Judicial Panel Stays BCRA Ruling Pending Supreme Court Action

Posted May 19, 2003 at 12:46pm

In a 2-1 decision, a U.S. District Court panel chose to “stay” its entire decision on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, in effect restoring BCRA to its entirety until the Supreme Court has a chance to hear the case.

The decision — issued in a memorandum opinion Monday morning by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and U.S. Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson — is a victory of sorts for supporters of the law, which bans soft money and regulates issue advocacy.

“After due consideration of the motions, the oppositions, and replies, the relevant case law, and the pertinent rules of Civil Procedure, the Court is satisfied that a stay should be granted pending final disposition of these eleven actions in the Supreme Court of the United States,” Kollar-Kotelly and Henderson wrote.

“This Court’s desire to prevent the litigants from facing potentially three different regulatory regimes in a very short time span, and the Court’s recognition of the divisions among the panel about the constitutionality of the challenged provisions of BCRA, counsel in favor of granting a stay of this case.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, meanwhile, wrote a memorandum concurring in part, dissenting in part.

A lawyer for the National Rifle Association, which requested a stay for the portion of the court’s recent actions affecting Title II — the electioneering communications provisions of the law — said the group was also satisfied with the decision.

“We got the relief we were seeking,” said Cleta Mitchell, who indicated that the NRA would not appeal this decision, even though the group had only sought to have a portion of the court’s decision stayed.

It is unclear, however, if other plaintiffs in the case, such as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or the National Association of Broadcasters, will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

As one campaign finance attorney aligned with supporters of the law stated, today’s ruling “simplifies things procedurally.”

Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer, a member of the legal team representing the law’s Congressional sponsors, released a statement praising the decision.

“We are very pleased that the District Court panel granted the stay we requested and that the panel recognized the confusion and uncertainty that would have resulted if participants in the 2004 elections potentially had to face three different sets of campaign finance rules for the elections,” he said.