a candidate from publicly endorsing or opposing a candidate for another public office; Rule 4.4(A), which, save for three exceptions, prohibits a judicial candidate from personally soliciting campaign contributions; Rule 4.4(E), which creates a permissible window for soliciting and receiving campaign contributions; Rule 4.4(F), which limits the solicitation and receipt of contributions for candidates defeated before the general election; and Rule 4.4(G), which regulates the solicitation and receipt of contributions for candidates who die or withdraw from the election. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rejection of all of Platt’s claims. Ohio’s rules strike the delicate balance between the Constitution’s commands and the state’s desire to protect judicial integrity. View "Platt v. Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline of the Ohio Supreme Court" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs submitted a ballot initiative petition proposing to amend the Ohio Constitution by imposing term limits on the justices of the Ohio Supreme Court and requiring that all laws “that apply to the people of the State of Ohio . . . apply equally to the members and employees of the General Assembly.” The single-subject rule, Ohio Rev. Code 3503.062(A), allows initiative petitions to contain only “one proposed law or constitutional amendment,” so the Ohio Ballot Board split the initiative into two initiatives, each containing one proposed constitutional amendment. Plaintiffs challenged the process. Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit, rejecting an argument that the process was a content-based regulation of core political speech. The Supreme Court has not viewed single-subject rules as inconsistent with the First Amendment and the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected an essentially identical challenge. Ohio’s single-subject rule applies to all petitions, regardless of their substantive messages, and may be justified without reference to the content of any initiative petitions. The rule is intended to prevent voter confusion and "logrolling." Whether Plaintiffs violate Ohio’s single-subject rule depends not on what they say, but simply on where they say it; it is a minimally burdensome and nondiscriminatory regulation. View "Committee to Impose Term Limits on the Ohio Supreme Court v. Ohio Ballot Board" on Justia Law

by
In 2014, voters approved an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution making clear that the Constitution is not to be construed as securing or protecting a right to abortion or requiring funding of an abortion (Amendment 1). Plaintiffs, individual voters, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting that, in counting the votes on Amendment 1, state officials incorrectly interpreted Article XI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution, which states: if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments by a majority of all the citizens of the State voting for Governor, voting in their favor, such amendment or amendments shall become a part of this Constitution. The district court ordered the state officials to recount the votes in accordance with plaintiffs’ proposed interpretation. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A state-court declaratory judgment on the meaning of Article XI, Section 3 is entitled to conclusive effect and the method of counting votes employed by state officials in 2014 was faithful to the actual meaning of the provision. This is not the “exceptional case” that warrants federal intervention in a lawful state election. There was no cognizable infringement of plaintiffs’ due process rights; plaintiffs failed to identify how their right to vote was burdened by disparate treatment. View "George v. Hargett" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs claimed Ohio’s paper-ballot absentee voter system discriminated against the blind, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101. In Ohio, blind voters must seek the aid of a sighted person to vote absentee, depriving them of the ability to vote anonymously. Plaintiffs proposed that the state provide an online absentee ballot in lieu of a paper one, and adopt online ballot marking tools used in other states for blind voters. The state argued that adoption of plaintiffs’ proposal would violate state law, given Ohio’s certification requirements for voting equipment, and would force through untested and uncertified voting tools—which are neither appropriate nor necessary auxiliary aids under the ADA—and would fundamentally alter Ohio election law. The district court granted the state judgment on the pleadings. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the district court based its ruling on defendant’s mere allegation of the “fundamental alteration” affirmative defense under the ADA, without any evidentiary support. The state had the burden of production and persuasion to prove that the proposed accommodation—the ballot marking tools and electronic ballots—would fundamentally alter Ohio’s election system by not “correctly, accurately, and continuously register[ing] and record[ing] every vote cast.” A state procedural requirement may not excuse a substantive ADA violation. View "Hindel v. Husted" on Justia Law

by
The Tennessee Republican Party, the Georgia Republican Party, and the New York Republican State Committee challenged the legality of 2016 amendments to rules proposed by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) that are “deemed to have been approved” by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 15 U.S.C. 78s(b)(2)(D). The rules arose out of concern “that brokers and dealers were engaging in a variety of ethically questionable practices in order to secure underwriting contracts,” and are intended to limit pay-to-play practices in the municipal securities markets. The amendments limit the campaign activities of persons who advise city and state governments on issuing municipal securities. The Sixth Circuit dismissed because the plaintiffs failed to establish their standing to challenge the amendments. There was no “self-evident” injury to the plaintiffs and only limited information on the number of persons possibly affected by the amendments. At most, there were approximately 713 registered non-dealer municipal advisory firms in the United States that would be affected by the Amendments, but it is unclear how many municipal advisor professionals are associated with these firms, let alone the likelihood that they would donate to plaintiffs if not for the Amendments. It is unknown whether the Amendments have hindered individual candidates who are members of the plaintiff organizations. View "Georgia Republican Party v. Securities & Exchange Commission" on Justia Law