American Constitutional Law Foundation v. Davidson

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American Constitutional Law Foundation v. Davidson is the name of a lawsuit decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The plaintiff was the American Constitutional Law Foundation; the defendant was Donetta Davidson, in her official capacity as Colorado Secretary of State. Judge Arthur L. Alarcon wrote the decision for the 10th Circuit.

A lower court had issued a declaratory judgment in favor of ACLF, declaring that Colorado's statutory requirement that ballot initiative petition circulators be registered voters violates the U.S. Constitution's 1st amendment and is, therefore, unenforceable. Davidson appealed that judgment, saying that the lawsuit had become moot and that the state of Colorado and her office were no longer likely to violate the constitutional rights of petitioners by refusing to count signatures collected by non-registered voters.

The 10th Circuit agreed that the a series of other court rulings made it extremely unlikely that further violations would occur and, as a result, vacated the lower court's judgment in the case.

Background

In its May 29, 1997 decision, American Constitutional Law Foundation v. Meyer, the 10th Circuit had found in favor of ACLF, meaning that several of the laws governing the initiative process in Colorado were tossed out.

Then, in Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, Colorado's registered circulator requirement was held to be unconstitutional. Subsequently, ACLF requested that the federal district court enter an order enjoining the Secretary from disqualifying signatures based on the registered circulator requirement. On March 12, 1999, judgment in favor of ACLF was entered, and the registered circulator requirement was made unenforceable.

ACLF then filed a motion in the state district court to reopen the judgment in the state court analogue of these proceedings. That state district court judgment had been affirmed by the Colorado Supreme Court's decision in McClellan v. Meyer''. On June 16, 1999, the state district court granted ACLF's motion, and remanded the case to the Secretary with directions that she recount ACLF's petitions without applying the unconstitutional registered circulator requirement. On July 7, 1999, the Colorado Supreme Court denied the Secretary's Petition for Relief from the state district court's order.

The court's legal analysis

Davidson argued that the district court erred when it failed to dismiss ACLF's claims on the ground that the Supreme Court's decision in Buckley rendered the federal action moot. The Secretary also argued that the district court erred by failing to dismiss ACLF's action on the ground that the matter was barred by claim preclusion.