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281 Care Committee v. Arneson

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
766 F.3d 774 (2014)


Facts

The Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA) criminalized false statements in political advertising or campaign material. Initially, Minnesota required county attorneys to prosecute violations directly, but a 2004 amendment imposed an administrative procedure. Anyone claiming someone lied in the political process could lodge a civil complaint with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). An administrative law judge would conduct a probable cause assessment, followed by a hearing before a three-judge panel, then a referral to a county attorney who could decide whether to prosecute violations. Two grassroots advocacy organizations founded to oppose school-funding ballot initiatives, 281 Care Committee and Citizens for Quality Education, and their leaders, Ron Stoffel and Joel Brude (collectively, plaintiffs), brought a lawsuit against the Minnesota attorney general and two county attorneys (defendants) claiming the provision unconstitutionally restricted free speech. After an appeal confirmed the claimants had standing, the appellate court remanded to the trial court to analyze the First Amendment claims applying strict scrutiny. Meanwhile, in United States v. Alvarez, 123 S. Ct. 2537 (2012), a four-justice plurality applied strict scrutiny to invalidate a federal law criminalizing false statements about military honors, whereas the concurrence applied only intermediate scrutiny reaching the same conclusion. Back on remand, the trial court granted summary judgment, reasoning that the FCPA provision passed even strict scrutiny. The advocacy organizations appealed again.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Beam, J.)

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