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Duke v. Leake

The Brennan Center is intervening to help defend the nation's first voluntary full public financing program for judicial elections.

Published: November 6, 2008

Background: Recognizing the importance of achieving and maintaining the appearance of an independent and impartial judiciary, in 2002 North Carolina passed the Judicial Campaign Reform Act to become the first state to offer a voluntary public financing program for judicial campaigns at the appellate level. In 2005, two future potential candidates for seats on the North Carolina judiciary and two political committees filed a complaint in federal court charging that North Carolina’s judicial public financing law generally, and some provisions in particular, violate the First Amendment and the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In September 2006, the Brennan Center was granted permission to intervene on behalf of James R. Ansley, a candidate in the 2004 North Carolina judicial race, and Common Cause North Carolina, to help defend the program. The Brennan Center also filed a motion to dismiss eight counts of Plaintiffs' Complaint, including challenges to the program generally, the program's rescue and trigger funds provisions, the program's reporting requirements, and an attorney bar membership surcharge, which requires attorneys to pay $50 to help implement the program.

In March 2007, the motion to dismiss the case was granted by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

On April 26, 2007, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. In June 2007, Appellant Barbara Jackson was dismissed from the action, thereby amending the caption from Jackson, et al. v. Leake, et al to Duke, et al. v. Leake, et al.

Oral arguments were held on December 7, 2007. In an unanimous decision, on May 1, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the challenge to North Carolina's public funding law.

On July 25, 2008, Plaintiffs petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in the case, claiming that the recent Supreme Court ruling in Davis v. FEC offered a new impetus  for the Court to evaluate North Carolina’s public financing system. On September 26, 2008 Respondents filed an opposition to Plaintiffs' petition for certiorari, in which they argued that North Carolina's judicial public financing program presents a completely distinct factual and legal context from that considered in Davis.  Petitioners filed a reply brief in response to the opposition brief on October 6, 2008.

On November 3, 2008, the Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari, and thus will not hear the challenge to North Carolina's judicial public financing system. For a press release about the Court's denial of cert, click here.

U.S. Supreme Court Documents in Support of Petitioners

U.S. Supreme Court Documents in Support of Respondents

U.S. Court of Appeals Briefs in Support of Appellants

U.S. Court of Appeals Briefs in Support of Appellees

Other Important Court Documents