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Lair v. Bullock

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 26, 2015

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

Argued and Submitted, Seattle Washington February 5, 2015.

Page 990

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 991

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

SUMMARY[*]

Civil Rights

The panel reversed the district court's judgment, entered following a non-jury trial, and remanded in an action challenging, under the First Amendment, Montana's dollar limits on contributions to political candidates.

The panel held that the district court applied the wrong legal standard prior to enjoining permanently the enforcement of Montana's restrictions on campaign contributions by individuals, political action committees, and political parties. The panel held that the district court applied neither the new formulation of what constitutes an important state interest set forth in Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310, 130 S.Ct. 876, 175 L.Ed.2d 753 (2010), nor the correct formulation, set forth in Mont. Right to Life Ass'n v. Eddleman, 343 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2003), of whether the state's contribution limits are " closely drawn" to the state's goal of preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance. The panel remanded in order 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 set forth in Eddleman.

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

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

James Bopp, Jr. (argued) and Jeffrey Gallant, The Bopp Law Firm, PC, Terre Haute, Indiana; Anita Y. Milanovich, The Bopp Law Firm, PC, Bozeman, Montana, 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, Massachusetts, for Amici Curiae Free Speech for People, The Honorable James C. Nelson, American Independent Business Alliance, and American Sustainable Business Counsel.

Before: Raymond C. Fisher, Carlos T. Bea, and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 992

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.

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 ...


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