The mission of the Connecticut Judicial Branch is to serve the interests of justice and the public by resolving matters brought before it in a fair, timely, efficient and open manner.

Election Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Zigadto, Janet


SC20726 - Markley v. State Elections Enforcement Commission ("This appeal presents an issue of first impression under the first amendment to the United States constitution, namely, the extent to which the statutes and regulations governing the public funding of state elections in connection with the Citizens' Election Program (program), General Statutes ยง 9-700 et seq., may be applied to preclude publicly funded candidates from using their candidate committee funds to pay for campaign advertisements that, as a rhetorical device, invoke the name of a candidate in a different race to refer more broadly to the policies or political party associated with that candidate. The defendant, the State Elections Enforcement Commission (commission), imposed fines on the plaintiffs, Joe Markley and Rob Sampson, who were publicly funded candidates for state legislative office during the 2014 general election cycle, on the ground that they had violated the statutes and regulations governing the program when they utilized their candidate committee funds to pay for communications that criticized then Governor Dannel Malloy, who was seeking reelection to that office in that same election cycle, in the course of promoting their opposition to his policies. The plaintiffs now appeal from the judgment of the trial court upholding the decision of the commission, claiming that the commission's enforcement of the state election laws in that manner violated their first amendment rights. Although a compelling governmental interest is served by a condition that precludes publicly funded candidates from using program funds to support or oppose candidates in other races, we conclude that the commission violated the plaintiffs' first amendment rights with respect to the five advertisements at issue in this case because they could reasonably be understood to be something other than an appeal to vote against Governor Malloy. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.")