Friday, October 01, 2010
Judge Seabright will issue partial injunction Thursday removing local firm’s campaign contribution limit
by Larry Geller
After oral arguments this morning in the case of A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc., Judge J. Michael Seabright announced that he will issue a partial injunction on Thursday. The order may invalidate Hawaii election law setting corporate contribution limits and its ban on noncandidate committees receiving contributions from government contractors.
As soon as order is issued, plaintiffs Jimmy Yamada and Russell Stewart will be able to pull out their checkbooks to contribute their intended S2,500 to the Aloha Family Alliance—Political Action Committee, well in time for the 2010 general election.
The partial injunction will be limited to that aspect of the case only. Contributions to the political action committee do not go to any particular candidate.
Judge Seabright said he is in trial until Wednesday, so he asked the parties to provide him with agreed upon language by Monday. If that is not possible, then their individual views are due on Wednesday in preparation for a formal order planned for Thursday.
Both plaintiff attorney Randy Elf and state attorney Charlene Aina agreed that a brief order would be acceptable now followed by a complete order setting down all of the reasoning later.
The heart of the hearing took place at about 11:00 a.m. in a spirited back-and-forth between Judge Seabright and attorney Elf. It was clear that Seabright had studied related cases from other circuits as well as Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that blew the lid off of corporate campaign contributions. During the discussion Elf demonstrated a command of the core issues that was impressive, and which helped Seabright to clarify his own understanding.
Attorney Aina spent much of her time questioning the two plaintiffs as witnesses, including a detailed session with plaintiff Yamada questioning his authority to act for A-1. She questioned Yamada’s position as CEO and his authority to act for its board of directors, both of which did not appear to be supported by the available copy of the company bylaws. It also became clear that A-1 the corporation does not distinguish itself from A-1 the political action committee—they share the same checking account, for example.
It seemed that the Seabright/Elf debate allowed the judge to conclude his announced course of action. In contrast, the state’s arguments, while no doubt important, seemed far removed from the issues at hand.
No commercial press was present in the courtroom for the judge’s announcement.
No commercial press present? Cases like this will affect our lifestyle as the working middle class much more than an entertainer getting arrest for using some recreational drug.
A-1-A is probably going to win this case. The Legislators purposefully defected the Pay-to-Play law so that a court would overturn it and the legislators would not be responsible.
Here is an analysis from some top constitutional lawyers
Pay to Play: Hawaii faces constitutional challenge
A-1 will probably win the case also because of a weak defense. That's what I thought would happen, and that's what I think I saw yesterday.