A Nashville judge ruled against the state of Tennessee Wednesday in a case that challenged a law prohibiting nonpartisan political action committees from making campaign contributions to candidates within 10 days of an election.
It means the state can’t enforce the “blackout period” statute over PACs. Under Tennessee law, only committees controlled by a political party have been able to contribute financially to candidates 10 days out from an election.
In her ruling, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle granted judgement in favor of a nonprofit called Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws, which sued the state over the law ahead of the August state primary election.
The ruling came after Lyle granted a motion from the non-profit to exclude evidence presented by the state. The judge said the state did not comply with a court order to provide a description of testimony to be given by a witness.
“The court concludes that the way the state has proceeded, it has the effect of a trial by ambush and it doesn’t provide an opportunity for the other side to defend against proof that the defendant, the state, seeks to offer,” Lyle said.
As a result, Lyle said the state has “insufficient facts” to withstand the plaintiff’s claims. “So judgement is granted in favor of the plaintiff.”
State vows to appeal decision
The court had set a timeline for an expedited trial in the case.
Deputy Attorney Gen. Janet Kleinfelter, representing the state, said the state intends to appeal the decision in the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
“We’ll get that motion and notice filed today, your honor,” she said.
The lawsuit said that Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws hoped to make a $500 contribution to Republican Tennessee House District 56 candidate Joseph Williams, who lost in the Republican primary to Brent Moody.
But they were limited to making the contribution because of the blackout period restriction. The group had donated $300 to Williams prior to the blackout period.
“Elected officials and political parties cannot lawfully censor disfavored political speakers while reserving special treatment in the political process for themselves,” said Daniel Horwitz, an attorney for Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws. “In securing this groundbreaking win, we are proud to have made Tennessee’s democratic process just a little bit freer.”
The suit calls the law “an overbroad speech restriction that criminalizes substantial protected speech and unconstitutionally proscribes core political speech that falls within a realm in which the importance of First Amendment protection is at its zenith.”
Horwitz was joined by attorney Jamie Hollin in representing the plaintiff. The same duo successfully sued the Davidson County Election Commission earlier this year to force a special mayoral election in May to replace former Mayor Megan Barry as opposed to an election in August.
Reach Joey Garrison at 615-259-8236, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @joeygarrison.
Since 1877, Colorado has banned slavery and servitude—with one exception. “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude,” Article II, Section 26 of the state’s constitution read for nearly 150 years, “except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
On November 6, Colorado residents voted in favor of an amendment that will abolish slavery in every form, including the forced labor of convicted criminals, reports Bill Chappell of NPR. As of Wednesday afternoon, 65 percent of voters had approved the amendment, exceeding the 55 percent of votes required for an amendment to pass.
The language of Article II, Section 26 effectively mimics the wording of the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1865. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, but continued to allow slavery as punishment for a crime. That loophole still stands, as CBS News reports, and more than 15 states technically permit convicted criminals to be punished with slavery.
With the passing of the new amendment in Colorado, known as Amendment A, the state constitution now reads, “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude.”
Colorado was only granted statehood after the American Civil War, and as such was never a slave state, but as Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the ACLU of Colorado, writes, Amendment A is “more than a symbolic measure.” In the wake of the Civil War, Woodliff-Stanley notes, some states exploited the 13th Amendment loophole to arrest formerly enslaved people and force them back into “involuntary servitude,” a system now known as “convict leasing.” Amendment A “closes the door on the possibility of future abuses,” Woodliff-Stanley writes.
A similar measure was offered in Colorado in 2016, but was rejected because its convoluted language confused voters. The language on the 2016 ballot measure read: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the removal of the exception to the prohibition of slavery and involuntary servitude when used as punishment for persons duly convicted of a crime?” This time around, the wording was changed to be clearer, reading: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution that prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime and thereby prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances?”
Vox’s P.R. Lockhart reports the 2018 measure met with “very little public opposition, and no groups mounted an organized challenge to the amendment.” But there was some pushback. In October, Dan Rubinstein, a Republican district attorney representing Mesa County, told Alex Burness of the Colorado Independent that he would not support the measure unless it “specifically authorizes court-ordered community service.”
“With most low-level offenses carrying jail, fines and community service as the only sentencing options, I fear that [the passage of Amendment A] will result in more low-risk offenders filling our jails and would disproportionately incarcerate indigent offenders who lack the ability to pay fines,” he said.
Jumoke Emery of Abolish Slavery Colorado, which supported the amendment, argued that this was not a concern. “Time and time again, research has shown that folks who have the ability to work while incarcerated, who have the ability to do community service, that it reduces recidivism,” he told Burness. “We don’t want to impact those programs at all. We did our due diligence ahead of time, and we had legal assistance from the state legislature, from the ACLU, to make sure changing the wording [in the state constitution] wouldn’t impact those programs.”
In a disturbing incident on Monday, Emery found a pile of burning pamphlets supporting Amendment A on the front porch of his family’s home. He told CBS News that he believes the smouldering pamphlets were “a clear case of terrorism and intimidation” over his support for the measure, but that he was nevertheless heartened by the passing of the amendment.
“I hope that this puts forth the message that our past doesn’t have to be our future,” he said, “[and] that by and large we as Americans are interested in fixing our mistakes and that there’s hope for our future.”
Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/colorado-votes-abolish-slavery-all-forms-180970764/#BY1SePIQRteoivHr.99
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In 2014, the world faced the specter of ISIL (or ISIS or IS) as the Islamic State overran vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria (the “Levant”) and begun to impose its version of Islamic Law on the local inhabitants who really just wanted to be left alone. When they (the locals) wouldn’t go along with the insane Islamic nut jobs, they (ISIL) began to commit mass murder on an industrial scale.
Reactions ranged from the idea that we – the United States – had a “moral” duty to step in, to the position that we should stay the heck out of yet another war in Asia. was the Islamic state an actual threat to the United States or its “national interests?”
How do we define the “National interests” that guide our foreign policy? Most of all, what does the Constitution have to say about not just the powers involved, but what, if anything, about the process?
Sausage making, as the process has been described, is not really pretty, and generally speaking not at all interesting.
But if you want breakfast, you have to break a few eggs. And grind up some pigs…