The ACLU of Rhode Island and the Rights of Candidates

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Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years

Court Cases

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The ACLU of Rhode Island and the Rights of Candidates

In a democratic society, fair and impartial elections are an essential aspect of liberty. Any attempt to restrict the ability of people to run for office not only directly impairs the rights of candidates, but also impacts the rights of voters to make their choices known. Below are some of the cases in which the Affiliate has been involved over the years in support of an open and fair electoral process:

2009: Montiero v. City of East Providence

Category: Due Process  Rights of Candidates  

Federal lawsuit challenging City Charter provisions that impose increased signature-gathering burdens, above and beyond what state law requires, on candidates who wish to run for local office. The provisions were repealed, and attorneys’ fees were awarded.

Cooperating Attorney: Angel Taveras

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2009: Block v. Mollis

Category: Due Process  Rights of Candidates  Voting Rights  

Federal lawsuit challenging a state statute that requires a group seeking recognition as a new political party to collect signatures representing 5% of the voter turnout for the previous Gubernatorial election, and bars collections of those signatures in an off- election year. The court ruled the latter provision unconstitutional, and awarded attorneys’ fees.

Cooperating Attorney: Mark W. Freel

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2009: Fontes V. City of Central Falls

Category: Open Government  Rights of Candidates  Voting Rights  

Federal lawsuit challenging the disqualification of a Mayoral candidate based on a city charter provision barring voters from signing more than one nomination paper for the same political office. The court ruled the provision unconstitutional, and the General Assembly enacted a law overriding similar requirements in other municipalities.

Cooperating Attorneys: Armando Batastini, Timothy Baldwin

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2007: Driver v. Town of Richmond

Category: Free Speech  Right to Petition & Protest  Rights of Candidates  

Federal lawsuit challenging a town’s actions in repeatedly removing a political candidate’s signs from private property. The court ruled unconstitutional the statute under which the actions were purportedly taken, and the defendants thereafter agreed to an award of damages and attorneys’ fees.

Cooperating Attorney: Richard A. Sinapi

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2004: Laffey v. Begin

Category: Free Speech  Rights of Candidates  

“Friend of the court” brief challenging a state Board of Elections’ ruling that the hosting of a radio talk show by Cranston’s Mayor constituted an illegal campaign contribution.

2004: Cullen v. Town of Lincoln

Category: Rights of Candidates  Voting Rights  

Lawsuit challenging the legality of a September run-off “preliminary election” for non-partisan at-large school committee seats in Lincoln to be decided in November. A consent judgment was entered, formally declaring null and void both the “preliminary” election results and the town ordinance authorizing this election procedure.

Cooperating Attorney: Annie Goldberg

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2002: Abdullah-Odiase v. Begin

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Successful appeal on behalf of a candidate for office whose name was stricken from the ballot because one of her nomination papers allegedly contained signatures not witnessed by her.

1999: DeAscentis v. Pine

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Favorably resolved challenge to a state law barring all municipal employees, except teachers, from holding public office in the city or town where they are employed.

1994: Driver v. DiStefano

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Federal lawsuit challenging, as unconstitutionally benefitting incumbents, a state law setting caps on campaign contributions on an annual, rather than election-cycle, basis.

1992: Jacques v. R.I. Public Telecommunications Authority

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Favorably settled federal lawsuit challenging a public TV station’s decision not to allow an independent candidate for office to participate in a station-sponsored candidate debate.

1992: Duke v. Connell

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Federal lawsuit successfully challenging Secretary of State’s decision not to place Presidential primary contender David Duke on the ballot.

1991: Meagher v. R.I. Ethics Commission

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Lawsuit challenging Commission ruling that a person could not run for Town Council because her job as an architectural designer created a potential conflict of interest.

1990: Grant v. City of East Providence

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Successful state court lawsuit on behalf of a police officer, who sought to run for City Council, but was told by city officials that he would be fired if he did so.

1985: R.I. Women’s Political Caucus v. R.I. Lottery Commission

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Successful federal challenge to law allowing Democratic and Republican Party committees to hold fund-raising raffles but prohibiting all other political committees or parties from doing the same.

1982: Mellen v. R.I. Lottery Commission

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Successful federal lawsuit allowing an unendorsed candidate to hold a fundraising raffle for her political campaign despite a state law allowing only political party committees to hold such raffles.

1978: McCarthy v. Noel II

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Successful federal court challenge to a state law requiring Presidential candidates to collect a certain number of nominating signatures from each county.

1976: McCarthy v. Noel I

Category: Rights of Candidates  

Federal court struck down state law requiring independent candidates for President to submit nominating petitions before the major parties were required to do so.