Thursday, December 4, 2008

COAST lawyer wins case at U.S. Supreme Court

David Langdon defeats state lawyers in preserving ballot access

The United States Supreme Court announced in November that it will not hear the State of Ohio’s appeal of the decision striking down Ohio’s ban on paying petition circulators by the signature. One of COAST’s team of attorneys, David Langdon, represented the successful Plaintiffs in that case.

The order is available here.

David Langdon, attorney for Citizens for Tax Reform, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision refusing to hear the case. “The Supreme Court rightly refused to hear the State of Ohio’s appeal of the Sixth Circuit’s well-reasoned decision affirming that the First Amendment political speech rights of petition proponents trump the State’s ability to enact measures targeting alleged petition fraud. Hopefully, other states will take note of the decision and refuse to enact similar laws that make ballot access more difficult.

Several commentators and election law specialists had predicted that the Court would take the case. See here.

The Supreme Court’s rejection of the case ends the four-year litigation over the constitutionality of R.C. 3599.111, which mandates that circulators of candidate petitions and initiative and referendum petitions be paid on the basis of time worked, and forbids payment based on the number of signatures collected. The law was temporarily struck down by United States District Court judge Sandra Beckwith only days after it took effect in April of 2005. It has not been in effect since that time.

In March of last year the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision declaring that the law violated the First Amendment political speech rights of petition proponents like Citizens for Tax Reform. (That decision is available here)

The Ohio Attorney General’s office asked the Supreme Court to hear the Ohio case to resolve an alleged conflict between the Sixth Circuit’s decision and the decisions of the Second, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits. Each of those courts has upheld similar pay-per-signature bans in New York, North Dakota, and Oregon, respectively.

Langdon is currently co-counsel in a lawsuit on behalf of Citizens in Charge and other I&R proponents against Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, captioned Citizens in Charge, et al. v. Brunner, S.D. Ohio Case No. 2:08-cv-01014. The lawsuit challenges several other restrictions on the right of initiative and referendum (I&R) in Ohio, including the requirement that statewide I&R petitions contain a “summary” approved by the Attorney General, and the requirement to submit a certain percentage of signatures from half of the counties in Ohio, which violates the constitutional principle of “one-man, one-vote.” The Secretary has yet to respond to the lawsuit.

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