Fifth Circuit Reverses Lower Court and Restores Mississippi Disclosure Requirements

CLC Staff
Nov 14, 2014
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Today, in Justice v. Hosemann, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a trial court ruling that had struck down several Mississippi disclosure requirements as applied to certain individuals and groups engaged in ballot measure advocacy.  The Campaign Legal Center had filed an amicus brief and later a supplemental letter brief in the case urging this result. 

“We are pleased to see the Circuit Court adhere to established Supreme Court precedent that recognizes the vital public interest in disclosing the identities of those funding efforts to influence elections—including ballot initiatives,” said Tara Malloy, Legal Center Senior Counsel.  “Ignoring precedent, the district court had improperly discounted the state’s interests, disproportionately emphasized the plaintiffs’ burdens, and failed to pay any deference to the legislators elected by the people of Mississippi.” 

The District Court had invalidated Mississippi’s requirement that groups register as political committees upon receiving or spending in excess of $200 to support or oppose a constitutional ballot measure as applied to plaintiffs.  It also invalidated a parallel provision that required individuals spending over $200 to influence ballot measures to file disclosure reports.   

In today’s decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs’ attempt to bring an as-applied challenge failed because they failed to present any concrete facts supporting such a challenge.  Because the Court rejected the as-applied challenge, it treated the plaintiffs’ constitutional challenge as a facial one.  It then rejected plaintiffs’ arguments that Mississippi’s disclosure requirement should be subject to strict scrutiny, and instead followed the approach of other sister circuits in applying the lesser but still meaningful standard of “exacting scrutiny.”  This legal point was precisely the one advocated by the Campaign Legal Center in its amicus brief.  Applying this lesser level of exacting scrutiny, the Court of Appeals found that Mississippi’s disclosure requirements were substantially related to the state’s informational interest in informing Mississippi voters of “who is lobbying for their vote.”

To read the Fifth Circuit Court’s opinion, click here.

To read the supplemental letter brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center on August 22, click here.

To read the original brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center on March 4, click here.

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