Judge Grants Fees in Election Day Campaign Ban Case

Judge Daniel L. Hovland of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota awarded the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) $18,000 in attorney’s fees and costs on Friday in the final chapter of the Emineth v. Jaeger lawsuit.  Last October, Judge Hovland issued an injunction barring enforcement of North Dakota’s prohibition against campaigning on Election Day.

“Banning political speech, particularly on Election Day, is nonsensical,” said CCP President David Keating. “The law clearly infringed on North Dakotans’ First Amendment rights.”

“Candidates such as U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp were able to use their constitutionally-protected right to campaign on election day,” said plaintiff Gary Emineth.  “Although some North Dakotans criticized the lawsuit, the government was encroaching on our rights as citizens, which is why the lawsuit was necessary.”

Allen Dickerson, CCP Legal Director, noted “North Dakota’s blanket prohibition, on its face, criminalized the mere act of discussing a favored candidate with friends and neighbors, or failing to remove a yard sign. The state has no legitimate interest in banning these activities, and the First Amendment does not permit it to do so.”

Judge Hovland’s injunction has been selected for publication. After he declared the law “clearly invalid,” CCP worked with the Attorney General’s office, which recommended modifications to the Legislature and the governor limiting the law to a ban oncampaigning within 100 feet of polling places.  The governor signed that bill into law April 24, 2013.

“The injunction sets a strong precedent,” said CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson. “Judge Hovland’s ruling will make it easier to challenge other unconstitutional laws that abridge political speech.”

A copy of the order can be found here.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.