Monday, April 29, 2013

Political Committee 

The National Organization for Marriage, Inc. ("NOM") brought an action seeking a declaratory judgment that the definition of a "political committee" in New York Election Law 14-100.1 violates the First Amendment.  It also sought preliminary and permanent injunctions barring enforcement of the statute.  The effect of being a political committee was that it would, among other things, be required to disclose contributions received and expenditures made.  NOM stated that it would not engage in its speech-related activities (opposing same-sex marriage) unless the requested relief was granted  The District Court dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, holding that NOM had not sought to ascertain its status with Board of Election nor had the Board of Elections attempted to enforce the "political committee" provision against NOM.

The Second Circuit reversed, holding that the case was ripe because NOM had a reasonable basis to conclude that it might be deemed a political committee under the statute, chilling its free speech rights and there was no prudential reason to abstain.  The Court further held that the case was not moot; although the election cycle had passed, the case fell in the category of cases "capable of repetition, yet evading review."  The Court vacated the District Court's determination that it lacked jurisdiction and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Judge Jon O. Newman dissented, stating that a determination on the merits is not appropriate until the Board of Elections determines whether NOM is a political committee.

The decision in National Organization for Marriage, Inc. v. Walsh can be found here.

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