Judge Declares Missouri Law Unconstitutional

March 31, 2011 at 9:13 pm Leave a comment

Stinson Filed Suit Challenging Law on behalf of Missouri Bank

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel R. Green ruled today that a Missouri campaign finance law is unconstitutional. Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP attorneys Chuck Hatfield and Khris Heisinger filed a lawsuit Dec. 6, 2010 on behalf of Legends Bank and its president, John Klebba, who is also chairman of the Missouri Bankers Association, to block Missouri Senate Bill 844. The suit claimed the law was invalid based on violation of the State’s Constitution requirement requiring that a piece of legislation contain only one subject (known as Hammerschmidt challenges) as well as violations of free speech and free association.

In the ruling, Judge Green said the bill “contains matters that do not fairly relate to ethics, have a natural connection to ethics or are a means to accomplish the law’s purpose as enacted.” Judge Green also struck the provision preventing state-chartered banks from contributing to political action committees, which he said violated banks’ First Amendment rights. The enforcement of all provisions except those dealing with purchasing, the original purpose of the bill, were also halted.

Stinson’s lawsuit sought to invalidate the law based on a “Hammerschmidt” challenge. The state constitution prohibits bills from containing multiple subjects and from departing too far from the original purpose of the bill. Those constitutional provisions are designed to ensure that changes to the law are thoroughly debated and to prevent “logrolling” where popular provisions of law are grouped together with unpopular provisions limiting the options of law makers to vote on each one separately. SB 844 started out in the General Assembly as a one page procurement bill that allowed elected officials to seek advice on the purchasing of services. At its passage, it had ballooned to 69 pages and now contained the procurement provisions, revisions to campaign finance law, a provision governing who has access to the Capitol dome, provisions regulating lobbyists and other sections relating to investigations by the Ethics Commission.

“The law prevented banks from participating in the political process, and it placed an unreasonable restriction on speech and freedom of association,” said Hatfield, who serves as chair of Stinson’s Government Solutions Practice and as the managing partner for the firm’s Jefferson City, Mo., office. “Judge Green’s ruling was spot on and acknowledged that the legislature must follow Constitutional requirements when enacting legislation.”

It’s unclear what the immediate impact of this decision will be. However, we encourage our clients to remain cautious because we anticipate that this case will end up in the Missouri Supreme Court.

If you have questions regarding the implications of this ruling, please contact a member of Stinson Morrison Hecker’s Government Solutions Group.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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