Federal court dismisses lawsuit requesting third party presence at presidential debates

By Brittney Felder [JURIST].
The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed [Opinion, PDF] on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by third party presidential candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein against the Commission on Presidential Debates [official website] requesting that third party candidates be included in the presidential debate this year. The candidates did not receive invitations to the debates and sought court intervention claiming a violation of antitrust law. The court held that “because Plaintiffs have no standing and because antitrust laws govern commercial markets and not political activity those claims fail as a matter of well established law.”

In response to the contention that their First Amendment rights had been violated, the court held that those claims also failed because the First Amendment protects the rights of citizens not to be infringed upon by government action, not private action. An appeal is possible [Politico Report].

The Commission on Presidential Debates is a “private non-partisan” organization which sponsors political debates. It is an independent organization run by a Board of Directors. In order to be invited to participate in the presidential debates a candidate must, among other things, “appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College” and receive “at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations.” Major party nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will participate in the debate, but final determinations regarding any other candidate will be made after Labor Day.

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