SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge did not have the authority to strike down San Jose’s campaign finance law as unconstitutional, the 9th Circuit ruled. The appeals court vacated the district court’s ruling, saying the federal court should have abstained from ruling on the law’s constitutionality.
In the underlying case, the San Jose Elections Commission reprimanded two local political organizations for exceeding the $250 contribution limit per person.
The organizations sued the commission and won a ruling in district court that the law was overbroad and in violation of the First and 14th Amendments.
Judge Susan Graber agreed with the defendants that the district should have abstained under Younger v. Harris, a ruling that prevents federal courts from interfering with ongoing state proceedings.
“Plaintiffs are not barred from litigating federal constitutional issues,” she wrote, “and the federal action would enjoin the state proceeding.”
Graber added that the circuit court would do what the district court should have done: abstain from ruling on the campaign law’s constitutionality.