Statement on Dismissal of Markley and Sampson v. SEEC

Case poses 'significant' First Amendment questions

August 3, 2018   •  By IFS Staff   •  
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Alexandria, VA – The Institute for Free Speech released the following statement in response to a Connecticut court’s decision to dismiss as untimely our clients’ appeal of an administrative ruling that effectively censored candidate campaign ads.

“Today’s ruling lets the government off the hook for stringing along our clients with sham proceedings as it ran out the clock on their appeal. The State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) repeatedly put our clients’ petition on its schedule and notified them that a decision was forthcoming. That decision was made on March 23rd, and our clients filed an appeal within the provided 45-day window. Now the SEEC claims, and the court has unfortunately agreed, that the March 23 hearing was a farce, and that the petition was already dead by virtue of the Commission’s inaction,” said Allen Dickerson, Legal Director of the Institute for Free Speech.

“While we are disappointed by this ruling, we are pleased the court recognized that this case raises ‘significant issues concerning the intersection between the free speech rights of political candidates and the regulation of campaign financing.’ We will continue our efforts to ensure those issues are addressed and that our clients have their day in court,” said Dickerson.

“Eight years ago, when I filed a suit pro se to stop collection of a sneaky tax on our utility bills, I was told my first day in court to come back when I had exhausted all administrative remedies. We were careful this time to do that, only to have our case dismissed when the administrative process took a couple of weeks too long,” said Connecticut State Senator Joe Markley. “I’m convinced this decision is wrong, but I’m even more certain that the underlying issue of free speech in a campaign is too important to be dismissed on a technicality.”

“It’s clear that the SEEC doesn’t want to debate the merits of our case, using every means possible to avoid doing so. Of course, they know we are right. Their ruling used a poorly crafted legal opinion in place of a legitimate law that we all agree with, twisting its meaning to expand their reach and power,” said Connecticut State Representative Rob Sampson. “Sen. Markley and I are not going away on this, because this simply cannot stand. Political candidates, regardless of party, must be able to rely on the First Amendment. It’s a foundational principle of our country. Shockingly, the SEEC doesn’t seem to understand that.”

To read the decision of the Superior Court of the Judicial District of New Britain, click here. To read more about the case, click here.

About the Institute for Free Speech

The Institute for Free Speech is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes and defends the First Amendment rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government. Originally known as the Center for Competitive Politics, it was founded in 2005 by Bradley A. Smith, a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. The Institute is the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.

IFS Staff

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