Legal Library

Landell v. Sorrell

In May 1999, the Vermont Right to Life Committee brought this constitutional challenge in federal district court in Burlington to several provisions of Vermont's 1997 campaign finance reform law, including the provisions which establish mandatory spending limits in state legislative elections. In September 1999, the federal district court granted the Institute's motion to intervene in this case in defense of these provisions on behalf of a broad coalition of Vermont organizations, candidates, and voters. Working closely with the Vermont Attorney General's Office, we are arguing that Vermont's campaign spending limits are justified by new facts and circumstances which were not presented in the Buckley v. Valeo case.

Landell v. Sorrell marks the first case to test the constitutionality of campaign spending limits at a full trial. As a result, the factual record in this case will be far more extensive than the limited record presented in Buckley. (In accordance with a special provision to the Federal Election Campaign Act, the courts examined the claims in Buckley on an expedited basis without any trial or even a discovery process.) The trial in this case has occurred in two phases, May 8-17, 2000 and May 31-June 2, 2000, with the Institute fully engaged in all aspects of the legal defense. The federal district court is expected to issue its ruling soon.

This case emerges at a critical point in the movement to challenge Buckley. With the Supreme Court's January 24, 2000 decision in Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Gov't PAC, four Justices are now on record suggesting that Buckley may need to be revisited on the question of campaign spending limits, if the right case presents itself for such review. Landell v. Sorrell presents the newest opportunity for that revisitation.

Read the trial brief submitted jointly by the Vermont Attorney General's Office and the Institute.