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LAIR v. MANGAN (2020)

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United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Doug LAIR; et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Jeff MANGAN, in his official capacity as the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices; et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 20-35700

Decided: September 22, 2020

Before: RAWLINSON, BEA, and MURGUIA, Circuit Judges. James Bopp, Jr., Esquire, Attorney, Courtney Turner Milbank, Esquire, The Bopp Law Firm, Terre Haute, IN, Anita Yvonne Milanovich, Attorney, Milanovich Law, PLLC, Butte, MT, for Plaintiffs-Appellants Matthew T. Cochenour, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick M. Risken, AGMT - Office of the Montana Attorney General, Helena, MT, for Defendants-Appellees


Appellants Doug Lair, the Lake County Republican Central Committee, and the Beaverhead County Republican Central Committee appeal from the district court's order denying their motion for post-judgment relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We review the denial of a motion under Rule 60(b) for abuse of discretion. Henson v. Fid. Nat'l Fin., Inc., 943 F.3d 434, 443 (9th Cir. 2019).

Upon review of the record, the opening brief, and the arguments raised in appellants’ motion to expedite this appeal for decision, we conclude this matter is suitable for decision without further briefing. See United States v. Hooton, 693 F.2d 857, 858 (9th Cir. 1982) (discussing standards for summary affirmance). We therefore grant appellants’ motion to expedite this appeal (Docket Entry No. 3), and we affirm the judgment.

Appellants challenge this court's opinion in Lair v. Motl, 873 F.3d 1170 (9th Cir. 2017) (“Lair III”), cert. denied sub nom. Lair v. Mangan, ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 916, 202 L.Ed.2d 644 (2019). In Lair III, this court reversed the judgment of the district court and upheld Montana's campaign contribution limits under the standard set forth in Montana Right to Life Association v. Eddleman, 343 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2003). Appellants contend that the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Thompson v. Hebdon, ––– U.S. ––––, 140 S. Ct. 348, 205 L.Ed.2d 245 (2019), constitutes a change in the controlling law because it requires courts to apply the factors outlined in Randall v. Sorrell, 548 U.S. 230, 126 S.Ct. 2479, 165 L.Ed.2d 482 (2006), as opposed to Eddleman, and therefore requires reversal of Lair III. We disagree.

The panel's opinion in Lair III gave reasoned consideration to the question of whether Montana's contribution limits raised any of the “danger signs” outlined in Randall. See Lair III, 873 F.3d at 1186-87. Finding none, the panel concluded that Montana's contribution limits “would survive scrutiny even if Randall governed.” Id. at 1187. The panel's prior conclusion on this issue, “germane to the eventual resolution of the case,” remains the binding law of this circuit. See United States v. Johnson, 256 F.3d 895, 914 (9th Cir. 2001) (“[W]here a panel confronts an issue germane to the eventual resolution of the case, and resolves it after reasoned consideration in a published opinion, that ruling becomes the law of the circuit, regardless of whether doing so is necessary in some strict logical sense.”).

The district court correctly determined that this court, in Lair III, had in fact considered Randall in its analysis. Because the panel's Lair III opinion previously confronted and resolved the issue raised by appellants, we remain bound by its conclusion. See Johnson, 256 F.3d at 914. The district court properly concluded that the Supreme Court's decision in Thompson does not require reversal of Lair III, and thus properly denied appellant's motion for relief from the judgment.


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