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Media Alerts - Autor v. Pritzker
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January 17, 2014
  Autor v. Pritzker
Headline: D.C. Circuit allows lobbyists to press claim that restrictions on serving on Industry Trade Advisory Committees violate First Amendment petition rights and the Equal Protection Clause.

Area of Law: First Amendment; Equal Protection Clause

Issue Presented: Whether the President's ban on registered lobbyists serving on Industry Trade Advisory Committees unconstitutionally limits the lobbyists' First Amendment right to petition government.

Brief Summary: In an effort to reduce the "culture of special interest access" to government, President Obama directed executive agencies to bar federally registered lobbyists from serving on agency advisory committees. Appellants, federally registered lobbyists, challenged the ban, claiming that it violated the First Amendment and the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment by denying them a government benefit - the ability to serve on Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) - based on the exercise of their petition rights. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), finding it foreclosed by Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271 (1984), in which the Supreme Court held that "the Constitution does not grant members of the public any particular right to be heard by public bodies making policy decisions." Finding further that the lobbyist ban implicated no fundamental rights, the court also rejected appellants' Fifth Amendment equal protection claim.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the dismissal of both the First and Fifth Amendment claims. The court distinguished Knight on the basis that it addressed an indirect burden on citizens' petition rights and noted that, in the present case, the government burdened appellants directly by barring them from ITAC membership. The court found that service on an ITAC "has value to those who seek it" and that the government cannot use its power to bestow this benefit to pressure lobbyists to forgo constitutionally protected activity. The court found that plaintiff class had plausibly alleged that the ban curtailed their right to petition. Concluding that appellants had pled a viable First Amendment claim, the court remanded the case for further briefing on the merits and a Pickering analysis as to both the First Amendment and equal protection claims.

For the full text of this opinion, please visit

Panel: Tatel, Brown, and Edwards

Argument Date: October 25, 2013

Date of Issued Opinion: January 17, 2014

Docket Number: 12-5379

Decided: Reversed and remanded

Case Alert Author: Ripple L. Weistling

Counsel (if known): Charles A. Rothfield and Joseph P. Minta for appellants. Michael S. Raab, Suuart F. Delery, Ronald C. Machen, Jr., Mark B. Stern, and Daniel Tenny for appellee.

Author of Opinion: Tatel

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Elizabeth Beske, Ripple Weistling

    Posted By: Ripple Weistling @ 01/17/2014 05:00 PM     DC Circuit  

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