January 13, 2009
On Monday, November 3, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association. The Supreme Court here considers the application of the First Amendment to payroll deductions. The case arises from a challenge to the Idaho Voluntary Contributions Act of 2003, which attempted to constrain the participation of labor organizations in political activities. Public employee labor organizations sued state officials in federal district court, claiming several provisions of the act violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The state conceded the unconstitutionality of all the challenged provisions, except the one prohibiting payroll deductions for political activities. The district court found this provision constitutional as applied to the state government, but unconstitutional as applied to county and local governments. The state appealed this latter ruling, but the Ninth Circuit affirmed it, applying strict scrutiny on the grounds that local governments were not state-controlled nonpublic fora, and reasoning that the challenged provision would unconstitutionally burden political speech. The Supreme Court now considers whether the First Amendment prohibits a state legislature from removing its political subdivisions' authority to make payroll deductions for political purposes. Pacific Legal Foundation Staff Attorney Timothy Sandefur discusses the case.
Oral Argument - November 3, 2008: