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New York State Board of Elections v. Lopez Torres

Docket No.: 06-766
Certiorari Granted: Feb 20 2007
Argued: October 3, 2007
Decided: January 16, 2008

PartyNames: NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS ET AL. v. LOPEZ TORRES ET AL.
Petitioner: New York State Board of Elections, et al.
Respondent: Margarita Lopez Torres, et al.

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

New York State Board of Elections, et al.
v.
Margarita Lopez Torres, et al.
552 U.S. 196 (2008)
Question Presented:

1. In American Party of Texas v. White, 415 U.S. 767 (1974), this Court held that it is "too plain for argument" that a State may require intraparty competition to be resolved either by convention or primary. Did the Second Circuit run afoul of White by mandating a primary in lieu of a party convention for the nomination of candidates for New York State trial judge? 2. What is the appropriate scope of First Amendment rights of voters and candidates within the arena of intraparty competition, and particularly where the State has chosen a party convention instead of a primary as the nominating process? (a) Did the Second Circuit err, as a threshold matter, in applying this Court's decision in Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724 (1974) and related ballot access cases, which were concerned with the dangers of "freezing out" minor party and non-party candidates, to internal party contests? (b) If Storer does apply, did the Second Circuit run afoul of Storer in holding that voters and candidates are entitled to a "realistic opportunity to participate" in the party's nomination process as measured by whether a "challenger candidate" could compete effectively against the party-backed candidate? 3. In Bachur v. Democratic National Party, 836 F.2d 837 (4th Cir. 1987) and Ripon Society v. National Republican Party, 525 F.2d 567 (D.C.. Cir. 1975) (en banc) the Fourth and D.C. Circuits applied a rational basis balancing test to weigh the co-equal, but competing First Amendment rights of political parties in setting delegate selection rules against those of voters and candidates. Did the Second Circuit err in preferring the First Amendment rights of voters and candidates by first determining that New York's convention system severely burdened those rights and then subjecting the party's rights to strict scrutiny review?

Question:

Does a state judicial appointment system in which appointments are made by political party delegates elected by party members violate the First Amendment association rights of voters and candidates?

Holding: judgment reversed
Vote: 9-0
Opinion By:
Read NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS V. LOPEZ TORRES opinion (PDF)
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