CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-FREE SPEECH-VOTING

December 8th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Mazo v. New Jersey Sec’y of State, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 32398 (November 23, 2022) (Krause, C.J.)  Nowhere are the First Amendment rights of free speech and association more essential, or more fiercely guarded, than in the context of free and open elections. Self-government depends on ensuring that speech intended to support, challenge, criticize, or celebrate political candidates remains unrestricted. But at the end of every hard-fought political campaign lies the ballot box, where our constitutional democracy depends equally on States fulfilling their solemn duty to regulate elections to ensure fairness and honesty, even where doing so may burden some First Amendment rights. For this reason, courts have long applied the more flexible Anderson-Burdick balancing test to evaluate constitutional challenges to state election laws that govern the mechanics of the electoral process. At the same time, however, courts continue to apply a traditional—and often quite stringent—First Amendment analysis to state election laws that implicate core political speech outside of the voting process. This case asks us to determine where the campaign ends and the electoral process begins. New Jersey permits candidates running in primary elections to include beside their name a slogan of up to six words to help distinguish them from others on the ballot. N.J. Stat. § 19:23-17. But New Jersey also requires that candidates obtain consent from individuals or New Jersey incorporated associations before naming them in their slogans. Appellants Eugene Mazo and Lisa McCormick challenged this requirement after their desired slogans were rejected for failure to obtain consent. They argue that New Jersey’s ballot slogans are, in effect, part of the campaign—a final, crucial opportunity for candidates to communicate directly with voters—and that the consent requirement should therefore be subject to traditional First Amendment scrutiny. The District Court disagreed. It held that, though the ballot slogans had an expressive function, the consent requirement regulates the mechanics of the electoral process, and so applied the Anderson-Burdick test, ultimately finding the consent requirement constitutional. We agree with the District Court. In so doing, we recognize the line separating core political speech from the mechanics of the electoral process has proven difficult to ascertain: “Not only has the Supreme Court itself fractured deeply in the application of this jurisprudence, but so too has the judiciary in general.”

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]

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