September 16, 2017

Weekly litigation report — September 16, 2017

By James S. Burling Vice President for Litigation

Free speech wears thin in Minnesota

On Thursday, in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. ManskyPLF filed this reply brief in support of its cert petition to the Supreme Court of the United States. In this case, we’re representing Minnesota voters in a First Amendment challenge to a ban on political apparel at polling places. The ban prohibits voters from wearing shirts, buttons, and badges featuring the logo of any organization associated with any political viewpoint. Voters who wear Chamber of Commerce t-shirts, AFL-CIO buttons, or even badges that say “Don’t tread on me” to the polling place are subject to criminal prosecution and civil penalties of up to $5,000. You can read more on our blog — including a PLF attorney modeling prohibited t-shirts.

Forced speech isn’t free in Seattle

This week in Elster v. City of Seattle, the City filed a motion to dismiss our clients’ First Amendment claim. In Elster, our clients Mark Elster and Sarah Pynchon are challenging Seattle’s “democracy voucher” program, which compels property owners to subsidize other people’s campaign contributions through a special property levy. This scheme violates our clients’ First Amendment right to refrain from sponsoring speech they oppose. The City, however, argues that the First Amendment has nothing to say about whether a government can force one person to underwrite another person’s political views. We disagree. The King County Superior Court will hold a hearing on the motion to dismiss on October 27.

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Elster v. City of Seattle, Washington

Representing Seattle residents and property owners, PLF sued to overturn Seattle’s ordinance mandating public campaign financing. Under the city’s “democracy voucher” program, each Seattle resident receives four $25 vouchers to support eligible candidates for local political office. The money to fund the voucher program is taken from the city’s property owners via a dedicated levy. The lawsuit argues that these compelled subsidies violate the First Amendment right to refrain from speaking – or funding the speech of another person.

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