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Media Alerts - New York Progress and Protection PAC v. Walsh, et al. - Second Circuit
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October 24, 2013
  New York Progress and Protection PAC v. Walsh, et al. - Second Circuit
Headline: Second Circuit Grants Preliminary Injunction Sought by Political Action Committee Supporting Mayoral Candidate Joseph Lhota, Enjoining Enforcement of New York Election Law Limit on Political Donations to Independent Expenditure Committees

Area of Law: Election Law; First Amendment

Issue Presented: Whether the district court erred in denying a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin enforcement of two sections of the New York State Election Law prohibiting an independent political committee from receiving more than $150,000 from any individual contributor?

Brief Summary: Plaintiff New York Progress and Protection PAC ("NYPPP"), an independent political action committee supporting candidate Joseph Lhota in the upcoming November 2013 New York City mayoral election, had a donor seeking to contribute $200,000. Following the September 2013 Republican primary, the NYPPP brought suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and immediately moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the enforcement of New York State Election Law §§ 14-114(8) and 14-126(2) which, in essence, prohibits NYPPP from accepting contributions in excess of $150,000 from any person in any calendar year, arguing that these provisions violate the First Amendment. The district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, without evaluating NYPPP's likelihood of success on the merits or whether denial would cause irreparable harm, on the grounds that the injunction was not in the public interest and a balance of the hardships weighed against granting the injunction.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the district court's ruling and granted the preliminary injunction. The Second Circuit held that the limit on contributions was directly related to a restriction on political speech, that NYPPP had a substantially likelihood of succeeding on the merits because all circuit courts to address this issue have held that donors may not be limited in their ability to contribute to independent expenditure committees, and that denial of the injunction would result in significant harm to NYPPP.

To read the full opinion, please visit: http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/de...b08a174c3a6/2/hilite/

Extended Summary: Plaintiff New York Progress and Protection PAC ("NYPPP") is an independent political action committee that advocate for political candidates. NYPPP supports New York City mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota in the upcoming election, and has a potential donor willing to contribute $200,000. However, New York State Election Law §§ 14-114(8) and 14-126(2), together, prevents political committees from receiving more than $150,000 from any individual contributor in any calendar year.

On September 25, 2013, approximately two weeks after the New York City mayoral Republican primary, NYPPP filed suit against election officials from the State and City of New York and the Board of Elections in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The next day, NYPPP filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the enforcement of §§ 14-114(8) and 14-126(2) on the grounds that they violate the First Amendment right to political speech. The district court set oral argument for October 8 and NYPPP subsequently filed a letter citing the urgency of the matter in light of the upcoming election on November 5.

On October 16, NYPPP filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. After the Second Circuit scheduled oral argument on the mandamus petition for October 18, the district court denied NYPPP's motion for a preliminary injunction. NYPPP then withdrew their mandamus petition and appealed the district court's ruling on the preliminary injunction to the Second Circuit.

The Second Circuit reversed, holding that NYPPP's motion for a preliminary injunction should have been granted and that the district court erred by failing to address whether NYPPP established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits or would suffer irreparable harm without the sought injunctive relief. The Second Circuit found that irreparable harm occurs when there is a loss of First Amendment freedoms and rejected the State's argument that a presumption of injury did not exist because the monetary contribution limit only indirectly affected constitutionally protected speech. The Second Circuit also concluded that NYPPP had a substantial likelihood of succeeding on the merits of its claim because all circuit courts that have addressed the constitutionality of similar election law provisions in other jurisdictions, have held that limits on donors to independent expenditure committees are unconstitutional.

The Second Circuit also found that the preliminary injunction was in the public interest because it was intended to "secur[e] First Amendment rights," it rejected the district court's assumption that the State's interest was automatically aligned with the public interest, and found that the government did not have an anti-corruption interest in limiting independent expenditures in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Finally, the Second Circuit found that any potential concerns the district court had with disrupting the election system were insufficient to outweigh the harm on constitutionally protected political speech and stated that the State had failed to show what burdens would be imposed by allowing NYPPP to receive higher contributions than allowed by the statute.

To read the full opinion, please visit: http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/de...b08a174c3a6/2/hilite/

Panel: Circuit Judges Jacobs and Lohier; District Judge Koeltl, sitting by designation.

Argument Date: 10/08/2013

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/24/13

Docket Number: 13-3889-cv

Decided: Reversed

Case Alert Author: Jeffrey S. Peters

Counsel: Todd R. Geremia, Jones Day, New York, New York (Michael A. Carvin, Louis K. Fisher, Warren Postman, Jones Day, Washington, D.C., and Michael E. Rosman, Center for Individual Rights, Washington, D.C., on the brief), for Appellant. Judith Vale, (Richard P. Dearing, on the brief), for Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General of the State of New York, for Appellees.

Author of Opinion: Judge Jacobs

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Elyse Diamond Moskowitz

    Posted By: Elyse Diamond @ 10/24/2013 03:38 PM     2nd Circuit  

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