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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Governor Nominee Gets Into Election Law Fray

(CN) - A Republican running for governor of Montana this year can intervene in the appeal over campaign-contribution limits that were found unconstitutional, the 9th Circuit ruled.

Montana has been enforcing its contribution limit since 1994, but rancher Doug Lair led a coalition of conservative Republican groups in a challenge to the law last year.

After a bench trial in Helena in early October 2012, U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell permanently enjoined the state from enforcing the limits.

Montana sought a stay pending appeal, which the 9th Circuit preliminarily granted on Oct. 10, finding that it had no other choice but to do so because the lower court had yet to issue a formal ruling on the issue.

A three-judge panel ruled for the state again on Oct. 16, finding that it was likely to succeed on the merits of its case.

The panel also found that the 9th Circuit is still bound by a ruling that declared the same limits constitutional after a similar challenge in 2003.

Last week, the Supreme Court declined to vacate the stay.

Meanwhile, several Republicans moved the 9th Circuit to clarify the reasoning behind its stay. The motion also seeks to let Rick Hill, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Montana, intervene in the appeal along with A Lot of Folks for Rick Hill and Lorna Kuney, who is the assistant treasurer of the Montana Republican Party.

"The movants contend that they will be inadequately represented because, unlike appellees, they are subject to a state court's temporary restraining order enforcing Montana's campaign contribution limits," the 9th Circuit explained in an order filed late Tuesday. "The movants, however, share the same 'ultimate objective' as the appellees - both groups seek to defend the district court's earlier ruling that Montana's campaign contribution limits are unconstitutional. The fact that movants are faced with a state court order enforcing the Montana law is not a 'compelling showing' and does not distinguish their interest from appellees'. Because the movants do not show that the appellees will not adequately represent their interests in the litigation, we do not address any of the other requirements of Rule 24(a)(2), and we deny intervention of right.

"Accordingly, we grant permissive intervention under Rule 24(b)(1)(B). The movants may file a brief on the merits in appeal No. 12-35809 with the appellees in accordance with our prior scheduling order in that appeal. We hereby consolidate these two appeals, which shall proceed on the same schedule as that issued in No. 12-35809."

The court refused, however, to clarify the Oct. 16 opinion that granted a stay pending appeal.

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