State v. Proto, Nos. 12740

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore PETERS; PETERS
Citation526 A.2d 1297,203 Conn. 682
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Anthony PROTO. STATE of Connecticut v. Dominick REDENTE.
Decision Date02 June 1987
Docket NumberNos. 12740,12842

Page 1297

526 A.2d 1297
203 Conn. 682
STATE of Connecticut
v.
Anthony PROTO.
STATE of Connecticut
v.
Dominick REDENTE.
Nos. 12740, 12842.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued April 1, 1987.
Decided June 2, 1987.

[203 Conn. 683]

Page 1298

Julia DiCocco Dewey, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on brief, were Michael Dearington, Asst. State's Atty., and Alok Ahuja, Legal Intern, for appellant-appellee (state).

David N. Rosen, New Haven, for appellee-appellant (defendant in the first case).

[203 Conn. 684] W. Paul Flynn, with whom, on brief, was Howard A. Lawrence, New Haven, for appellee (defendant in the second case).

Before [203 Conn. 682] PETERS, C.J., and SHEA, CALLAHAN, BORDEN and FORD, JJ.

[203 Conn. 684] PETERS, Chief Justice.

The principal issue in these appeals is whether certain provisions of Connecticut's campaign financing act, General Statutes §§ 9-333 through 9-348dd, are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The defendants, Anthony Proto and Dominick Redente, were separately charged by information with multiple counts of receiving cash contributions to promote the success of a political party in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1983) §§ 9-348k(9) and 9-348l . 1 Proto was [203 Conn. 685] also charged with

Page 1299

illegally acting as his own campaign treasurer, in violation of General Statutes § 9-348b(a), 2 with failing to deposit contributions in his campaign account, in violation of General Statutes § 9-348d, 3 and with failing to file itemized accountings of campaign contributions, in violation of General Statutes § 9-348h(a)(1). 4 Both defendants were also charged with [203 Conn. 686] multiple counts of larceny in the sixth degree, in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-119(1) and 53a-125b. 5 The defendants moved for dismissal of the counts charging violations of the campaign financing act; the defendant Proto moved to dismiss the larceny charges as well. The trial court granted with prejudice the defendants' motions with respect to the charges of violations of the campaign financing act. In a memorandum of decision on Proto's motion to

Page 1300

dismiss, the trial court concluded that the provisions of the campaign financing act under which Proto was charged were impermissibly vague, in violation of the due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions. 6 The state appealed to this court from the judgments in both cases. We find error.

[203 Conn. 687] The charges against the defendants arose from events surrounding the defendant Proto's campaign for re-election as mayor of East Haven in the fall of 1983. According to an affidavit supporting the warrant for Proto's arrest, in the months preceding the November 4, 1983 election, Proto received from several individuals cash contributions in excess of fifty dollars, ostensibly to benefit his re-election campaign, and deposited them in a personal bank account. Neither the names of these contributors, nor their addresses and the amounts of their contributions, were submitted to the state elections commission. In an amended information filed on February 2, 1985, Proto was charged with nine counts of campaign financing act violations and three counts of larceny in the sixth degree.

The defendant Redente was East Haven's director of public works at the time of Proto's 1983 re-election campaign. According to an affidavit supporting the warrant for Redente's arrest, Redente received cash contributions in excess of fifty dollars, ostensibly to benefit the Proto re-election campaign, and deposited them with his personal funds. In an information filed on November 30, 1984, Redente was charged with four counts of illegally receiving campaign contributions, in violation of General Statutes § 9-348k(9), three counts of larceny in the sixth degree, and one count of larceny in the fifth degree.

On December 14, 1984, Proto moved to dismiss all of the charges against him. On May 6, 1985, the trial court issued a memorandum of decision granting Proto's motion to dismiss with prejudice, but only with respect [203 Conn. 688] to the counts charging him with violations of the campaign financing act. The trial court noted that under the United States Supreme Court's decision in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 14, 96 S.Ct. 612, 632, 46 L.Ed.2d 659 (1976), Connecticut's statutory regulation of campaign financing implicated the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the first amendment to the United States constitution. 7 The court noted further that, under Buckley, there is a "critical constitutional distinction" between political contributions and political expenditures, the latter being entitled to significantly greater constitutional protection than the former. Turning to the relevant Connecticut statutes, however, the court determined that the definitions of "contribution" and "expenditure" contained in General Statutes (Rev. to 1983) § 9-335(14) and (15) 8 were virtually [203 Conn. 689] indistinguishable.

Page 1302

Although the proscriptions in the statutes under which the defendants were charged applied exclusively to the receipt and disposition of contributions, the court concluded that the lack of an ascertainable[203 Conn. 690] statutory distinction between a contribution and an expenditure meant that "persons of ordinary intelligence" lacked fair warning of what conduct was illegal and what was permitted. For this reason, the [203 Conn. 691] court held that the campaign financing act provisions 9 under which Proto was charged were impermissibly vague, in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights to due process of law.

On May 17, 1985, Redente moved to dismiss the four counts of the information charging him with violations of the campaign financing act, citing the disposition of Proto's motion to dismiss as authority. On July 12, 1985, the trial court granted Redente's motion with prejudice. Although it did not file a memorandum explaining its decision, we presume, as do the parties, that the reasons were identical to those advanced in the Proto memorandum of decision.

With the permission of the trial court, the state appealed to this court from the judgments of dismissal in both cases. Proto cross appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court erred in failing to dismiss the larceny charges against him. Proto has since withdrawn his cross appeal.

The state has briefed identical claims of error on its appeals from the judgments in both cases. The state's two principal claims on appeal are that the trial court erred in: (1) striking down the applicable campaign financing act provisions for vagueness even though, as applied to the defendants, these provisions were not unconstitutionally vague; and (2) concluding that the definitions of "contribution" and "expenditure" in General Statutes § 9-335(14) and (15) were unconstitutionally[203 Conn. 692] vague. The state also raises two additional claims of error, challenging what it characterizes as the trial court's "alternative" holdings in the Proto memorandum of decision: (1) that the requirement of General Statutes § 9-348l that violations of the campaign financing act be committed "knowingly and wilfully" was unconstitutionally vague; and (2) that the language of General Statutes § 9-348k(9) prohibiting the receiving of cash contributions "to promote the success or defeat of any political party [or] candidate" was unconstitutionally vague. 10 We conclude that the trial court erred in determining that the campaign financing act provisions under which the defendants were charged violated constitutional standards.

I

The first and fourteenth amendments to the United States constitution protect the rights of political expression and association. Citizens Against Rent Control v. Berkeley, 454 U.S. 290, 295, 102 S.Ct. 434, 436-37, 70 L.Ed.2d 492 (1981); Buckley v. Valeo, supra, 424 U.S. at 15, 96 S.Ct. at 632-33; see generally NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 460, 78 S.Ct. 1163, 1170-71, 2 L.Ed.2d 1488 (1958). Legislative restrictions on these rights, such as those imposed by Connecticut's campaign financing act, are permissible only "if the State demonstrates a sufficiently important

Page 1303

interest and employs means closely drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgement of associational freedoms." Buckley v. Valeo, supra, 424 U.S. at 25, 96 S.Ct. at 638; Federal Election Commission v. National Right to Work Committee, 459 U.S. 197, 207, 103 S.Ct. 552, 559, 74 L.Ed.2d 364 (1982); First National [203 Conn. 693] Bank v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 786, 98 S.Ct. 1407, 55 L.Ed.2d 707, reh. denied, 438 U.S. 907, 98 S.Ct. 3216, 57 L.Ed.2d 1150 (1978).

The permissible scope of statutory restrictions on campaign financing varies according to the type of financing restricted. In this respect, the United States Supreme Court has formulated a distinction between the regulation of contributions, which generally is constitutionally permissible, and the regulation of expenditures, which generally is not. Buckley v. Valeo, supra, 424 U.S. at 25-26, 96 S.Ct. at 638.

Buckley involved a challenge to the Federal Election Campaign Act, which, as amended in 1974, created a comprehensive statutory scheme of regulation of contributions and expenditures in federal election campaigns. See Pub.L. No. 93-443, § 101(c), 88 Stat. 1264-65 (1974). In striking down the act's limitations on expenditures, while sustaining the contribution limitations, the Buckley court fashioned a distinction between these two types of statutory restrictions. The court held that the regulation of expenditures imposed a greater infringement on protected political expression than the regulation of contributions. The court held that restrictions on expenditures, made by individuals and groups to further their own political views, "impose direct and substantial restraints on the quantity of political speech." Buckley v. Valeo, supra, at 39, 96 S.Ct. at 644. Regarding contributions, however, the court held that "a...

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40 practice notes
  • Reid v. Commissioner of Correction, No. 24947.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 10, 2006
    ...or symbolic, that is protected by the first amendment. See Virginia v. Black, supra, 538 U.S. at 358, 123 S.Ct. 1536; cf. State v. Proto, 203 Conn. 682, 692-95, 526 A.2d 1297 (1987) (provisions of campaign act implicated freedom of expression protected by first amendment). It was revoked be......
  • State Management Ass'n of Connecticut, Inc. v. O'Neill, No. 12978
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 11, 1987
    ...person to know what conduct is permitted and what is prohibited. State v. White, 204 Conn. 410, 415, 528 A.2d 811 (1987); State v. Proto, 203 Conn. 682, 689-90, 526 A.2d 1297 (1987); State v. Pickering, 180 Conn. 54, 59-60, 428 A.2d 322 (1980). An imprecise statute, however, may be sufficie......
  • State v. Jones, No. 13523
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 29, 1990
    ...of a statute under attack for vagueness by considering its applicability to the particular facts at issue. State v. Proto, 203 Conn. 682, 696, 526 A.2d 1297 (1987)." State v. Schriver, supra, at 461, 542 A.2d Thus, we must examine the defendant's claim of unconstitutional vagueness within t......
  • State v. Linares, No. 10910
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • November 4, 1993
    ...a void for vagueness challenge. Baggett v. Bullitt, 377 U.S. 360, 372, 84 S.Ct. 1316, 1322, 12 L.Ed.2d 377 (1964); State v. Proto, 203 Conn. 682, 696, 526 A.2d 1297 (1987). If a statute is challenged for the same reason but does not involve the first amendment, the determination of constitu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • Reid v. Commissioner of Correction, No. 24947.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 10, 2006
    ...or symbolic, that is protected by the first amendment. See Virginia v. Black, supra, 538 U.S. at 358, 123 S.Ct. 1536; cf. State v. Proto, 203 Conn. 682, 692-95, 526 A.2d 1297 (1987) (provisions of campaign act implicated freedom of expression protected by first amendment). It was revoked be......
  • State Management Ass'n of Connecticut, Inc. v. O'Neill, No. 12978
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 11, 1987
    ...person to know what conduct is permitted and what is prohibited. State v. White, 204 Conn. 410, 415, 528 A.2d 811 (1987); State v. Proto, 203 Conn. 682, 689-90, 526 A.2d 1297 (1987); State v. Pickering, 180 Conn. 54, 59-60, 428 A.2d 322 (1980). An imprecise statute, however, may be sufficie......
  • State v. Jones, No. 13523
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 29, 1990
    ...of a statute under attack for vagueness by considering its applicability to the particular facts at issue. State v. Proto, 203 Conn. 682, 696, 526 A.2d 1297 (1987)." State v. Schriver, supra, at 461, 542 A.2d Thus, we must examine the defendant's claim of unconstitutional vagueness within t......
  • State v. Linares, No. 10910
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • November 4, 1993
    ...a void for vagueness challenge. Baggett v. Bullitt, 377 U.S. 360, 372, 84 S.Ct. 1316, 1322, 12 L.Ed.2d 377 (1964); State v. Proto, 203 Conn. 682, 696, 526 A.2d 1297 (1987). If a statute is challenged for the same reason but does not involve the first amendment, the determination of constitu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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