Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Committee, No. 87-1269

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except REHNQUIST, C.J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. STEVENS
Citation109 S.Ct. 1013,489 U.S. 214,103 L.Ed.2d 271
Docket NumberNo. 87-1269
Decision Date22 February 1989
PartiesMarch Fong EU, Secretary of State of California, et al., Appellants v. SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CENTRAL COMMITTEE, et al

489 U.S. 214
109 S.Ct. 1013
103 L.Ed.2d 271
March Fong EU, Secretary of State of California, et al., Appellants

v.

SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CENTRAL COMMITTEE, et al.

No. 87-1269.
Argued Dec. 5, 1988.
Decided Feb. 22, 1989.
Syllabus

Section 11702 of the California Elections Code (Code) forbids the official governing bodies of political parties to endorse or oppose candidates in primary elections, while § 29430 makes it a misdemeanor for any candidate in a primary to claim official party endorsement. Other Code sections dictate the organization and composition of parties' governing bodies, limit the term of office for a party's state central committee chair, and require that the chair rotate between residents of northern and southern California. Various party governing bodies, members of such bodies, and other politically active groups and individuals brought suit in the District Court, claiming, inter alia, that these Code provisions deprived parties and their members of the rights of free speech and free association guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs as to the provisions in question, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The challenged California election laws are invalid, since they burden the First Amendment rights of political parties and their members without serving a compelling state interest. Pp. 222-233.

(a) The ban on primary endorsements in §§ 11702 and 29430 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. By preventing a party's governing body from stating whether a candidate adheres to the party's tenets or whether party officials believe that the candidate is qualified for the position sought, the ban directly hampers the party's ability to spread its message and hamstrings voters seeking to inform themselves about the candidates and issues, and thereby burdens the core right to free political speech of the party and its members. The ban also infringes a party's protected freedom of association rights to identify the people who constitute the association and to select a standard-bearer who best represents the party's ideology and preferences, by preventing the party from promoting candidates at the crucial primary election juncture. Moreover, the ban does not serve a compelling governmental interest. The State has not adequately explained how the ban advances its claimed interest in a stable political system or what makes California so peculiar that it is virtually the only State to determine that such a ban

Page 215

is necessary. The explanation that the State's compelling interest in stable government embraces a similar interest in party stability is untenable, since a State may enact laws to prevent disruption of political parties from without but not from within. The claim that a party that issues primary endorsements risks intraparty friction which may endanger its general election prospects is insufficient, since the goal of protecting the party against itself would not justify a State's substituting its judgment for that of the party. The State's claim that the ban is necessary to protect primary voters from confusion and undue influence must be viewed with skepticism, since the ban restricts the flow of information to the citizenry without any evidence of the existence of fraud or corruption that would justify such a estriction. Pp. 222-229.

(b) The restrictions on the organization and composition of the official governing bodies of political parties, the limits on the term of office for state central committee chairs, and the requirement that such chairs rotate between residents of northern and southern California cannot be upheld. These laws directly burden the associational rights of a party and its members by limiting the party's discretion in how to organize itself, conduct its affairs, and select its leaders. Moreover, the laws do not serve a compelling state interest. A State cannot justify regulating a party's internal affairs without showing that such regulation is necessary to ensure that elections are orderly, fair, and honest, and California has made no such showing. The State's claim that it has a compelling interest in the democratic management of internal party affairs is without merit, since this is not a case where intervention is necessary to prevent the derogation of party adherents' civil rights, and since the State has no interest in protecting the party's integrity against the party itself. Nor are the restrictions justified by the State's claim that limiting the term of the state central committee chair and requiring that the chair rotate between northern and southern California help to prevent regional friction from reaching a critical mass, since a State cannot substitute its judgment for that of the party as to the desirability of a particular party structure. Pp. 229-233.

826 F.2d 814 (CA9 1987), affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except REHNQUIST, C.J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 233.

Geoffrey Lloyd Graybill for appellants.

Page 216

James J. Brosnahan, Cedric C. Chao, San Francisco, Cal., for appellees.

Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The California Elections Code prohibits the official governing bodies of political parties from endorsing candidates in party primaries. It also dictates the organization and composition of those bodies, limits the term of office of a party chair, and requires that the chair rotate between residents of northern and southern California. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that these provisions violate the free speech and associational rights of political parties and their members guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. 826 F.2d 814 (1987). We noted probable jurisdiction, 485 U.S. 1004, 108 S.Ct. 1466, 99 L.Ed.2d 696 (1988), and now affirm.

I
A.

The State of California heavily regulates its political parties. Although the laws vary in extent and detail from party to party, certain requirements apply to all "ballot-qualified" parties.1 The California Elections Code (Code) provides that the "official governing bodies" for such a party are its "state convention," "state central committee," and "county central committees," Cal.Elec.Code Ann. § 11702 (West

Page 217

1977), and that these bodies are responsible for conducting the party's campaigns.2 At the same time, the Code provides that the official governing bodies "shall not endorse, support, or oppose, any candidate for nomination by that party for partisan office in the direct primary election." Ibid. It is a misdemeanor for any primary candidate, or a person on her behalf, to claim that she is the officially endorsed candidate of the party. § 29430.

Although the official governing bodies of political parties are barred from issuing endorsements, other groups are not. Political clubs affiliated with a party, labor organizations, political action committees, other politically active associations, and newspapers frequently endorse primary candidates.3 With the official party organizations silenced by the ban, it has been possible for a candidate with views antithetical to those of her party nevertheless to win its primary.4

Page 218

In addition to restricting the primary activities of the official governing bodies of political parties, California also regulates their internal affairs. Separate statutory provisions dictate the size and composition of the state central committees; 5 set forth rules governing the selection and removal of committee members; 6 fix the maximum term of office for the chair of the state central committee; 7 require that the chair rotate between residents of northern and southern California; 8 specify the time and place of committee meetings; 9 and

Page 219

limit the dues parties may impose on members.10 Violations of these provisions are criminal offenses punishable by fine and imprisonment.

B

Various county central committees of the Democratic and Republican Parties, the state central committee of the Libertarian Party, members of various state and county central committees, and other groups and individuals active in partisan politics in California brought this action in federal court against state officials responsible for enforcing the Code (State or California).11 They contended that the ban on primary endorsements and the restrictions on internal party governance deprive political parties and their members of the rights of free speech and free association guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.12 The first count of the complaint challenged the ban on endorsements in partisan primary elections; the second count challenged the ban on endorsements in nonpartisan school, county, and municipal elections; and the third count challenged the provisions that prescribe the composition of state central committees, the term of office and eligibility criteria for state central committee chairs, the time and place of state and county central committee meetings, and the dues county committee members must pay.

Page 220

The plaintiffs moved for summary judgment, in support of which they filed 28 declarations from the chairs of each plaintiff central committee, prominent political scientists, and elected officials from California and other States. The State moved to dismiss and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment supported by one declaration from a former state senator.

The District Court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs on the first count, ruling that the ban on primary endorsements in §§ 11702 and 29430 violated the First Amendment as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. The court stayed all proceedings on the second count under the abstention doctrine of ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
521 practice notes
  • Marin v. Town of Se., No. 14–CV–2094 (KMK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 30, 2015
    ...and most urgent application to speech uttered during a campaign for political office." Eu v. San Francisco Cty. Democratic Cent. Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 223, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271 (1989) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Sugarman, 192 F.Supp.2d at 291 ("The Supreme Court h......
  • Citizens for Equal Protection, Inc. v. Bruning, No. 4:03CV3155.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Nebraska
    • May 12, 2005
    ...party's voters for reasons of ideology, beliefs, or political association"); Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 222-23, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271 (1989) (holding that a ban on primary endorsements affects speech at the core of the electoral process and ......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Case No. 3:11–0692.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • February 3, 2012
    ...the limits established by the First Amendment rights of the State's citizens,” Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Committee, 489 U.S. 214, 222, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271 (1989) (quoting Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut, 479 U.S. 208, 217, 107 S.Ct. 544, 93 L.Ed.2......
  • Mack v. U.S., Nos. 94-16940
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 8, 1995
    ...do not face a "credible threat of prosecution," San Francisco County Democratic Cent. Comm. v. Eu, 826 F.2d 814, 821 (9th Cir.1987), aff'd 489 U.S. 214, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271 (1989), there is no "case or controversy." See Campbell v. Wood, 18 F.3d 662, 680 (9th Cir.), cert. denied......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
521 cases
  • Marin v. Town of Se., No. 14–CV–2094 (KMK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 30, 2015
    ...and most urgent application to speech uttered during a campaign for political office." Eu v. San Francisco Cty. Democratic Cent. Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 223, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271 (1989) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Sugarman, 192 F.Supp.2d at 291 ("The Supreme Court h......
  • Citizens for Equal Protection, Inc. v. Bruning, No. 4:03CV3155.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Nebraska
    • May 12, 2005
    ...party's voters for reasons of ideology, beliefs, or political association"); Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 222-23, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271 (1989) (holding that a ban on primary endorsements affects speech at the core of the electoral process and ......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Case No. 3:11–0692.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • February 3, 2012
    ...the limits established by the First Amendment rights of the State's citizens,” Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Committee, 489 U.S. 214, 222, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271 (1989) (quoting Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut, 479 U.S. 208, 217, 107 S.Ct. 544, 93 L.Ed.2......
  • Mack v. U.S., Nos. 94-16940
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 8, 1995
    ...do not face a "credible threat of prosecution," San Francisco County Democratic Cent. Comm. v. Eu, 826 F.2d 814, 821 (9th Cir.1987), aff'd 489 U.S. 214, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271 (1989), there is no "case or controversy." See Campbell v. Wood, 18 F.3d 662, 680 (9th Cir.), cert. denied......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • CUSTOMIZED SPEECH AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Technology Vol. 35 Nbr. 2, March 2022
    • March 22, 2022
    ...(101.) Barnette, 319 U.S. at 642. (102.) See, e.g., Tornillo, 418 U.S. at 258. (103.) Cf. Eu v. S.F. Cnty. Democratic Cent. Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 227-28 (1989) ("[E]ven if a ban on endorsements saves a political party from pursuing self-destructive acts, that would not justify a State substi......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT