GA State Conf./NAACP v. Cox , 183 F.3d 1259 ( 1999 )


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  •     GEORGIA STATE CONFERENCE OF NAACP BRANCHES, Southern Christian Leadership
    Conference, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
    
                                                             v.
    
     Cathy COX, in her representative capacity as Secretary of State of Georgia, Georgia State Senate, et al.,
    Defendants-Appellees.
    
                                                       No. 98-9347.
    
                                             United States Court of Appeals,
    
                                                     Eleventh Circuit.
    
                                                      Aug. 11, 1999.
    
    Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. (No. 1:97-CV-2340-WBH),
    Willis B. Hunt, Jr., Judge.
    
    Before BLACK and BARKETT, Circuit Judges, and GOLD*, District Judge.
    
               BLACK, Circuit Judge:
    
               Appellants, individual citizens eligible to vote in Georgia elections, former and future candidates for
    
    state office, and organizations whose members are citizens eligible to vote in Georgia elections, brought this
    
    action against the Georgia State Senate and its presiding officer, the Georgia House of Representatives and
    
    its Speaker of the House, and the Georgia Secretary of State, contending the system by which state elections
    
    are financed in Georgia violates their rights to equal protection, freedom of expression, and freedom of
    
    association found in the United States and Georgia Constitutions, as well as their rights under the Privileges
    
    and Immunities Clause of the Georgia Constitution. The district court concluded Appellants did not have
    
    standing and dismissed their complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). We affirm.
    
                                                   I. BACKGROUND
    
               In their complaint, Appellants contend the Georgia campaign finance system excludes nonwealthy
    
    citizens from meaningful participation in the electoral process. Appellants argue that certain state laws ensure
    
    the success of wealthy candidates by exempting some campaign contributions from campaign finance limits.
    
    
    
       *
           Honorable Alan S. Gold, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida, sitting by designation.
    According to Appellants, this system prevents nonwealthy candidates from raising sufficient funds to run an
    
    effective campaign and prevents nonwealthy voters from contributing meaningfully to a candidate.
    
    Appellants contend the laws that ensure the success of wealthy candidates are: (1) Ga.Code Ann. § 21-5-
    
    41(c), which exempts from campaign contribution limits contributions made by a candidate or a member of
    
    the candidate's immediate family to the candidate's own campaign; (2) Ga.Code Ann. § 21-5-42(c), which
    
    exempts from campaign contribution limits bona-fide loans made to a candidate or campaign committee; and
    
    (3) Ga.Code Ann. § 21-5-33(b)(1)(D), which permits, with certain restrictions, a candidate, a campaign
    
    committee, or a public officer holding elective office to carry forward funds from one campaign cycle to the
    
    next.
    
            As a remedy, Appellants seek a declaratory judgment stating the Georgia campaign finance system
    
    violates their rights under the United States and Georgia Constitutions. Additionally, Appellants seek an
    
    order "enjoining Defendants from administering [the challenged provisions] without providing remedial
    
    measures that reduce the dominance of wealth in Georgia State Senate elections and provide an alternative
    
    public source of financing as well as meaningful contribution limits to enable non-wealthy voters and
    
    candidates to participate on an equal and meaningful basis in the state senate election process and to be heard
    
    in that process."1
    
            The district court dismissed Appellants' claims for lack of standing. The court concluded Appellants
    
    lacked standing because they failed to show they suffered any cognizable injury in fact. The district court
    
    further noted a lack of causal connection between any alleged injury and any actions taken by the defendants,
    
    
       1
        In Buckley v. Valeo, 
    424 U.S. 1
    , 
    96 S. Ct. 612
    , 
    46 L. Ed. 2d 659
     (1976) (per curiam), the Supreme Court
    addressed many of the campaign finance provisions at issue in this case. Relevant to this case, the Court
    struck down limits on expenditures made independently of the candidate's campaign, limits on expenditures
    by a candidate from personal and family resources, and limits on the overall amount that a candidate can
    spend campaigning for office because the limits served no compelling governmental interest. Id. at 39-59;
    96 S.Ct. at 644-653. The Court did, however, uphold limits on contributions made by individuals, groups,
    and political committees to a campaign because of the tendency of such contributions to corrupt or give the
    appearance of corruption. Id. at 23-58; 96 S.Ct. at 637-653. Appellants do not directly challenge Buckley,
    yet the gravamen of their complaint implicates the core issues addressed by that decision as explained in our
    discussion of the remedy sought by Appellants.
    
                                                          2
    stating "no legislation or other state action ... prevents a poor voter or candidate from exercising his or her
    
    rights."
    
                                                    II. DISCUSSION
    
               We review the district court's dismissal of Appellants' claims de novo. Harper v. Blockbuster
    
    Entertainment Corp., 
    139 F.3d 1385
    , 1387 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 
    119 S. Ct. 509
    , 
    142 L. Ed. 2d 422
     (1998).
    
               Article III of the United States Constitution limits the power of federal courts to adjudicating actual
    
    "cases" and "controversies." U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1. This case-or-controversy doctrine fundamentally
    
    limits the power of federal courts in our system of government, Allen v. Wright, 
    468 U.S. 737
    , 750, 
    104 S. Ct. 3315
    , 3324, 
    82 L. Ed. 2d 556
     (1984), and helps to "identify those disputes which are appropriately resolved
    
    through judicial process." Whitmore v. Arkansas, 
    495 U.S. 149
    , 155, 
    110 S. Ct. 1717
    , 1722, 
    109 L. Ed. 2d 135
    
    (1990) (citation omitted).
    
               Perhaps the most important of the Article III doctrines grounded in the case-or-controversy
    
    requirement is that of standing. Allen, 468 U.S. at 750, 104 S.Ct. at 3324. "In essence the question of
    
    standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular
    
    issues." Warth v. Seldin, 
    422 U.S. 490
    , 498, 
    95 S. Ct. 2197
    , 2205, 
    45 L. Ed. 2d 343
     (1975).
    
               To establish standing, a plaintiff must first have suffered an "injury in fact." Lujan v. Defenders of
    
    Wildlife, 
    504 U.S. 555
    , 560, 
    112 S. Ct. 2130
    , 2136, 
    119 L. Ed. 2d 351
     (1992). The injury must be an invasion
    
    of a legally protected interest that is sufficiently concrete and particularized rather than abstract and indefinite.
    
    Id.; see also FEC v. Akins, 
    524 U.S. 11
    , 
    118 S. Ct. 1777
    , 1785 (1998). Second, there must be a causal
    
    connection between the injury and the challenged action of the defendant which is not too attenuated. Lujan,
    
    504 U.S. at 560, 112 S.Ct. at 2136; Allen, 468 U.S. at 751, 104 S.Ct. at 3324. Third, it must be likely rather
    
    than speculative that "the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision." Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561, 112 S.Ct.
    
    at 2136 (citations and internal quotations omitted). In determining whether a plaintiff has established
    
    standing, we keep in mind the "Art[icle] III notion that federal courts may exercise power only in the last
    
                                                             3
    resort, and as a necessity" and when the dispute is one "traditionally thought to be capable of resolution
    
    through the judicial process." Allen, 468 U.S. at 752, 104 S.Ct. at 3325 (citation and internal quotation
    
    omitted).
    
    A.      Injury in Fact
    
             Appellants claim they have suffered a cognizable injury in fact in that they, as nonwealthy voters
    
    and candidates, are excluded from meaningful participation in the electoral process. As support for this
    
    proposition, Appellants rely principally on the white primary case of Terry v. Adams, 
    345 U.S. 461
    , 
    73 S. Ct. 809
    , 
    97 L. Ed. 1152
     (1953).
    
            In Terry, the Supreme Court addressed the continuing efforts by white citizens, including
    
    state-sanctioned actors, to exclude blacks from exercising their right to vote. Each spring, before the official
    
    Democratic Party Primary, the private Jaybird Democratic Association would conduct a pre-primary to
    
    endorse candidates for election, using the same process provided for by Texas state law governing primary
    
    elections, but permitting only whites to vote. Id. at 469, 470-476; 73 S.Ct. at 814-816 (Frankfurter, J.).
    
    Endorsed candidates then entered the democratic primary. These candidates usually went unchallenged
    
    because candidates did not enter the race apart from the Jaybird primary system. Id. at 472, 73 S.Ct. at 814-
    
    815 (Frankfurter, J.). As the Court noted, the official elections "became no more than perfunctory ratifiers
    
    of the choice that [had] already been made [in the Jaybird primary]." Id. at 469, 73 S.Ct. at 813 (Black, J.,
    
    announcing Judgment of the Court, joined by Douglas and Burton, JJ.). In concluding the Jaybird primary
    
    violated the Fifteenth Amendment, the Court reasoned "[t]he Jaybird primary has become an integral part,
    
    indeed the only effective part, of the elective process that determines who shall rule and govern in the
    
    county." Id. at 469, 73 S.Ct. at 813 (Black, J., announcing Judgment of the Court, joined by Douglas and
    
    Burton, JJ.).
    
            Appellants' reliance on Terry and other ballot access cases is misplaced. Those cases require only
    
    that each voter be entitled to a single, equal vote. See, e.g., Gray v. Sanders, 
    372 U.S. 368
    , 380-381, 
    83 S. Ct. 801
    , 808-809, 
    9 L. Ed. 2d 821
     (1963) ("The idea that every voter is equal to every other voter in his State,
    
                                                           4
    when he casts his ballot in favor of one of several competing candidates, underlies many of our decisions....
    
    The conception of political equality from the Declaration of Independence, to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address,
    
    to the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Nineteenth Amendments can mean only one thing—one person, one
    
    vote."); see also Morse v. Republican Party of Va., 
    517 U.S. 186
    , 201-210, 
    116 S. Ct. 1186
    , 1197-1201, 
    134 L. Ed. 2d 347
     (1996) (Stevens, J., announcing Judgment of the Court, joined by Ginsburg, J.) (in holding
    
    political parties' delegate fee for state convention fell within the preclearance requirements of the Voting
    
    Rights Act the Court stated the requirement "does not merely curtail [voters'] voting power, but abridges their
    
    right to vote itself."); Harper v. Virginia State Bd. of Elections, 
    383 U.S. 663
    , 666-668, 
    86 S. Ct. 1079
    , 1081-
    
    1082, 
    16 L. Ed. 2d 169
     (1966) (invalidating state poll tax because it effectively denied the right to vote). In
    
    Terry, the combined actions of private and public participants violated the Constitution because "county
    
    election officials have participated in and condoned a continued effort effectively to exclude Negroes from
    
    voting." Id. at 476, 73 S.Ct. at 816 (Frankfurter, J.). In contrast here, no one group has conspired to exclude
    
    another group of voters from the electoral process. Additionally, no one has been denied the right to vote or
    
    equal access to the ballot. See Albanese v. FEC, 
    78 F.3d 66
    , 69 (2d Cir.1996) ("Unlike the plaintiffs in Terry,
    
    plaintiffs here are not prevented from voting in any election.").
    
            Appellants nevertheless contend Terry requires "meaningful participation" in the overall electoral
    
    process. The ballot access cases, however, do not recognize the right to equal influence in the overall
    
    electoral process. See FEC v. Massachusetts Citizens For Life, Inc., 
    479 U.S. 238
    , 257, 
    107 S. Ct. 616
    , 627,
    
    
    93 L. Ed. 2d 539
     (1986) ("Political 'free trade' does not necessarily require that all who participate in the
    
    political marketplace do so with exactly equal resources.") (citations omitted); Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S.
    
    at 48-49, 96 S.Ct. at 649 ("[T]he concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our
    
    society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment.") (citations
    
    omitted).
    
            In sum, Appellants' reliance on Terry and the other ballot access cases is misplaced because these
    
    cases only recognize that each voter is entitled to a single, equal vote. As no one has been denied the right
    
                                                          5
    to vote or access to the ballot, Appellants have failed to allege any legally cognizable injury in fact.2
    
    B.      Causal Connection
    
             Appellants have also failed to establish the second prong of the standing inquiry. Appellants' alleged
    
    inability meaningfully to participate in and influence elections is attributable to the conduct and resources of
    
    private individuals, not the state. See Jones, 131 F.3d at 1323 (9th Cir.1997) ("Here, there is no state action
    
    putting wealthy voters in a better position to contribute to campaigns than nonwealthy voters."). Individual
    
    voters remain free to associate and pool their resources to support the candidate of their choosing under
    
    Georgia's campaign finance system and candidates remain free to rely on their own resources, which may
    
    include fundraising abilities, name recognition, speaking, organizational, and leadership abilities, as well as
    
    popular and easily understood positions on the issues, to be successful at the polls. The extent of voter and
    
    candidate influence is based on individual efforts, not state action.
    
    C.      Redressability
    
             Finally, Appellants have failed to show their alleged injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable
    
    decision. Appellants ask the district court to strike down Ga.Code Ann. §§ 21-5-41(c), -42(c), -33(b)(1)(D),
    
    which provide exemptions from or exceptions to election spending limits. The challenged provisions,
    
    however, are mandated by the Constitution. See Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. at 54, 96 S.Ct. at 651; see also
    
    Colorado Republican Fed. Campaign Comm. v. FEC, 
    518 U.S. 604
    , 627, 
    116 S. Ct. 2309
    , 2321, 
    135 L. Ed. 2d 795
     (1996) ("The central holding in Buckley ... is that spending money on one's own speech must be
    
    permitted." (citation omitted)) (Kennedy, J., joined by Rehnquist, C.J., and Scalia, J., concurring in the
    
    Judgment and dissenting in part). To invalidate these provisions would therefore render the entire scheme
    
    of spending limits unconstitutional.
    
            Appellants additionally request that the district court enjoin Appellees from enforcing the challenged
    
    
    
      2
       In many ways, the injuries claimed by Appellants consist of the type of abstract and indefinite generalized
    grievance shared in substantial measure by all citizens and better suited for resolution by the political
    processes rather than by this Court. See Akins, 118 S.Ct. at 1785-1786.
    
                                                           6
    provisions without providing remedial measures, such as further spending limits or public funding of
    
    campaigns. In effect, this is a request that the district court order the State of Georgia to enact legislation
    
    either to bar private conduct that would otherwise be permissible or to provide a benefit that is not required
    
    by law.
    
                                                  III. CONCLUSION
    
              As Appellants have failed to satisfy the three prongs of the standing inquiry, we conclude the district
    
    court properly dismissed Appellants' complaint on the ground that they lacked standing.3
    
              AFFIRMED.
    
    
    
    
        3
          Appellants also assert their claims under the Georgia Constitution. Appellants allege the Georgia
    Constitution provides them with broader protections than the United States Constitution. However,
    Appellants have not alleged any injury fairly traceable to state action, nor have they provided any support for
    their position that the Georgia Constitution restricts the type of private action we have here. We therefore
    affirm the dismissal of Appellant's state Constitutional claims.
    
                                                            7
    

Document Info

DocketNumber: 98-9347

Citation Numbers: 183 F.3d 1259

Filed Date: 8/11/1999

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 3/24/2017

Authorities (14)

Terry v. Adams , 345 U.S. 461 ( 1953 )

Gray v. Sanders , 372 U.S. 368 ( 1963 )

Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections , 383 U.S. 663 ( 1966 )

Warth v. Seldin , 422 U.S. 490 ( 1975 )

Buckley v. Valeo , 424 U.S. 1 ( 1976 )

Allen v. Wright , 468 U.S. 737 ( 1984 )

Federal Election Comm'n v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, ... , 479 U.S. 238 ( 1986 )

Whitmore v. Arkansas , 495 U.S. 149 ( 1990 )

Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife , 504 U.S. 555 ( 1992 )

Morse v. Republican Party of Va. , 517 U.S. 186 ( 1996 )

Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v. Federal ... , 518 U.S. 604 ( 1996 )

Federal Election Comm'n v. Akins , 524 U.S. 11 ( 1998 )

sal-f-albanese-tim-carl-loretta-carl-joseph-carolei-john-castelli , 78 F.3d 66 ( 1996 )

77-fair-emplpraccas-bna-854-73-empl-prac-dec-p-45328-11-fla-l , 139 F.3d 1385 ( 1998 )

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