Federal Lawsuit over Petition Rights

Federal Lawsuit over Petition Rights

Attorney David A. Domina of Domina Law Group pc llo is representing an Omaha businessman to challenge the constitutionality of two Nebraska laws. In this federal lawsuit, Kent Bernbeck is alleging that these restrictions on Nebraskan's right to petition are unconstitutional. The case was filed on July 30, 2013 in U.S. District Court.

The first state law being challenged requires geographic distributions in at least 38 counties for signors on initiative/referendum petitions. The second challenge is to a state law which prohibits commission payments to petition circulators. Bernbeck, represented by Domina, claims that these two state laws violate First and Fourteenth Amendment rights- the right to engage in political speech and the right to petition for damages regarding grievances against the government. Similar challenges in other U.S. District Courts have resulted in rulings that struck down such petitioning prohibitions.

Part of the First Amendment is the principle of one vote per person. These laws, Bernbeck claims, drown out the voices of voters living in more heavily populated counties and diminishes the "one person, one vote" principle. The defendants in this care are Nebraska Secretary of State, John Gale and the Village of Denton Clerk, Charlotte TeBrink.

This case originated about a year ago when Bernbeck was collecting signatures for petitions on ordinances. These ordinances required municipalities to publish the names of all lobbyists. Bernbeck was sued by The Village of Denton and others so that the particular measure he was propagating wouldn't appear on the ballots.

According to Domina, "Mr. Bernbeck was prohibited from exercising his initiative and referendum rights as granted by the laws of this State, and the United States. He is bringing this challenge to guarantee all Nebraskans can participate in this core democratic process—a process so important that the founders of our nation called out the right as fundamental and to be preserved without intrusion."

Read the Lawsuit Here, Read The Republic Article Here

You can also read David Domina's commentary on the case in his blog entitled: Comments on First Amendment Challenge to Nebraska Initiative & Referendum Laws.