FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: JOHN C. EASTMAN
Office: (714) 628-2500
A Federal Court today ruled that a portion of Irvine, California's campaign finance law was unconstitutional. Enacted in 1995, the ordinance that was the subject of today's ruling limited contributions to political committees that make independent expenditures in Irvine municipal elections and effectively barred private groups whose dues were greater than the contribution limit, currently $340, from participating in Irvine elections.
The Lincoln Club of Orange County, represented by the Claremont Institute's Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and its Director, Chapman Law School Professor John C. Eastman, sued the City of Irvine in October of 1999 for violation of its members' constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of association. "Quite simply, the ordinance meant that your neighbor and you could not join forces to buy a fair-sized newspaper ad to express your frustration with a candidate, no matter how legitimate your grievance," said Michael Capaldi, the Lincoln Club's president.
An initial ruling in August 2000 by the United States District Court for the Central District of California upheld the Irvine ordinance. That ruling was reversed on June 5, 2002, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that ordinances such as Irvine's that restricted core political speech were subject to the strictest constitutional scrutiny.
Following Ninth Circuit's ruling, the Lincoln Club and the City of Irvine reached a settlement in which the city acknowledged that it lacked the evidence to sustain the ordinance under the strict scrutiny standard imposed by the court. As a result of the settlement and subsequent judgment signed today by United States District Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler, Irvine is permanently enjoined from enforcing its unconstitutional ordinance.
"We are obviously pleased with the ruling today," said John C. Eastman, who represented the Lincoln Club throughout the litigation, joined by Manuel Klausner and Patrick Manshardt of the Individual Rights Foundation when the case went to the Court of Appeals. "It means that the Lincoln Club and other groups of private citizens will be able to participate in the political process and help elect candidates whose views they share."
Brian Kennedy, the President of the Claremont Institute, echoed Eastman's remarks. "I am particularly pleased with the outcome of this case," Kennedy said, "because not only does it defend free speech but this case was the first undertaken when the Claremont Institute formed its in-house public interest law firm, the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, in 1999."
The Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence agreed to take the Lincoln Club's case as its initial foray into public interest litigation because of the importance of the issues raised by the case. "The freedom to engage in political speech and thereby affect the direction of government lies at the core of our representative democracy," Eastman said. "We only hope that, as the result of this ruling, governments at every level will recognize that restrictions on political speech, particularly during election season, are a dangerous and unconstitutional intrusion on the First Amendment freedoms this nation has long cherished."