Galassini v. Fountain Hills, Town of et al

Filing 158

ORDER: IT IS DECLARED that the definition of "political committee" in A.R.S. § 16-901(19) is vague, overbroad, and consequently unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment. ORDERED the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgme nt in favor of Plaintiff and against the State on Plaintiff's claim for declaratory judgment. ORDERED that to the extent the State's 113 Response to Plaintiff's Notice of Seeking Injunction as Remedy is a motion for reconsideration of the Court's ruling at Doc. 106 , it is denied. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED denying the State's 147 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction. Signed by Senior Judge James A Teilborg on 12/4/2014.(LFIG)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Dina Galassini, No. CV-11-02097-PHX-JAT Plaintiff, 10 11 v. 12 ORDER Town of Fountain Hills, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 Pending before the Court is Intervenor-Defendant State of Arizona’s Motion to 15 Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Doc. 147). The Court now rules on the 16 motion. 17 I. Background 18 The Court has previously recounted the facts of this case in detail, see (Doc. 106 at 19 1-17), and will state only those essential to the pending motion. This case arises from 20 Plaintiff’s opposition to a bond proposal on the November 2011 ballot of Town of 21 Fountain Hills, Arizona (“Fountain Hills”). (Doc. 106 at 2). Plaintiff sent an e-mail to 22 friends and neighbors in an attempt to organize a rally opposing the bond proposal. (Id.) 23 After this e-mail was forwarded to Fountain Hills’ officials, the Town Clerk sent a letter 24 to Plaintiff stating that Plaintiff’s planned rally would violate the state campaign-finance 25 laws. (Id. at 5-7). In response, Plaintiff cancelled her rally. (Id. at 7). 26 Plaintiff initially filed a complaint against Fountain Hills, the Town Clerk of 27 Fountain Hills, and the Town Attorney of Fountain Hills for violations of her First 28 1 Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association.1 (Doc. 1). 2 Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Arizona’s campaign finance laws were unconstitutional 3 and Fountain Hills had enforced these laws against her in violation of her First 4 Amendment rights. (Doc. 1 at 5-6, 17). 5 The next day, the State of Arizona (the “State”) moved to intervene as a defendant 6 “to defend the constitutionality of state law” under its “unconditional right to intervene” 7 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2403. (Doc. 13 at 1-2). The Court granted the State’s motion to 8 intervene. (Doc. 18). Following a preliminary injunction hearing, the Court issued a 9 preliminary injunction and Plaintiff held her protest rally prior to the bond proposal 10 election. (Doc. 106 at 7-8). 11 Subsequent to the election and the expiration of the preliminary injunction, 12 Plaintiff amended her complaint. (Doc. 65). Plaintiff claims in her amended complaint 13 that Arizona’s campaign finance laws are unconstitutional burdens on free speech, are 14 overbroad, and impermissibly vague. (Doc. 65 at 18-22). Plaintiff asks in her amended 15 complaint for a judgment declaring “that the registration, exemption, reporting, and 16 disclosure requirements for political committees contained in [A.R.S.] § 16-901 et seq. 17 are unconstitutional on their face and as applied to the Plaintiff and others similarly 18 situated” as well as, inter alia, injunctive relief “against the Defendants prohibiting the 19 enforcement of these regulations, laws, rules, and policies.” (Id. at 22-23). 20 Plaintiff also alleged in her amended complaint that she “wishes to associate with 21 others to speak about ballot issues in the future” but the campaign-finance laws “will 22 continue to make her[] avoid speaking out in a manner that would trigger” the laws. (Id. 23 at 18). Plaintiff later testified at her deposition that she wishes to be politically active with 24 respect to future ballot issues, including associating with others and spending more than 25 $250 as a group on political activities. (Doc. 82-4 at 15-16). 26 The State answered Plaintiff’s amended complaint, filed responses to Plaintiff’s 27 28 1 The parties later stipulated to dismissal of the Town Clerk and Town Attorney. (Doc. 61; Doc. 62). -2- 1 motions, participated in discovery, and moved for summary judgment. The State, 2 Fountain Hills, and Plaintiff each filed summary judgment motions. The State defended 3 the constitutionality of the campaign finance laws and asked the Court to enter judgment 4 in the State’s favor. (Doc. 83). Fountain Hills did not opine on the constitutionality issue 5 but argued that it could not be liable under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the 6 City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) because it did not have a policy of enforcing 7 statutes without regard to their constitutionality. (Doc. 84). 8 In its ruling on the motions for summary judgment, the Court held that the 9 definition of “political committee” in A.R.S. § 16-901(19) was vague and overbroad in 10 violation of the First Amendment. (Doc. 106 at 33, 41). The Court then considered but 11 denied Fountain Hills’ motion for summary judgment, finding a disputed issue of 12 material fact existed as to whether Fountain Hills had a policy of applying state statutes 13 regardless of their constitutionality. (Id. at 47). Accordingly, the Court denied Fountain 14 Hills’ motion for summary judgment, denied the State’s motion for summary judgment, 15 and granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. (Id. at 16 52-53). The Court’s Order did not enter any final judgment on any claims, however. 17 The State asserted in the parties’ proposed final pretrial order that no issues 18 existed between it and Plaintiff for trial and “[t]he State’s interest in this litigation is 19 solely in the constitutionality of the statute, which the Court has already decided.” (Doc. 20 134 at 2 n.1). Plaintiff and Fountain Hills then settled their claims, and the Court entered 21 a consent judgment (the “Consent Judgment”) in which the Court declared Arizona’s 22 campaign finance laws to be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad as set forth in the 23 Court’s decision on the parties’ summary judgment motions. (Doc. 138 at 3). The consent 24 judgment also contained Fountain Hills’ admission that its officials did not make an 25 independent determination of the constitutionality of the campaign finance laws prior to 26 contacting Plaintiff. (Id. at 3-4). The consent judgment further provided that it was a final 27 judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 54(b). (Id. at 5). 28 The State now moves to dismiss this case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. -3- 1 (Doc. 147). Plaintiff asks the Court to enter declaratory and permanent injunctive relief 2 against the State. (Doc. 148-1 at 30-32). 3 II. Legal Standard 4 Subject-matter jurisdiction “concerns the courts’ statutory or constitutional power 5 to adjudicate cases.” Leeson v. Transamerica Disability Income Plan, 671 F.3d 969, 975 6 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env’t, 523 U.S. 83, 89 (1998)) 7 (internal quotation marks and emphasis omitted). “If the court determines at any time that 8 it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 9 12(h)(3). 10 Subject-matter jurisdiction derives, in part, from Article III of the Constitution, 11 which limits the judicial power to the adjudication of cases or controversies. MedImmune, 12 Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 137 (2007). This case-or-controversy limitation is 13 reflected in the justiciability doctrines of standing, mootness, and ripeness. See Culinary 14 Workers Union, Local 226 v. Del Papa, 200 F.3d 614, 617 (9th Cir. 1999). A case is 15 moot “when the issues presented are no longer ‘live’ or the parties lack a legally 16 cognizable interest in the outcome.” Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496 (1969). 17 However, dismissing a case on grounds of mootness is “justified only if it [is] absolutely 18 clear that the litigant no longer [has] any need of the judicial protection that it sought.” 19 Jacobus v. Alaska, 338 F.3d 1095, 1102 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Adarand Constructors, 20 Inc. v. Slater, 528 U.S. 216, 224 (2000)). 21 III. Analysis 22 A. Mootness/Standing 23 The State argues that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to enter any 24 further judgments in this case because Plaintiff’s settlement with Fountain Hills resolved 25 all outstanding claims. (Doc. 147 at 2). According to the State, Plaintiff’s protests 26 concerning the November 2011 bond proposal were the sole political activity at issue in 27 this litigation. (Id. at 4). Thus, the State claims, there never existed a case or controversy 28 between Plaintiff and the State and the Consent Judgment between Plaintiff and Fountain -4- 1 Hills has mooted this case. (Id.) In other words, the State argues that Plaintiff now lacks 2 standing to pursue relief from the State. See (id. at 5) (“In finding that Plaintiff had 3 standing, the Court relied solely on the allegations that Plaintiff made against the Town, 4 not the State.”). 5 The State principally relies upon Blair v. Shanahan, 38 F.3d 1514 (9th Cir. 1994) 6 to argue that the Consent Judgment between Plaintiff and Fountain Hills stripped the 7 Court of subject-matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 147 at 3-4). Blair, who had been arrested 8 multiple times for alleged violations of a state anti-panhandling law, sued the City of San 9 Francisco for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as a declaration that the state 10 law was unconstitutional. Blair, 38 F.3d at 1517. However, at the time of filing the 11 lawsuit, Blair was gainfully employed and no longer panhandled. Id. Blair and San 12 Francisco subsequently entered into a consent judgment in which the Court entered 13 judgment in favor of Blair on his claims for damages and declaratory relief. (Id. at 1517- 14 18). San Francisco believed that this consent judgment had preserved its right to appeal 15 the declaratory judgment; upon realizing that this might not be the case, it moved to 16 modify the judgment. (Id. at 1518). The trial court denied San Francisco’s motion, and 17 San Francisco appealed. (Id.) 18 The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (“Ninth Circuit”) concluded that it lacked 19 subject-matter jurisdiction to consider the appeal. Blair, 38 F.3d at 1520. The court first 20 stated the Article III requirement that a plaintiff have a “legally cognizable interest in the 21 outcome of the litigation,” known as the “personal stake requirement.” Id. at 1519 22 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The court held that Blair had no continuing 23 personal stake in the outcome of his case because he no longer wished to panhandle and 24 thus had no continuing “legal interest in the enforceability of the statute.” Id. Because 25 there was no other basis for finding that Blair had a personal stake in the declaratory 26 judgment, the Ninth Circuit held that the case was moot and dismissed the appeal. Id. at 27 1520. 28 The State misreads Blair in arguing that Plaintiff’s case is moot merely because -5- 1 the claim for damages has been settled. See (Doc. 147 at 3). The Ninth Circuit’s 2 reasoning in Blair did not rely upon the consent judgment entered with respect to the 3 damages claim; instead, the court’s holding turned on Blair’s failure to show a continuing 4 interest in the enforceability of the challenged statute. See Blair, 38 F.3d at 1519-20. 5 Although the Ninth Circuit discussed the satisfaction of Blair’s damages claim as having 6 rendered the case moot, it did so only because the continued presence of a damages claim 7 would have preserved justiciability. See id. at 1520-21. The Ninth Circuit found the case 8 to be moot only because both the damages claim had been satisfied and Blair lacked a 9 continuing legal interest in the enforceability of the statute. See id. at 1519-20. Thus, to 10 the extent the State relies upon Blair for the proposition that the settlement of Plaintiff’s 11 damages claim necessarily renders the case moot, the State’s argument fails. 12 Under Blair, the proper inquiry is whether Plaintiff has a continuing legal interest 13 in the enforceability of the campaign-finance laws. The State asserts that although the 14 Court previously found Plaintiff to have an interest in protesting the November 2011 15 bond proposal, Plaintiff has no such future plans. In its ruling on the motions for 16 summary judgment, the Court found: 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Here, Ms. Galassini is politically active and wants to be involved in rallies and protests where she cares about the issues at stake. . . . Ms. Galassini testified that she would get involved with and speak about future ballot issues and would associate with others to do so if she did not have to worry about Arizona’s campaign finance laws being applied to her. Thus, Ms. Galassini has articulated a concrete plan to associate with others and engage in future protests like her protest of the November 8th bond election. Ms. Galassini credibly asserts that she will refrain from such activities if there is a chance she will be penalized for unintentionally violating Arizona’s campaign finance scheme. ... . . . Based on her experience, Ms. Galassini has reason to believe that, should she ever hold a protest in the future and her fellow[] protestors, either individually, or in combination, spend in excess of $250 unbeknownst to her, either because she does not know about the expenditures or because she does not understand what constitutes an “expenditure,” the statute will be enforced against her. -6- 1 (Doc. 106 at 29-30). Although the Court made these findings in the context of the 2 November 2011 bond proposal, because the election had already occurred at the time of 3 the Court’s order and the Court found Plaintiff articulated a “concrete plan to associate 4 with others and engage in future protests,” Plaintiff has established her continuing legal 5 interest in the enforceability of the campaign-finance laws. Plaintiff is unwilling to 6 continue her political activism with respect to other, non-municipal elections (such as 7 county or state elections) if the campaign-finance laws remain enforceable because she 8 fears they will be applied to her. 9 To the extent that Plaintiff’s political activism was directed at the November 2011 10 bond proposal, the State is correct that the entry of the Consent Judgment eliminates 11 these activities as a basis for Plaintiff having standing.2 See (Doc. 147 at 6-7). But the 12 State is incorrect in arguing that Plaintiff lacks standing because no state entity or official 13 has threatened to enforce the campaign-finance laws against her. See (id. at 7). The Court 14 has found that Plaintiff intends to engage in future political activism beyond the 15 November 2011 election. Thus, the continued existence of the campaign-finance laws 16 chills Plaintiff’s speech in violation of the First Amendment, and Plaintiff has a continued 17 legal interest in the enforceability of the campaign-finance laws even if she has not 18 demonstrated a specific threat of enforcement by a state official. 19 Although Plaintiff has standing, it does not automatically follow that the State is a 20 party against which the Court can enter judgment. The State intervened pursuant to 28 21 U.S.C. § 2403(b), which provides: 22 In any action, suit, or proceeding in a Court of the United States to which a State or any agency, officer, or employee thereof is not a party, wherein the constitutionality of any statute of that State affecting the public interest is drawn in question, the court shall . . . permit the State to intervene for presentation of evidence, if evidence is otherwise admissible in the case, and for argument on the question of 23 24 25 26 2 27 28 The State errs in asserting that Plaintiff’s amended complaint “states that the only political activity in which Plaintiff attempted to engage in, or planned to engage in in the future, was with respect to municipal bonds within the Town of Fountain Hills.” (Doc. 147 at 4). Plaintiff alleged that she wishes to engage in other political activity in the future. See (Doc. 65 ¶ 67). -7- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 constitutionality. The State shall, subject to the applicable provisions of law, have all the rights of a party and be subject to all liabilities of a party as to court costs to the extent necessary for a proper presentation of the facts and law relating to the question of constitutionality. 28 U.S.C. § 2403(b). The State argues that its intervention in this case was thus limited purely to “arguing the constitutionality of the challenged statutes as applied to the Plaintiff by the Town.” (Doc. 147 at 8). The State cites Blair for the proposition that a State may not participate in a proceeding where the constitutionality of a state statute is not at issue. (Id.) (citing Blair, 38 F.3d at 1522). In Blair, the Ninth Circuit held that the State of California did not have standing to participate in San Francisco’s Rule 60(b) motion because the issue of vacating the consent judgment between Blair and San Francisco did not relate to “facts and law relating to the question of [the] constitutionality” of the statute in question. Blair, 38 F.3d at 1522. The Court noted that “[t]hough we understand the State’s argument that it had an interest in vacating the consent judgment so that it could obtain review of the constitutionality of section 647(c), 28 U.S.C. § 2403(b) does not allow a State standing to participate in a motion where questions of constitutionality are not among the issues argued.” Id. The general rule of Blair is consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Maine v. Taylor, 477 U.S. 131 (1986), in which the court held that the State of Maine, which had intervened in the district court under 28 U.S.C. § 2403(b), had standing to defend the constitutionality of its statute despite being the only appellant before the court. 477 U.S. at 136. Here, Plaintiff is seeking relief based upon the Court’s prior determination that the campaign-finance laws are unconstitutional. The State defended the laws’ constitutionality at the summary judgment stage and lost. The Court has already granted in part Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and denied the State’s motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 106 at 52). Any declaratory or injunctive relief against the State is directly connected to this prior ruling on the merits of Plaintiff’s claims, and relates to the constitutionality of the campaign-finance laws. Accordingly, the State is a -8- 1 proper party against whom relief may be granted. 2 B. 3 Plaintiff asks the Court to enter judgment in her favor and against the State for 4 declaratory and injunctive relief because both types of relief are necessary to remedy her 5 injury. (Doc. 148 at 2). In disputing the proper scope of relief, the State relies primarily 6 upon its arguments concerning subject-matter jurisdiction. To the extent the State 7 comments on the specifics of Plaintiff’s requested relief, it challenges her request for an 8 injunction. See (Doc. 152 at 8-12). 9 Appropriate Relief 1. Declaratory Relief 10 For the reasons provided in the Court’s discussion concerning standing and 11 because the Court previously concluded that the campaign-finance laws are 12 unconstitutional, entry of a declaratory judgment against the State is appropriate. The 13 Court will declare the campaign-finance laws unconstitutional as specified in the Court’s 14 prior Order. See (Doc. 106 at 41, 50). 15 2. Injunctive Relief 16 The Court previously ruled that “injunctive relief is appropriate in this case” and 17 “it would not be appropriate to limit an injunction solely to certain groups of people.” 18 (Doc. 106 at 51). However, the Court made these statements at the summary judgment 19 stage while Fountain Hills was an active party in this litigation. At that time, Fountain 20 Hills’ history of enforcing the campaign-finance laws, combined with Plaintiff’s 21 deposition testimony that she wished to remain politically active, see (Doc. 82-4 at 15- 22 16), indicated to the Court that there was a significant threat to Plaintiff that Fountain 23 Hills would continue to enforce the same unconstitutional campaign-finance laws. 24 The issuance of a permanent injunction requires a showing of a likelihood of 25 irreparable harm. See eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388, 391 (2006); see 26 also Haw. Pac. Health v. Takamine, 2013 WL 1858554, at *3 (D. Haw. May 1, 2013). 27 Any threat of identifiable irreparable harm to Plaintiff disappeared when, subsequent to 28 the Court’s ruling on the motions for summary judgment, Plaintiff settled with Fountain -9- 1 Hills and Fountain Hills agreed to not enforce the unconstitutional campaign-finance 2 laws in the future. See (Doc. 138). 3 There is no evidence in the present record that the State is likely to enforce the 4 unconstitutional campaign-finance laws against Plaintiff subsequent to the Court’s entry 5 of a declaratory judgment against the State. Although Plaintiff has stated that she intends 6 to remain politically active, she has not identified any specific future activity where the 7 State has threatened to enforce the campaign-finance laws and chill her right to free 8 speech. Therefore, because Plaintiff has not shown a likelihood of irreparable harm, she 9 has failed to establish her entitlement to a permanent injunction. See Poe v. Gerstein, 417 10 U.S. 281, 281-82 (1974) (finding injunctive relief unnecessary where there was no 11 evidence that the State would not respect the declaratory judgment). 12 However, if in the future Plaintiff is able to show that the State is threatening to 13 enforce or is enforcing the unconstitutional definition of “political committee” against 14 her, she may apply to the Court for an injunction. 15 IV. Conclusion For the foregoing reasons, 16 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / - 10 - 1 IT IS DECLARED that the definition of “political committee” in A.R.S. § 16- 2 901(19) is vague, overbroad, and consequently unconstitutional in violation of the First 3 Amendment. 4 5 IT IS ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against the State on Plaintiff’s claim for declaratory judgment. 6 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to the extent the State’s Response to 7 Plaintiff’s Notice of Seeking Injunction as Remedy (Doc. 113) is a motion for 8 reconsideration of the Court’s ruling at Doc. 106, it is denied. 9 10 11 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED denying the State’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Doc. 147). Dated this 4th day of December, 2014. 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 - 11 -

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