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Justice at Stake Welcomes Ninth Circuit Action in Lair v. Bullock

May 27, 2015

 Justice at Stake Welcomes Ninth Circuit Action in Lair v. Bullock

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 27 - Justice at Stake Deputy Executive Director Liz Seaton issued the following statement in response to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ Tuesday decision to reverse and remand the case of Lair v. Bullock back to the lower court, finding that the lower court had not used the correct standard of review in its initial ruling. Tuesday's decision of the Ninth Circuit Court keeps in place campaign contribution limits set by the state of Montana, which apply to elections including state judicial elections.  Justice at Stake filed an amicus brief in the case in 2014, urging the Ninth Circuit Court to reverse the lower court and uphold the limits.


“This ruling is a victory for fair and impartial courts and the people of Montana,” said Seaton. “These limits provide essential protections in our justice system when judges are elected. It is important to prevent the kind of outsized donations by a single lawyer, group or party that run the risk of influencing courtroom decisions.” 


In its latest ruling, the Ninth Circuit articulated that the proper standard to be applied in reviewing campaign contribution limits comes from its prior ruling in Montana Right to Life Association v. Eddleman. However, it also finds that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC limits the state’s interest in capping those contributions.  So while the Ninth Circuit ruling keeps the limits in place, the reality of Citizens United , which is binding on both courts, opens the door to the possible overturning of the limits.  Justice at Stake will be watching developments closely. 


Justice at Stake, The Campaign Legal Center, the League of Women Voters, and Common Cause were signatories to the amicus brief filed in 2014.  It argues that the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana misapplied relevant Supreme Court precedent and defied settled law when it struck down state campaign contribution limits, ruling that they were unconstitutionally low under the First Amendment.  It urged the Ninth Circuit Court to reverse the district court’s order striking down the limits.  Prior to being struck down, the limits had been in effect since 1995. 


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Justice at Stake is a nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign working to keep America's courts fair and impartial. Justice at Stake and its 50-plus state and national partners educate the public, and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom - so judges can protect our Constitution, our rights and the rule of law. For more about Justice at Stake, go to www.justiceatstake.org or www.gavelgrab.org.

The positions and policies of Justice at Stake publications and campaign partners are their own, and do not necessarily reflect those of other campaign partners or board members.
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