October 17, 2012
Ninth Circuit Stays Lower Court, Retains Montana Contribution Limits Pending Appeal
A three-judge motions panel of the Ninth Circuit in Lair v. Bullock granted Montana's motion to stay District Judge Lovell's earlier decision that Montana's low campaign contribution limits violated the First Amendment. (Recall that the panel previously granted a temporary stay. Here's some background.) The ruling means that Montana's campaign contribution limits remain in place pending appeal and sends a strong signal that the Ninth Circuit will reverse Judge Lovell's decision and uphold the limits.
The panel reaffirmed its own ruling in Montana Right to Life Ass'n v. Eddleman (upholding Montana's low campaign contribution limits against a First Amendment challenge) and rejected any notion that the Supreme Court's ruling in Randall v. Sorrell (overturning Vermont's low campaign contribution limits) abrogated Eddleman. Here's what the Ninth Circuit panel said:
We conclude that the State of Montana has made a strong showing that a merits panel of this Court will likely conclude that, absent en banc proceedings or an intervening decision of the Supreme Court, we remain bound by our decision in Eddleman. We also conclude that a merits panel is likely to hold that the analytical framework of the Supreme Court's decision in Randall does not alter the analysis of Buckley or Shrink Missouri in a way that affects our decision in Eddleman, for three reasons. First, there is no opinion of the Court in Randall. Second, even if we thought that Justice Breyer's plurality opinioin represented the narrowest view of a majority of the Court, it did not depart from the principles of Buckley and Shrink Missouri that we applied in Eddleman. Third, even if we applied Randall to [the Montana limits], we cannot find, on the basis of the district court's findings, reason to disagree with, much less overturn, Eddleman. In light of Montana's interest in regulating campaign contributions, the lack of evidence that other parties will be substantially injured, and the public's substantial interest in the stability of its electoral system in the final weeks leading to an election, we will stay the order pending the state's appeal.
Op. at 3-4.
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