Chamness v. Bowen

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Election Law
  • Date Filed: 07-03-2013
  • Case #: 11-56303
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Senior District Judge Carr for the Court; Circuit Judges Berson and Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

There is not a significant distinction between a candidate being referenced as part of the "Independent" party verses being labeled as "No Party Preference" on a ballot to establish a severe burden of the candidate's First Amendment Rights since it is a reasonable, nondiscriminatory restriction that only imposes a slight burden and is supported by the state's important regulatory interests.

Chamness challenged the constitutionality of certain sections of California Senate Bill 6 ("SB6"). SB6 implemented California’s Proposition 14, which in turn fundamentally changes California’s election system by eliminating party primaries and general elections with party-nominated candidates, and substitutes a nonpartisan primary and a two-candidate runoff. The trial court denied Chamness’ motion for preliminary injunction and then denied his motion for summary judgment and formally granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Ninth Circuit dismissed two of the plaintiff’s claims as moot but held Chamness’ claims were not moot because his claims were “capable of repetition, yet evading review.” Chamness wanted to run for office in the primary election with the party preference on his ballot stating “Independent”. Due to the new law in place, he appeared as “No Party Preference.” Chamness argued the state violated his First Amendment rights by prohibiting him from using the ballot label “Independent” and forcing him to choose between a preferred party designation, “No Party Preference,” or a blank space on that part of the ballot. The panel held that Chamness failed to establish that SB6 severely burdened his First Amendment rights. Chamness failed to show any real difference between the indication on the ballot of “Independent” versus “No Party Preference” and thus the law represents a reasonable, nondiscriminatory restriction that imposes a slight burden on speech and is sufficiently supported by the state’s important regulatory interests. AFFIRMED.

Advanced Search