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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Nixes Arizona Election Spending Law

PHOENIX (CN) - An Arizona law requiring groups to register before spending money on election campaigns is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled, but stopped short of ordering the state not to enforce the law.

Dina Galassini, of Fountain Hills, sued the town in 2011 after she was told she could not protest a local bond proposal until a political committee lodged a statement of organization.

"The First Amendment's protection of free speech and association is hollow unless courts meaningfully engage with the real-world effects of these laws," Institute for Justice attorney Diana Simpson in a statement. "Unfortunately, some courts are still failing their basic responsibility to defend the free speech rights of ordinary Americans."

The Institute for Justice, of Arington, Va. represented Galassini.

Senior U.S. District Judge James Teilborg on Dec. 5 issued an injunction allowing Galassini to hold her protest before the bond election.

Fountain Hills and Galassini then settled the dispute, in a consent judgment "in which the court declared Arizona's campaign finance laws to be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad as set forth in the court's decision on the parties' summary judgment motions."

Galassini sought to stop Arizona from enforcing the law, however, but failed to show that it was threatening to do that, Teilborg found.

"There is no evidence in the present record that the state is likely to enforce the unconstitutional campaign-finance laws against plaintiff subsequent to the court's entry of a declaratory judgment against the state. Although plaintiff has stated that she intends to remain politically active, she has not identified any specific future activity where the state has threatened to enforce the campaign-finance laws and chill her right to free speech," Teilborg wrote. "Therefore, because plaintiff has not shown a likelihood of irreparable harm, she has failed to establish her entitlement to a permanent injunction."

Teilborg found, however, that if Galassini is able to show Arizona enforces the unconstitutional definition of political committee against her, she may apply for an injunction.

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