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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)