Farris v. Seabrook

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 01-19-2012
  • Case #: 11-35620
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fisher for the Court; Circuit Judges Paez and Clifton
  • Full Text Opinion

Washington campaign contribution restrictions to committees in recall elections are an impermissible restriction on Free Speech.

After becoming aware of malfeasance allegations, plaintiff Farris initiated recall proceedings against Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Washam. Farris formed the political committee "Recall Dale Washam." Farris received notice that the committee had allegedly accepted more than 800 dollars from one donor in violation of Washington statute 42.17A.405. Farris instituted proceedings challenging the statute limited free speech in violation of the First Amendment. The district court granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the statute from applying to the recall election. The Court reviewed for an abuse of discretion in granting the preliminary injunction. The Court found an abuse of discretion since the district court only applied the final three factors of the Winter test, but concluded that this error was harmless since the plaintiff satisfied all four prongs. The plaintiff must prove "she is likely to succeed on the merits, she is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, the balance of equities tips in her favor and an injunction is in the public interest." Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). The Court reviewed the first element de novo. The Court found that the State did not provide a sufficiently important interest to support the contribution limit. The Winter test was satisfied and the statute was found to be an unconstitutional infringement upon free speech. AFFIRMED.

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