Recent publicity has resulted in a spike in the number of people trying to learn about the Freedom Center of Missouri and the work that we do. If you’re one of the folks just now hearing about our work, we’re glad you’re checking out our website. The “About Us” section will give a general overview of our mission, our staff, and our Board of Directors, but in this post we wanted to highlight several of the successes we’ve seen over the past seven years.
Dave Roland, our director of litigation, has won several important, precedent-setting victories in court, such as:
Wright-Jones v. Nasheed, 368 S.W.3d 157 (Mo. 2012), in which the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that when legislative districts have been redrawn, the Missouri Constitution allows candidates to run in a newly-created district that overlaps part of the would-be candidate’s old district, even if the candidate does not (yet) live in the newly-created district. Robin Wright-Jones, the incumbent in this case, had anticipated challenge from our client, Jamilah Nasheed, and had negotiated a district map that specifically carved our client’s residence out of the new senate district. After initial losses in both the trial court and the Court of Appeals, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of our client. This decision saved the candidacies of a significant percentage of those sitting in the General Assembly, as the new district lines had cut off many incumbents from their prior constituents.
Vowell v. Kander, 451 S.W.3d 267 (Mo. App. 2014) – The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that the Missouri Constitution and state statutes forbid the Secretary of State unilaterally to remove a candidate from the ballot based on the Secretary’s opinion of the candidate’s qualifications. Former Secretary of State Jason Kander had ordered our client, Natalie Vowell, off the ballot in her race for state representative because he believed her unqualified to run for that office. But under state law, there are only three ways a candidate for office may be excluded from running for or serving in that office if their qualifications are questioned. First, an opposing candidate in the primary election may go to court to challenge their qualifications. Second, an opposing candidate in a general election may go to court to challenge their qualifications. Or third, if the candidate wins the election the question of her qualifications may be raised in the house to which he or she has been elected, and it will be up to the members of that house to decide whether the qualifications are met. As the Court of Appeals concluded, the Secretary of State may not take it upon himself or herself to decide a candidate’s qualifications. After hearing arguments on the case, the Missouri Supreme Court left the appellate court’s decision in place.
Constitution Party of Missouri v. St. Louis County – St. Louis County had a vacant seat on its county council and Cindy Redburn, a member of the Constitution Party of Missouri, wanted to be a candidate to fill that vacancy. But the County Charter said that only the two largest political parties could have their candidates on the ballot – independent and minor party candidates were completely excluded. Consequently, County officials refused to accept Redburn’s declaration of candidacy. Shortly after we filed our lawsuit, the County put Redburn on the ballot, but they continued to argue that their county charter provision was constitutional. After almost a year’s worth of legal wrangling, the federal judge entered a consent judgment permanently preventing the County from enforcing the charter provision that excluded minor parties and independent candidates from the ballot in special elections.
Franks v. Hubbard, 498 S.W.3d 862 (Mo. App. 2016) – For decades members of the Hubbard family won elections in north St. Louis by thin margins that depended on extraordinary support from absentee ballots. Prior to the state representative primary election in which Bruce Franks, Jr., was to take on three-term incumbent Penny Hubbard, Dave asked the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners to look into potential violations of the state’s absentee ballot laws – the Board refused to do so. Franks lost the primary election by fewer than ninety votes, even though he won a significant majority of votes cast at the polls on election day; his opponent won only by virtue of winning an overwhelming majority of the absentee ballots. Dave filed an election challenge on behalf of Franks, and showed at trial that the primary election results were tainted by massive violations of absentee ballot laws, which led the judge to order a special election. Hubbard appealed, claiming that it would violate the U.S. Constitution to disregard the results of the primary election. The Missouri Court of Appeals held: “Implementing procedures to safeguard against fraud helps ensure that qualified registered voters’ votes are not diluted by unlawful voter activity. These procedures… effectively protect voters’ rights, not abridge them.” Id. at 872
The Freedom Center is also now three-for-three winning judgments in trial courts to the effect that multi-jurisdictional drug task forces (as well as other law enforcement agencies) are required to comply with the state’s Sunshine Law; this is part of a five-case strategic litigation campaign to ensure that these powerful, shadowy law enforcement agencies are transparent and accountable to the people of this State.
We have also had a number of lower-key successes that did not result in judicial opinions. For example, the Freedom Center:
- Compelled the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners to release the public records that allowed us to prove massive election fraud.
- Helped defend a rabbit breeder in rural Missouri against federal government’s threat of millions of dollars in fines.
- Won acquittal for a Ron Paul activist charged with trespassing when he was engaging in purely political speech on a public sidewalk.
- Convinced the St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney to drop charges against cannabis legalization activists arrested for “soliciting without a permit” as they attempted to gather signatures for a petition while on public sidewalks.
- Persuaded the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney to apologize and order law enforcement officials to return hand-made political signs that had been confiscated from a citizen’s yard on the basis that the signs lacked a “paid for by” statement on them.
- Made the City of Ferguson discontinue efforts to penalize Karl Tricamo for growing organic vegetables in his front yard.
- Prodded Governor Nixon to call special elections to fill several vacancies in General Assembly (he was trying to prevent veto-proof supermajority in the legislature).
- Forced the government to drop legal action against woman attempting to earn a living as an African-style hairbraider in St. Louis.
In addition to all of these, the Freedom Center also regularly offers testimony at the legislature to help lawmakers understand the constitutional implications of the bills they are considering and we also meet with community groups to promote understanding of and appreciation for constitutional principles.
In short, we’re working all over the state to ensure that government officials and citizens alike understand the importance of individual liberty and constitutionally limited, transparent, and accountable government. If you like the work we’re doing, please sign up for our mailing list and consider making a donation!