James Bopp, Jr., James Madison Center for Free Speech
On Monday, Human Life of Washington (“HLW”) asked the Supreme Court to hear its case that seeks to allow citizens to advocate political issues without being treated as a political committee (PAC) by the state.
HLW seeks to advocate its views on life issues, including its opposition to physician-assisted suicide. In 2008, citizens of Washington considered a ballot initiative that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. HLW wanted to continue to express its views on this issue. However, even though HLW just wanted to talk about the issues and not the ballot initiative, it could not because such activities would have made it a PAC under Washington’s vague PAC definition. That was a risk HLW could not take, since PACs are subjected to burdensome and expensive requirements and severe penalties for noncompliance.
HLW filed a First Amendment challenge to several Washington regulations, including those establishing what groups are treated as PACs. HLW asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional. However, the trial court found the law to be constitutional. HLW appealed and the court of appeals agreed with the trial court. In so doing, the court of appeals directly contradicted the Supreme Court and other federal courts on the important issue of which organizations can be treated as PACs.
James Bopp, Jr., counsel for HLW, makes the following statement concerning the case: “While the Supreme Court and other Circuit courts have said that only certain organizations may be treated as PACs, Washington has been suppressing speech by treating groups that do issue advocacy as PACs. This case provides a unique opportunity for the Supreme Court to protect issue advocacy groups from this threat.”
The case is Human Life of Washington, Inc. v. Brumsickle. Court filings, including the Petition for Writ of Certiorari, may be viewed here.
James Bopp, Jr. has a national federal and state election law practice. He is an attorney with Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom and General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech. He is also a former Co-Chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee of the Federalist Society.