Sunday, June 23, 2013
The Ninth Circuit this week upheld in part a lower court permanent injunction against the enforcement of a Montana statute making it a criminal offense for any political party to "endorse, contribute to, or make an expenditure to support or oppose a judicial candidate" in a nonpartisan judicial election.
The ruling in Sanders County Republican Central Committee v. Fox is no surprise, after the Ninth Circuit ruled last fall that Montana's ban, at Mont. Code Ann. Sec. 13-35-231, insofar as it restricted endorsements and expenditures, violated the First Amendment.
But the court also reversed the lower court's injunction against enforcing the ban on contributions. It ruled that the earlier case didn't address the constitutionality of the state's ban on contributions and that the contribution ban wasn't before the court here.
This week's ruling means that Montana cannot enforce its ban against political parties endorsing or spending money in support of or in opposition to a judicial candidate in a nonpartisan judicial election. But the state can enforce its ban against political parties making contributions to those judicial candidates.