Lair v. Bullock

Decision Date26 May 2015
Docket NumberNos. 12–35809,12–35889.,s. 12–35809
Citation798 F.3d 736
PartiesDoug LAIR; Steve Dogiakos; American Tradition Partnership; American Tradition Partnership PAC; Montana Right to Life Association PAC ; Sweet Grass Council For Community Integrity; Lake County Republican Central Committee; Beaverhead County Republican Central Committee; Jake Oil, LLC; JL Oil, LLC; Champion Painting, Plaintiffs–Appellees, v. Steve BULLOCK, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Montana; James Murray, “Jim”, in his official capacity as Commissioner of Political Practices; Leo Gallagher, in his official capacity as Lewis and Clark County Attorney, Defendants–Appellants. Doug Lair; Steve Dogiakos; American Tradition Partnership; American Tradition Partnership PAC; Montana Right to Life Association PAC ; Sweet Grass Council for Community Integrity; Lake County Republican Central Committee; Beaverhead County Republican Central Committee; Jake Oil, LLC; JL Oil, LLC; Champion Painting, Plaintiffs, and Rick Hill, Warden; A Lot of Folks for Rick Hill; Lorna Kuney, Intervenor–Plaintiffs–Appellants, v. Steve Bullock, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Montana; James Murray, “Jim”, in his official capacity as Commissioner of Political Practices; Leo Gallagher, in his official capacity as Lewis and Clark County Attorney, Defendants–Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

798 F.3d 736

Doug LAIR;

Steve Dogiakos;

American Tradition Partnership;

American Tradition Partnership PAC;

Montana Right to Life Association PAC ;

Sweet Grass Council For Community Integrity;

Lake County Republican Central Committee;

Beaverhead County Republican Central Committee;

Jake Oil, LLC;

JL Oil, LLC;

Champion Painting, Plaintiffs–Appellees
v.
Steve BULLOCK, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Montana;

James Murray, “Jim”, in his official capacity as Commissioner of Political Practices;

Leo Gallagher, in his official capacity as Lewis and Clark County Attorney, Defendants–Appellants.


Doug Lair;

Steve Dogiakos;

American Tradition Partnership;

American Tradition Partnership PAC;

Montana Right to Life Association PAC ;

Sweet Grass Council for Community Integrity;

Lake County Republican Central Committee;

Beaverhead County Republican Central Committee;

Jake Oil, LLC;

JL Oil, LLC;

Champion Painting, Plaintiffs
and
Rick Hill, Warden;

A Lot of Folks for Rick Hill;

Lorna Kuney, Intervenor–Plaintiffs–Appellants
v.
Steve Bullock, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Montana;

James Murray, “Jim”, in his official capacity as Commissioner of Political Practices;

Leo Gallagher, in his official capacity as Lewis and Clark County Attorney, Defendants–Appellees.

Nos. 12–35809
12–35889.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Argued and Submitted Feb. 5, 2015.
Filed May 26, 2015.
Amended Sept. 1, 2015.


798 F.3d 739

Matthew T. Cochenour (argued) and Michael G. Black, Assistant Attorneys General, and Tim Fox, Attorney General, Montana Department of Justice, Helena, MT, for Defendants–Appellants.

Matthew G. Monforton (argued), Monforton Law Offices, PLLC, Bozeman, MT, for Intervenor–Plaintiffs–Appellants.

James Bopp, Jr. (argued) and Jeffrey Gallant, The Bopp Law Firm, PC, Terre Haute, IN; Anita Y. Milanovich, The Bopp Law Firm, PC, Bozeman, MT, for Plaintiffs–Appellees.

J. Gerald Hebert, Paul S. Ryan, Tara Malloy, and Megan McAllen, Campaign Legal Center, Washington, D.C., for Amici Curiae Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Justice at Stake, and League of Women Voters.

Ronald A. Fein and John C. Bonifaz, Free Speech for People, Amherst, MA, for Amici Curiae Free Speech for People, The Honorable James C. Nelson, American Independent Business Alliance, and American Sustainable Business Counsel.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Montana, Charles C. Lovell, Senior District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 6:12–cv–00012–CCL.

Before: RAYMOND C. FISHER, CARLOS T. BEA, and MARY H. MURGUIA, Circuit Judges.

ORDER

The opinion filed on May 26, 2015 is replaced by the amended opinion filed concurrently with this order. With these amendments, Judges Bea and Murguia have voted to deny the petition for rehearing en banc, and Judge Fisher so recommends.

The suggestion for rehearing en banc has been circulated to the full court, and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. Fed. R.App. P. 35(b). The petition for rehearing en banc is DENIED.

No further petitions shall be entertained.

OPINION

BEA, Circuit Judge:

We are called on to determine whether Montana's dollar limits on contributions to political candidates are constitutional under the federal Constitution's First Amendment. The claims against the limits are familiar. Limitations on contributions effectively abridge free speech in two primary ways. First, the contribution itself is a general expression of the donor's support for the candidate and his views. Limiting the amount a donor can contribute curtails that expression. Second, it costs the candidate money to produce political speech that will be heard. Without that money, candidates will be silenced; their ideas will not be considered by the voters at elections.

798 F.3d 740

These claims are doubly familiar to us because we have already considered some of Montana's contribution limits and found they passed constitutional muster.1 Why consider them again? We must because, after Citizens United,2 what constitutes a sufficiently important state interest to justify limits on contributions has changed. Now, the prevention of quid pro quo corruption, or its appearance, is the only sufficiently important state interest to justify limits on campaign contributions. Before Citizens United, it was enough to show the state's interest was simply to prevent the influence contributors of large sums have on politicians, or the appearance of such influence. No longer so.

After a non-jury trial, the district court held Montana's contribution limits were unconstitutional, and permanently enjoined their enforcement.3 But the district court applied neither Citizens United 's new formulation of what constitutes an important state interest nor the correct formulation of whether the state's contribution limits are “closely drawn”4 to the state's goal of preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance. To allow Montana's political contribution limits to be tested under the new and more restrictive standard of Citizens United, and the correct “closely drawn” test, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

A.

Since 1994, Montana has limited how much individuals, political action committees, and political-party-affiliated committees are allowed to contribute to candidates for state office. See Mont.Code Ann. § 13–37–216 ; Lair v. Bullock, 697 F.3d 1200, 1201 (9th Cir.2012) (“Lair I ”). By statute, individuals and political action committees (“PACs”) can contribute up to $500 total to two candidates who filed jointly and are running together for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, $250 to candidates running for other statewide offices, and $130 to candidates running for any other state public office, including candidates for the state senate and the state house of representatives. Mont.Code Ann. § 13–37–216(1)(a) (“Individual/PAC Limits”). These amounts are adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index as a marker. Mont.Code Ann. § 13–37–216(4)(a). The current limits are $650, $320, and $170, respectively. Mont. Admin. R. § 44.10.338(1).

Political parties and their affiliated committees can contribute more than can individuals. Montana treats all committees that are affiliated with a political party as one entity.5 Mont.Code Ann. § 13–37–216(3). A political party or its party-affiliated committees can contribute, in the aggregate, up to $18,000 to two candidates

798 F.3d 741

running together for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, $6,500 to candidates running for other statewide offices, $2,600 to candidates for public service commissioner, $1,050 to candidates for state senate, and $650 to candidates running for any other state public office, including the state house of representatives. Mont.Code Ann. § 13–37–216(3) (“Party Limits”). These amounts are also adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, and the current limits are $23,350, $8,450, $3,350, $1,350, and $850 respectively. Mont. Admin. R. § 44.10.338(2).

Appellees are individuals, PACs, and party-affiliated committees (together, “Lair”) that challenge these restrictions as unconstitutional burdens on their freedom of speech under the federal Constitution's First Amendment. Intervenors are Rick Hill, a 2012 candidate for governor, Hill's campaign treasurer, and a committee associated with the Hill campaign (together, “Hill Campaign”). The Hill Campaign supports Lair's challenge. Appellants are the Attorney General of the State of Montana, Montana's Commissioner of Political Practices, and a county attorney, each sued in their official capacity (together, “Montana”).

B.

The district court held a non-jury trial in September 2012 and shortly after issued findings of fact and conclusions of law. The district court concluded Montana's Individual/PAC Limits and Party Limits were unconstitutional under the federal Constitution's First Amendment and permanently enjoined their enforcement. The district court's decision turned on our prior case addressing the constitutionality of Montana's contribution limits and a Supreme Court case that followed. Montana has appealed that decision. Because our decision today relies in large part on the chronology of those prior cases, as well as subsequent cases, we discuss them in chronological order.

1. Montana Right to Life Association v. Eddleman, 343 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir.2003).

The story begins with our opinion in Montana Right to Life Ass'n v. Eddleman, 343 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir.2003), upon whose continued validity this appeal turns. There, the district court conducted a non-jury trial on the constitutionality of the Individual/PAC Limits and found those limits were constitutional under Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 96 S.Ct. 612, 46 L.Ed.2d 659 (1976), and its progeny. See Montana Right to Life Assoc. v. Eddleman, 96–165–BLG–JDS, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23161, at *3 (D.Mont. Sept. 19, 2000). We affirmed. We first set out the Supreme Court's framework for addressing campaign contribution limits per Buckley, the Court's foundational opinion on what...

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  • The Puzzle of Precedent in the California Court of Appeal
    • United States
    • California Lawyers Association California Litigation (CLA) No. 33-2, 2020
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    ...in the Ninth Circuit must follow the earlier case; there is no discretion to do otherwise. (See, e.g., Lair v. Bullock (9th Cir. 2015) 798 F.3d 736, 745.) Second, as a matter of "vertical" stare decisis, every trial court in the multi-state region covered by the Ninth Circuit also is bound ......

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