Skip Navigation
Court Case Tracker

Lair v. Motl (Amicus Brief)

The Brennan Center and co-counsel filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District in support of Montana’s campaign contribution limits.

Published: October 5, 2016

This case was previously Lair v. Bullock and Lair v. Murry.


On October 5, 2016, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and attorneys with the law firm Reed Smith LLP filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Lair v. Motl (previously Lair v. Bullock and Lair v. Murry)The brief argues that Montana’s contribution limits further an important state interest in curtailing the risk of corruption and that the court failed to give appropriate deference to the policy judgments of legislators.

In 2011, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging Montana’s state limits on contributions from individuals, political committees and state political parties to candidates. On October 10, 2012, U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell found Montana’s statutory contribution limits to be in violation of First Amendment free speech protections and permanently enjoined Montana from enforcing those limits. The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit.  

On May 26, 2015, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the case back to the District Court, directing the court to determine whether the contribution limits prevent quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.

On May 17, 2016, U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell again ruled against Montana’s campaign contribution limits, holding that Montana failed to establish that the limits furthered the prevention of quid pro quo corruption or its appearance, thus violating the First Amendment, and that they prevented candidates from amassing sufficient resources to wage effective campaigns.

The Brennan Center’s brief focuses on problems with how the trial court analyzed previous cases and other evidence demonstrating that direct contributions create a risk of corruption, and its analysis with respect to whether the limits leave candidates able to amass sufficient resources.


Lair v. Bullock (Ninth Circuit)

Lair v. Motl (Montana District Court)

Lair v. Bullock (Ninth Circuit)