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Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil Liberties Union

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Open Government
Court Cases Over the Years

The Rights of Candidates

In a democratic society, fair and impartial elections are an essential aspect of liberty. Any attempt to restrict the ability of people to run for office not only directly impairs the rights of candidates, but also impacts the rights of voters to make their choices known. Below are some of the cases in which the Affiliate has been involved over the years in support of an open and fair electoral process:


1976: McCarthy v. Noel I

Federal court struck down state law requiring independent candidates for President to submit nominating petitions before the major parties were required to do so.

1978: McCarthy v. Noel II

Successful federal court challenge to a state law requiring Presidential candidates to collect a certain number of nominating signatures from each county.

1982: Mellen v. R.I. Lottery Commission

Successful federal lawsuit allowing an unendorsed candidate to hold a fundraising raffle for her political campaign despite a state law allowing only political party committees to hold such raffles.

1985: R.I. Women’s Political Caucus v. R.I. Lottery Commission

Successful federal challenge to law allowing Democratic and Republican Party committees to hold fund-raising raffles but prohibiting all other political committees or parties from doing the same.

1990: Grant v. City of East Providence

Successful state court lawsuit on behalf of a police officer, who sought to run for City Council, but was told by city officials that he would be fired if he did so.

1991: Meagher v. R.I. Ethics Commission

Lawsuit challenging Commission ruling that a person could not run for Town Council because her job as an architectural designer created a potential conflict of interest.

1992: Duke v. Connell

Federal lawsuit successfully challenging Secretary of State’s decision not to place Presidential primary contender David Duke on the ballot.

1992: Jacques v. R.I. Public Telecommunications Authority

Favorably settled federal lawsuit challenging a public TV station’s decision not to allow an independent candidate for office to participate in a station-sponsored candidate debate.

1994: Driver v. DiStefano

Federal lawsuit challenging, as unconstitutionally benefitting incumbents, a state law setting caps on campaign contributions on an annual, rather than election-cycle, basis.

1999: DeAscentis v. Pine

Favorably resolved challenge to a state law barring all municipal employees, except teachers, from holding public office in the city or town where they are employed.

2002: Abdullah-Odiase v. Begin

Successful appeal on behalf of a legislative candidate for office whose name was stricken from the ballot by the Board of Elections because one of her nomination papers allegedly contained signatures not witnessed by her.

2004: Cullen v. Town of Lincoln

Successful lawsuit challenging the legality of a September run-off “preliminary election” for non-partisan at-large school committee seats to be decided in November.

2004: Laffey v. Begin

“Friend of the court” brief challenging a state Board of Elections’ ruling that the hosting of a radio talk show by Cranston’s Mayor constituted an illegal campaign contribution.

2007: Driver v. Town of Richmond

Federal lawsuit on behalf of a Congressional candidate whose political signs were repeatedly removed by the local police chief.

2009: Block v. Mollis

Successful federal lawsuit challenging a state statute that barred groups seeking state recognition as a new political party from collecting signatures in off-election years.

2010: Fontes v. City of Central Falls

Successful suit challenging the disqualification of a Mayoral candidate based on a law barring voters from signing more than one nomination paper for the same political office.


See Other Highlighted Open Government Cases:

Return to: Recent Open Government Cases


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