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7th Circuit reinstates case involving ‘anti-slating’ statute

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the dismissal of an unslated Marion County Democratic candidate’s lawsuit challenging the county election board’s reliance on the state’s “anti-slating” law to confiscate political flyers during the May 2012 primary election.

Zachary Mulholland ran against slated Democratic candidate Dan Forestal for the Indiana House of Representatives. He and campaign volunteers handed out flyers the day of the primary with pictures of five Democratic candidates for various national and state offices, which included Mulholland.

The flyers are illegal under I.C. 3-14-1-2(a), which makes it a crime to distribute a list endorsing multiple political candidates during a primary election unless all such candidates have given their written consent. This law benefits each political party’s slated candidates, who can easily coordinate the paperwork needed to promote a unified slate, the 7th Circuit opinion states. Slated candidates have the financial and organizational backing of party leadership.

The Marion County Election Board took Mulholland’s flyers; he subsequently lost the election.

In 2003, the federal court granted a preliminary injunction regarding enforcement of the anti-slating law in Ogden v. Marendt, 264 f. Supp. 2d 785 (S.D. Ind. 2003), ruling it suppressed political speech. In a settlement, all parties stipulated the statute is “declared facially unconstitutional” and the court enjoined the Marion County Election Board from enforcing it against the plaintiffs.  

Judge Sarah Evans Barker dismissed the instant case under the abstention doctrine of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), citing a still-ongoing election board investigation. The board issued an order to schedule a meeting on the matter, but that has been postponed indefinitely. A state court suit filed by Mulholland has also been stayed.

In Zachary Mulholland v. Marion County Election Board, 13-3027, the 7th Circuit focused on the proceedings before the board in its decision to reverse the dismissal of the federal suit. The election board argued the case should be dismissed under Younger because the federal court should defer to the ongoing proceedings in state court and the election board.

“The planned Election Board meeting in this case is not the type of quasi-criminal proceeding that would warrant Younger abstention, at least after Sprint, which involved an agency adjudication of state law that was initiated by one private party against another and that presented no possibility of criminal penalty,” Judge David Hamilton wrote, citing Sprint Communications Inc. v. Jacobs, 134 S. Ct. 584 (2013).

The judges also noted the importance of the 2003 decision declaring the law facially unconstitutional.

“The district court correctly pointed out that the Ogden injunction was limited to enforcement of the anti-slating law against the plaintiffs in that case. That analysis overlooks, however, the significance of the declaratory portion of the Ogden judgment that declared the anti-slating statute facially unconstitutional,” Hamilton wrote.

“We reject the Election Board’s oxymoronic argument that the judgment in Ogden should be read to mean that the statute is facially unconstitutional only as to the Ogden plaintiffs. We have not encountered before the idea of facial unconstitutionality as applied only to a particular plaintiff. Facial unconstitutionality as to one means facial unconstitutionality as to all, regardless of the fact that the injunctive portion of the judgment directly adjudicated the dispute of only the parties before it.”

The case is remanded with the instruction that court promptly consider whether to issue a preliminary injunction against the board in light of the May 6 primary election.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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