News Now: Federal Appointments, Legislative Snafus, and More

Colorado has had a busy couple of weeks in the public law arena. Here are the highlights:

  • Domenico nominated to the federal bench. President Trump nominated former Colorado Solicitor General Dan Domenico to federal district court to take the seat of now-senior Judge Robert Blackburn. If confirmed by the US Senate, Domenico will bring the court back up to its full complement of seven judges.
  • A legislative snafu on campaign finance. A law passed last legislative session is causing some unintended consequences. HB16-1282 was supposed to require school board candidates to report donations of more than $1,000 within 24 hours of receipt in the month leading up to those local elections. But because of a drafting error, the new law applies to all candidates—including those running for Governor and Attorney General. The law will probably be fixed next session, but until then, it will remain on the books.
  • Court of Appeals weighs in on a campaign-finance dispute. The Colorado Court of Appeals released its decision on a complaint filed against the Colorado Republican Committee. At issue was whether the Colorado GOP improperly failed to report $700 it charged for vendor tables at its 2016 convention. The court sided with the GOP, holding that the money wasn’t a “contribution” under state law.
  • Partisan gerrymandering. On October 3, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, the case alleging that Wisconsin’s state legislative maps are an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Former Coloradan and newest Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with his conservative brethren and, comparing the challengers’ position to his “steak rub,” argued that there is no single test the courts can use to determine whether a legislative map is too political. Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters continues to push for a ballot measure in Colorado that would put redistricting in the hands of an independent commission.
  • Oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop. The US Supreme Court announced it would hear oral arguments on December 5 in a case involving a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The case is a judicial blockbuster that will garner nationwide attention when Colorado Solicitor General Fred Yarger appears before the Court.

Chris Jackson is a litigator at Sherman & Howard whose practice lies at the intersection of private and public law. He frequently writes and comments on appellate law, elections, and campaign finance (particularly in Colorado). Follow Chris on Twitter at @COAppeals.