BS&J Wins Appeal in First Amendment Case
Amber Jones and Deanna Lack, represented by BS&J, filed suit in 2016 to challenge Tennessee’s Campaign Financial Disclosure Act. Ms. Jones and Ms. Lack wanted to spend a small sum of money to support and oppose candidates for their local school board. However, the Act would have treated them as a “political campaign committee” or PAC, subjecting them to fees and burdensome reporting and organizational requirements. The suit alleges that the Act chills political speech and discriminates in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
The federal district court abstained from hearing the case until a state court clarified the Act. On February 15, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed. It held that the Act is sufficiently clear for a constitutional ruling. The broad language of the first PAC definition even “has the potential to include married couples who donate to any campaign or make any expenditure related to a political measure.” The appellate court said, “We imagine that the district court would have been hard-pressed to find an interpretation of this statute that satisfies the First Amendment,” but it remanded the case for the district court to decide.
Michael J. Wall handled the appeal. BS&J has a respected constitutional and appellate practice. The appellate group, which includes Mr. Wall and Karla M. Campbell, has experience at both the federal and state levels. Mr. Wall recently chaired the Nashville Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Committee. Ms. Campbell clerked for Sixth Circuit Judge Jane B. Stranch, formerly a member of BS&J.