Mulholland v. Marion Cnty. Election Bd., No. 13-3027 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
The major political parties in Marion County, Indiana followed a tradition of “slating” candidates that have the financial and organizational backing of party leadership in the primaries. Indiana enacted an “anti-slating” statute, prohibiting distribution of a list endorsing multiple political candidates during a primary election unless all such candidates have given written consent, Ind. Code 3-14-1-2(a). More than 10 years ago, that law was challenged as violating the First Amendment, resulting in a federal injunction against its future enforcement and a consent decree in which all parties stipulated and the court declared that the law was facially unconstitutional. The Marion County Election Board was a defendant, but nonetheless enforced the statute against a candidate running for state representative in the 2012 primary. That candidate sought an injunction. The district court dismissed the case under the “Younger” abstention doctrine, citing a still-ongoing Election Board investigation. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The Election Board’s investigation is too preliminary a proceeding to warrant Younger abstention, at least in light of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, Sprint Communications, Inc. v. Jacobs. Even if Younger abstention were theoretically available, the previous final federal judgment against the Election Board would amount to an extraordinary circumstance making Younger abstention inappropriate.