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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. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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