Incumbent Protection Act Struck Down by Federal District Court

Incumbent Protection Act Struck Down by Federal District Court

Wharton, Aldhizer & Weaver, PLC, is pleased to announce that the Federal District Court for the Western District of Virginia struck down Section 24.2-509(B) of the Code of Virginia, commonly known as the Incumbent Protection Act.

The Incumbent Protection Act grants incumbent politicians who stand for re-nomination the power to dictate the method of nomination used by their parties. WAW represented two political party committees and three grassroots political activists who challenged the Act. The Plaintiffs alleged that the Act infringes on their First Amendment right of free association.

The Court agreed, holding that:

At bottom, the Act provides express statutory benefits to incumbents at the expense of political parties’ associational rights. Defendants have not shown any state interest that justifies such an intrusion into the 6th Congressional Committee’s constitutional protections. Virginia law allows political parties to conduct a variety of nomination methods, and the Constitution does not permit a state to grant incumbents power to take away that authority to further their individual interests. The Act fails constitutional muster.

The Plaintiffs were represented in court by Jeffrey R. Adams and C. Frank Hilton of Wharton Aldhizer & Weaver, PLC, located in Harrisonburg and Staunton, Virginia, and John C. Wirth of Nelson, McPherson, Summers & Santos, LC, located in Staunton, Virginia.

Lead attorney Jeff Adams described the Court’s decision as “a victory for the First Amendment freedom of association and the right of citizens to hold their elected officials accountable.”

Adams expressed his gratitude to expert witness Jeffery A. Jenkins, Pd.D., the Provost Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Law and the Judith and John Bedrosian Chair of Governance and the Public Enterprise at the University of Southern California. According to Adams, “it has long been clear that the Incumbent Protection Act cannot withstand Constitutional scrutiny. The critical questions in this case were: who has standing the challenge the Act, and when? Professor Jenkins testified that the Act distorts the electoral process to the advantage of an incumbent politician, whether or not it is actually invoked by the incumbent. The Court relied on Professor Jenkins’ clear, convincing and uncontradicted testimony in finding that the 6th Congressional Committee has standing to challenge the Act.”

Wharton Aldhizer & Weaver PLC is a full-service law firm with offices in Harrisonburg and Staunton. The firm serves individuals and businesses in the Shenandoah Valley and the Mid-Atlantic states in the areas of: bankruptcy, commercial and civil litigation, corporate finance, criminal law, domestic relations, employment law, health care law, intellectual property matters, personal injury, plaintiffs medical malpractice, real estate and land use, tax planning, wills, estate planning, and administration.  For more information, please visit www.wawlaw.com.