Lexis Nexis - Case Brief

Not a Lexis+ subscriber? Try it out for free.

Law School Case Brief

Buckley v. Am. Constitutional Law Found. - 525 U.S. 182, 119 S. Ct. 636 (1999)


Petition circulation is "core political speech," because it involves interactive communication concerning political change. First Amendment protection for such interaction is at its zenith. However, there must be a substantial regulation of elections if they are to be fair and honest and if some sort of order, rather than chaos, is to accompany the democratic processes.


C.R.S.A. §§ 1-40-101 et seq. ("Article 40"), regulated Colorado's initiative and referendum petition process—the process by which proponents of ballot issues submitted petitions to have those issues presented to voters. Plaintiff American Constitutional Law Foundation, Inc. ("ACLF"), along with several others, filed a lawsuit in federal district court against defendant Victoria Buckley, the Secretary of State of Colorado, arguing that several provisions of Article 40 violated the freedom of speech guarantee of the Federal Constitution's First Amendment. After a bench trial, the district court, inter alia, upheld the Article 40's registration requirement but struck down the name badge requirement and portions of the disclosure requirements. The court of appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, concluding that the registration and name badge requirements, as well as the requirements to report the names and addresses of all paid circulators and the amount paid to each circulator, invalidly infringed the First Amendment. Buckley was granted a writ of certiorari.


Did the state regulation on the election process violate the First Amendment right of ACLF and others?




The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the court of appeals' decision. The Court held that each of challenged requirements in Article 40 significantly inhibited political speech without being warranted by state interests in violation of the First Amendment. Specifically, the Court ruled, inter alia, that: (1) the registration requirement imposed a speech burden by limiting both the number of voices to convey the initiative proponents' message, and the size of the proponents' audience, which was not justified by the state's interest in policing lawbreakers among petition circulators by insuring that circulators were amenable to subpoena, and; (2) the name badge requirement discouraged participation in the petition circulation process and was not needed to enable the identification and apprehension of petition circulators who engaged in misconduct.

Access the full text case Not a Lexis+ subscriber? Try it out for free.
Be Sure You're Prepared for Class