Court Upholds Client’s First Amendment Rights

Litigation, Investigations

Smith’s taxpayer action challenged the City’s prohibition on an individual’s right to make a contribution during the last 17 days before a municipal election or the last seven days before a special election (“the blackout periods”), as an unconstitutional ban on the right to engage in political expression and an individual’s freedom of association.  Although the City claimed it had a legitimate government interest in promoting transparency, no such blackout period exists during this critical time of an election under federal or California state law, or under the laws of any other major City in California.  Rather, these governing bodies require that such “late” contributions are reported by a candidate within 24 hours, and instantly electronically posted on the web for transparency.  After a bench trial, the Honorable James Kleinberg ruled in Smith’s favor, holding that the blackout periods do not comport with the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and political expression.