Justia Non-Profit Corporations Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court of Missouri reversed the circuit court's ruling and held that the Truly Agreed and Finally Passed House Bill 1606 (2022) (“TAFP HB 1606”) violated the single subject requirement of article III, section 23 of the Missouri Constitution. The bill was initially proposed to reduce the amount of information certain counties had to publish in their financial statements. However, the bill underwent several modifications, including the addition of section 67.2300, which imposed restrictions on the expenditure of state funds for combating homelessness and made unauthorized sleeping and camping on state-owned lands a class C misdemeanor. The appellants, including a group of individuals and a non-profit organization, argued that the addition of section 67.2300 altered the bill's original purpose, introduced a second subject to the bill, and rendered the bill's title unclear, thereby violating the single subject, clear title, and original purpose requirements of the Missouri Constitution. The court agreed, finding that the provisions of section 67.2300 did not fairly relate to or have a natural connection with the bill's general subject of "political subdivisions," but rather related to the completely different subject of homelessness. Consequently, the court declared TAFP HB 1606 invalid in its entirety. View "Byrd v. State of Missouri" on Justia Law

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In the state of Kansas, a number of non-profit groups, including the League of Women Voters of Kansas and the Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, challenged a law which made it a felony to engage in conduct that gives the appearance of being an election official or that would cause another person to believe a person is an election official. The non-profits argued that the law was overbroad and unconstitutionally vague, as it could criminalize their voter education and registration activities. They also claimed that the law violated their rights to free speech and association. The district court denied their request for a temporary injunction and the Court of Appeals dismissed the non-profits' claims for lack of standing, arguing that they were not at risk of prosecution under the statute. The Supreme Court of the State of Kansas reversed these decisions, finding that the non-profits did have standing to challenge the law. The Court held that when a law criminalizes speech and does not clearly demonstrate that only constitutionally unprotected speech is being criminalized, the law is unclear enough to confer pre-enforcement standing on a plaintiff challenging the law. The Supreme Court of the State of Kansas vacated the Court of Appeals' decision and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings. View "League of Women Voters of Kansas v. Schwab" on Justia Law

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After shooting his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend, Defendant was convicted by a jury of the following: two counts of premeditated attempted murder; two counts of assault with a deadly weapon; one count of inflicting corporal injury on a prior dating partner; and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The jury also found true multiple enhancement allegations under section 12022.53. The trial court imposed the following sentence: two consecutive indeterminate terms of seven years to life for the premeditated attempted murder convictions (counts 1 & 4), plus two additional terms of 25 years to life for the respectively attached firearm enhancements under section 12022.53(d). All other enhancements attached to counts 1 and 4 were stayed under section 654. On appeal, Defendant argued the sentence should be vacated and remanded for resentencing under People v. Tirado (2022) 12 Cal.5th 688 (Tirado).     The Fifth Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s judgment but vacated Defendant’s sentence. The court remanded the case to the trial court for a resentencing hearing where further evidence and argument may be received regarding the sentence to be imposed. The court held that the trial court, in this case, made its sentencing decision in the absence of the new presumption against exceeding the middle term, and the record does not clearly indicate that the court would have imposed upper-term sentences had it been aware of the new constraint on its discretion. The court held that Gutierrez is binding and the appropriate remedy is to remand for the sentencing court to exercise its newly informed and circumscribed discretion in the first instance. View "P. v. Falcon" on Justia Law

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The State of Washington brought multiple claims alleging that TVI Inc., doing business as Value Village, used deceptive advertising and marketing in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA), ch. 19.86 RCW. TVI operated about 20 for-profit thrift stores in Washington under the name Value Village. Approximately 93 percent of Value Village’s retail inventory consisted of used goods donated by the community. To source these community donations, TVI contracted with third-party nonprofit organizations, which TVI called its “‘charity partners.’” By working with charity partners, TVI obtained inventory at a lower price than it would pay a for-profit supplier. The charity partners, in turn, received a predictable source of unrestricted funding, as well as publicity from TVI’s marketing. In 2013, the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Office received a complaint from a Washington resident that TVI’s marketing gives the false impression that Value Village is a nonprofit. The AG wrote to TVI in November 2014, instructing it to register as a commercial fundraiser pursuant to the CSA. The AG’s November 2014 letter raised additional concerns that TVI’s “solicitations for charitable contributions and advertisements for its retail stores” were “misleading or deceptive” in violation of the CPA. By the summer of 2015, TVI had posted signs in its stores disclosing its status as a for-profit commercial fundraiser in its stores. Following three years of investigation, the State filed this lawsuit. TVI argued the State's claims infringed on its First Amendment right to solicit charitable contributions on behalf of nonprofit organizations. The Supreme Court agreed with TVI, and remanded this case to the trial court for dismissal of the State’s claims. View "Washington v. TVI, Inc." on Justia Law

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Charitable organizations soliciting funds in California generally must register with the Attorney General and renew their registrations annually by filing copies of their IRS Form 990, on which tax-exempt organizations provide the names and addresses of their major donors. Two tax-exempt charities that solicit contributions in California renewed their registrations and filed redacted Form 990s to preserve their donors’ anonymity. The Attorney General threatened the charities with the suspension of their registrations and fines. The charities alleged that the compelled disclosure requirement violated their First Amendment rights and the rights of their donors. The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Attorney General.The Supreme Court reversed. California’s disclosure requirement is facially invalid because it burdens donors’ First Amendment rights and is not narrowly tailored to an important government interest. Compelled disclosure of affiliation with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute as effective a restraint on freedom of association as other forms of governmental action. Exacting scrutiny requires that a government-mandated disclosure regime be narrowly tailored to the government’s asserted interest, even if it is not the least restrictive means of achieving that end.A dramatic mismatch exists between the Attorney General's asserted interest and the disclosure regime. While California’s interests in preventing charitable fraud and self-dealing are important, the enormous amount of sensitive information collected through the disclosures does not form an integral part of California’s fraud detection efforts. California does not rely on those disclosures to initiate investigations. There is no evidence that alternative means of obtaining the information, such as a subpoena or audit letter, are inefficient and ineffective by comparison. Mere administrative convenience does not “reflect the seriousness of the actual burden” that the disclosure requirement imposes on donors’ association rights. It does not make a difference if there is no public disclosure, if some donors do not mind having their identities revealed, or if the relevant donor information is already disclosed to the IRS. View "Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta" on Justia Law

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Clay County Animal Shelter, Inc. ("the animal shelter"), appealed a circuit court judgment declaring Act No. 2018-432, Ala. Acts 2018, to be unconstitutional. The animal shelter was a nonprofit “no-kill” organization that provided food, water, medical care, spay and neutering services, and adoption services for stray and abandoned animals in Clay County, Alabama. Most of the people working at the animal shelter were unpaid volunteers. The animal shelter incurs numerous expenses associated with operating the shelter and caring for the animals. The legislature sought to provide funding to the animal shelter with proceeds from the tobacco tax authorized in Clay County pursuant to section 45-14-244, Ala. Code 1975. It was undisputed that Act No. 2017-65, the appropriation measure at issue, did not receive the vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house. The Clay County Commission argued that that portion of Act No. 2017-65 purporting to distribute funds to the Clay County General Fund to be disbursed to the animal shelter was, therefore, unconstitutional. After careful consideration, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the circuit court erred in declaring Act No. 2018-432 as unconstitutional. Judgment was reversed. View "Clay County Animal Shelter, Inc. v. Clay County Commission et al." on Justia Law

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The Freedom Foundation was a nonprofit organization that describes itself as committed to “advanc[ing] individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government in the Evergreen State.” The Foundation brought citizen’s actions against Teamsters Local 117; Service Employees International Union Political Education and Action Fund (SEIU PEAF); and Governor Inslee, the Department of Social and Health Services, and Service Employees International Union 775 for various alleged violations of Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA). In consolidated appeals, the issue common to all was whether the Freedom Foundation satisfied the FCPA’s prerequisites before filing their citizen’s actions. In each case, the superior courts ruled the Foundation failed to meet a 10-day deadline required by the FCPA and, accordingly, entered judgment for respondents. After review, the Washington Supreme Court agreed and affirmed. With respect to the Foundation's suit against the Teamsters Local 117, the Supreme Court determined that though the superior court erred by granting judgment on the pleadings to the union, the court’s entry of judgment would have been proper as summary judgment, and was thus affirmed. This result precluded the Foundation’s other challenges to the superior court’s rulings, which were therefore not addressed. As to the union's cross-appeal of its counterclaim against the Foundation under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Foundation was not a state actor, was not wielding powers traditionally and exclusively reserved to the State, and therefore was not subject to suit under section 1983. View "Freedom Found. v. Teamsters Local 117" on Justia Law

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Consolidated appeals arose out of a complaint filed by four Georgia taxpayers in which they challenged the constitutionality of Georgia’s Qualified Education Tax Credit, Ga. L. 2008, p. 1108, as amended (“HB 1133” or the “Bill”). HB 1133 set up a tax credit program that allows individuals and businesses to receive a Georgia income tax credit for donations made to approved not-for-profit student scholarship organizations (“SSOs”). The Bill created a new tax credit statute for that purpose. Generally speaking, the SSO is required to distribute the donated funds as scholarships or tuition grants for the benefit of students who meet certain eligibility requirements, and the parent or guardian of each recipient must endorse the award to the accredited private school of the parents’ choice for deposit into the school’s account. Plaintiffs alleged: (1) the Program was educational assistance program, and the scheme of the Program violated the Constitution; (2) the Program provided unconstitutional gratuities to students who receive scholarship funds under the Program by allowing tax revenue to be directed to private school students without recompense, and also that the tax credits authorized by HB 1133 resulted in unauthorized state expenditures for gratuities; (3) the Program took money from the state treasury in the form of dollar-for-dollar tax credits that would otherwise be paid to the State in taxes, and since a significant portion of the scholarships awarded by the SSOs goes to religious-based schools, the Program takes funds from the State treasury to aid religious schools in violation of the Establishment Clause; and (4) the Department of Revenue violated the statute that authorized tax credits for contributions to SSOs by granting tax credits to taxpayers who have designated that their contribution is to be awarded to the benefit of a particular individual, and by failing to revoke the status of SSOs that have represented to taxpayers that their contribution will fund a scholarship that may be directed to a particular individual. Plaintiffs sought mandamus relief to compel the Commissioner of Revenue to revoke the status of SSOs, and injunctive relief against the defendants to require them to comply with the constitutional provisions and statutory laws set forth in the complaint. In addition to mandamus relief and injunctive relief, plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the Program was unconstitutional. The Georgia Supreme Court found no error in the trial court’s finding plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their constitutional claims, or their prayer for declaratory relief with respect to those claims, either by virtue of their status as taxpayers or by operation of OCGA 9-6-24. Consequently plaintiffs failed to allege any clear legal right to mandamus relief. View "Gaddy v. Georgia Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Appellant Michael R. Veon, a twenty-two-year member and eventual Minority Whip of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, was entitled to $20,000 annually to cover business expenses associated with maintenance of a district office, as well as $4,000 for postage. Pursuant to House Democratic Caucus (“Caucus”) procedures, Veon could seek additional funds from Caucus leadership if he exhausted his $20,000 allocation, and it was not uncommon for Caucus members to do so. In 1991, Veon formed the Beaver Initiative for Growth (“BIG”), a non-profit corporation. BIG received all of its funding from public sources, primarily through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”). Veon's Beaver County district office initially shared space with BIG, but opened two more district offices, for which the rent easily exceeded his caucus allotment. Veon was criminally charged with various offenses relating to BIG paying the district offices' rents. After some charges were withdrawn, Veon went to trial on nineteen counts. In the portion of the jury charge that was relevant to Veon’s appeal to the Supreme Court, the trial court defined the pecuniary requirement in the conflict of interest statute. The statute prohibited public officials from leveraging the authority of their offices for “private pecuniary benefit;” at issue here was whether or not that benefit extended to what the trial court in this case referred to as “intangible political gain.” In addition, another issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Commonwealth could receive restitution following prosecution of a public official for a crime involving unlawful diversion of public resources. The Court concluded the trial court committed prejudicial error in its jury charge regarding conflict of interest, and that it erred in awarding restitution to the DCED. Veon's judgment of sentence was vacated, the matter remanded for a new trial on conflict of interest, and for other proceedings. View "Pennsylvania v. Veon" on Justia Law

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Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams appealed a district court order enjoining him from enforcing Colorado's issue-committee registration and disclosure requirements against the Coalition for Secular Government (Coalition), a nonprofit corporation that was planning to advocate against a statewide ballot initiative in the 2014 general election. Under Colorado law, the Coalition's activities triggered various issue-committee registration and disclosure requirements. Once a person or group of persons qualified as an issue committee under this definition, a substantial set of registration and disclosure requirements apply. Since 2008, the Coalition has either registered or considered registering as an issue committee in four general elections: 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014. As the 2012 election neared, the Coalition filed in federal district court a declaratory-judgment suit against Scott Gessler, the then-Colorado Secretary of State. Among other relief, the Coalition requested the court to declare that the Coalition's "expected activity of $3,500 does not require registration as an issue committee." Because a certain constitutional amendment (the "personhood amendment") failed to qualify for the general-election ballot, the Coalition had neither registered as an issue committee nor published an updated policy paper. After the Colorado Supreme Court's decision in "Gessler v. Colorado Common Cause," (327 P.3d 232 (Colo. 2014)), the Coalition renewed its preliminary-injunction motion in federal district court. By then, the personhood amendment had qualified for the 2014 general-election ballot, and Dr. Diana Hsieh (Coalition founder) and her co-author again wanted to update and expand the policy paper urging readers to vote "no" on the latest iteration of the personhood ballot initiative. The district court consolidated the hearing on the preliminary-injunction motion with a hearing on the merits of the case. As Dr. Hsieh testified at the hearing, the Coalition planned to raise about $1,500 in 2014 to fund the policy paper but still opposed registering as an issue committee. By October 3, 2014, the day of the preliminary-injunction hearing, the Coalition had already received pledges totaling about $2,000. On October 10, 2014, the district court "ORDERED and DECLARED that [the Coalition]'s expected activity of $3,500 does not require registration or disclosure as an 'issue committee' and the Secretary is ENJOINED from enforcing" Colorado's disclosure requirements against the Coalition. The Secretary appealed the district court's order granting the Coalition declaratory and injunctive relief, presenting as grounds for appeal: (1) whether Colorado's $200 threshold for issue-committee registration and reporting violated the First Amendment; and (2) could Colorado require issue-committee registration and disclosure for a group that raises and spends $3,500 to influence an election on a statewide ballot initiative? The Tenth Circuit concluded that Colorado's issue-committee regulatory framework was unconstitutional as applied to the Coalition. Therefore it did not address the facial validity of the $200 threshold. View "Coalition for Secular Govt v. Williams" on Justia Law