Citizen Action Defense Fund (CADF) is on the front lines of numerous legal battles involving key questions of constitutional rights and free-market, limited government policies. Here are a few of the cases we’ve been involved with:
United States Supreme Court
Belgau v. Inslee
A group of state employees attempted to exercise their constitutional right to opt-out of their union and cease paying union dues. Citing a boilerplate clause buried in the union membership card that required opt-out notice to be given during a narrow, 10-day window that occurred once a year, the State continued to deduct union dues from the employees’ wages over their objections.
CADF filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of eight state legislators and in support of the state employees’ petition for certiorari. Our brief described how the union in question was engaged in key public policy debates, a fact that was important to the Court’s 2018 Janus decision, which resulted in the employees’ being compelled to subsidize viewpoints they opposed. This case is critically important because, as we also also warned in our brief, the Ninth Circuit’s decision would permit the Legislature and public-sector unions to make it harder and harder for public employees to opt-out of their union, violating public employees’ constitutional rights and tipping the scales through inflated union membership. A number of other amicus briefs were filed alongside CADF’s brief, from several other state policy organizations and public interest law firms, as well as a brief submitted on behalf of 13 states (including Texas, Arizona, Indiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana and Utah).
Thompson v. Marietta Education Association
A public school teacher filed suit, objecting to a state law that required her to accept the local teacher’s union as her exclusive bargaining representative, even though she is not a member.
CADF joined 29 other state policy organizations and public interest law firms in filing an amici curiae brief, arguing that “exclusive representation” violate the First Amendment rights of public employees by unconstitutionally compelling their speech and association choices. This issue is especially important in Washington (and many other states without “right-to-work” laws) after the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision, which allows public employees to refrain from paying union dues or agency fees. If public employees do not wish to subsidize their union, they should also have the option to negotiate directly with their employer rather than be forced to let their union speak and negotiate on their behalf.
Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra
Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra
The Attorney General of California declared that charities and other 501(c) tax-exempt organization could not raise money in California unless they disclose a list of their significant donors. Making matters worse, California law lacks adequate safeguards to prevent the public release of this information.
CADF believes that threatening the privacy of donors violates their First Amendment rights to speak and donate anonymously. We joined 34 other state policy organizations and public interest law firms in filing an amici curiae brief with the Supreme Court, arguing that California’s law is unconstitutional because it will chill free speech due to the fear and risk of government retaliation against donors. This case has significant implications for freedom of speech and association in Washington, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law, which would pave the way for Washington to introduce a similar policy here.
Washington Supreme Court
State v. Grocery Manufacturers Association
A trade association was fined a record $18 million for campaign finance violations. The association had contributed to an initiative campaign and initially listed the association as the donor. Partway through campaign, the state’s Public Disclosure Commission informed the association that it needed to disclose the names of its member companies who had contributed to the association, rather than the association itself. The filings were promptly amended and all required detail was made available to the public before the election. Nonetheless, Attorney General Ferguson obtained an $18 million fine against the association—24 times larger than the next largest fine and six times larger than the sum of all other fines sought by the Attorney General over the previous 12 years.
CADF filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of a bipartisan and bicameral group of legislators, in support the association’s petition for review. CADF’s brief argues that the fine is unconstitutional because it violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against excessive fines. The brief points out that the fine isn’t commensurate with the severity of the offense or the degree of harm caused, and that fines involving political speech should be closely scrutinized to ensure they are not so large that they “chill” protected activity. Several other amicus briefs were filed as well, including one written by the Building Industry Association of Washington, Washington State Farm Bureau and Enterprise Washington, and one submitted on behalf of a national trade association.