Friday, May 06, 2011


Hawaii’s appeal of campaign contribution ruling to be heard by 9th Circuit on June 15

by Larry Geller

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear Hawaii’s appeal of the preliminary injunction that was granted by Judge J. Michael Seabright in October 2010. The oral arguments in Yamada v. Kuramoto will take place in Honolulu on Jume 15.

Seabright’s order allowed the plaintiffs’ company, A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc., to contribute to the Aloha Family Alliance-Political Action Committee in excess of the limits imposed by Hawaii election law. It is being closely watched as an indicator of whether Hawaii’s campaign contribution law will ultimately fall in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision.

The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. in the 3rd Floor Courtroom at 1132 Bishop Street. Since the case is last on the calendar the time it will come up is hard to predict. Oral arguments will be limited to 15 minutes per side. In order to understand the arguments it would be good to review the papers filed in the case. We’ll post them here prior to the hearing.

The October arguments  seemed unusual in that Judge Seabright had clearly carefully informed himself of the arguments on both sides. He and plaintiff attorney Randy Elf appeared to be on the same wavelength as to the nature of the order that would have to be issued. State attorney Charlene Aina seemed to be off on a different tack entirely:

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

[Disappeared News, Judge Seabright will issue partial injunction Thursday removing local firm’s campaign contribution limit, 10/1/2010]


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


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