Legal Library

NAACP v. Jones in California

Overview

In May of 1996 the legal challenge to the wealth primary continued with the filing of NAACP v. Jones in California. See the complaint, appellate brief, appellate reply brief, and cert petition in NAACP v. Jones.

Background

Filed on May 15, 1996 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, NAACP v. Jones was brought against California Secretary of State Bill Jones, Registrar of Voters for Los Angeles Connie McCormick, and the members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on behalf of the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP, the Multicultural Collaborative, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other plaintiffs. The suit grew out of a study by the California Campaign Finance Commission which detailed the enormous influence of the wealth primary in judicial elections.

Fulfilling the Legal Promise of American Democracy

NAACP v. Jones shows that the current judicial election system in Los Angeles discourages the candidacy of those without wealth or access to it. Wealth barriers bar qualified people of moderate income from running for office. This unfairly limits the ability of voters to freely support the candidate of their choice -- an infringement on their right to equal protection and freedom of association. The plaintiffs in the suit challenged the California election system with the hope that their constitutional challenge to the wealth primary system would make judicial candidacy feasible for all qualified office seekers regardless of financial concerns.

Status

Oral arguments were heard on August 12, 1996 before U.S. District Court Judge Dickron Terizian. Judge Terizian refused to allow the plaintiffs' standing to be heard on their constitutional claims. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held oral arguments August 4, 1997 in Pasadena, California. A three judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued an opinion on December 16, 1997 affirming the lower court's opinion. The plaintiffs filed a Petition for Rehearing on December 29, 1997, denied by the Court of Appeals on February 13, 1998. On May 14, 1998, the Institute filed a petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.

On October 5, the Supreme Court announced its denial of the plaintiffs' petition for review. Despite this unfortunate decision by the Supreme Court, NAACP v. Jones served to highlight the corrupting influence of large campaign contributions on judicial elections.