Fourth Circuit dismisses constitutional challenges to election law that required municipalities to choose between a partisan or nonpartisan method of candidate nomination.
The Greenville Republican Party, itself not a registered political party, challenged the constitutionality of a law that required the party to officially register before it could hold primaries for candidate nominations. The party challenged the law on First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. Without weighing this post down with the legal merits of each, suffice it to say the party felt the law was a waste of time, money, and a dastardly infringement upon their right to assemble and speak freely.
Our interest for this post comes from the Fourth Circuit’s ruling because it dismissed their claim for injunctive relief as moot; and, in the process, the court shed light, however dim it might be, on what exactly entails repetitive behavior coupled with the possibility of evading review.
Standing in federal court is ongoing requirement. Just because a party has standing at one point during the litigation does not mean it will continue to have a case and controversy before a federal court through its end. If, for example, the petitioner no longer has the problem for which the party seeks a remedy once the court hears the case, there is no remedy the court can offer to rectify the wrong. It becomes pointless, or legally speaking – moot. Many call this the “live controversy” requirement.
There are exceptions, though, and the most notable of which in our nation’s history is the abortion controversy. Since a petitioner’s litigation in regards to abortion will likely last well past the period for viability, any claims involving injunctive relief for abortions will be moot once a federal judge, let alone an appellate federal judge, hears the case. It survives standing requirements, though, because the conduct is likely to happen again and will similarly evade review again, as the efficiency of the courts cannot compete with the efficiency of a child reaching viability.
The requirement for showing a particular harm or conduct could repeat itself and evade review each time falls into the nebulous “reasonable expectation” of repetition field. The fourth circuit ruled that the particular conduct in dispute here did not meet that standard. From the point when the Greenville Republican Party filed the lawsuit to when the 4th Circuit Court ruled last week, the legislature acted to nullify the requirement in dispute. It is no longer necessary to register in that way for a candidate nomination. The court ruled it is outside an individual’s reasonable expectations for the state’s conduct to repeat itself, as it would be implausible to expect the harm to occur again and bring another individual to legal action (meaning the law would reverse itself), and then in the meantime of adjudication the legislature would pass another law to repeal the subsequently reversed law and allow the harm to run moot once again.