Florida Citizen Speech


Andrew Nathan Worley, et al. v. Florida Secretary of State, et al.
Protecting Citizen Speech in Florida


IJ Client Nathan Worley

IJ Client Nathan Worley
IJ report Keep Out
Research report, Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs
Should the government have the power to regulate who can express their opinion during an election? Or to subject grassroots political activists to regulations that are so onerous, the U.S. Supreme Court has found them unconstitutionally burdensome even for corporations and unions?

Nathan Worley, Pat Wayman, John Scolaro and Robin Stublen—four political activists from around Sarasota, Fla.—talk  politics once a week as part of an informal political group.  But a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution prompted them to stop talking and get involved in the 2010 election cycle.  

Thanks to Florida’s so-called campaign finance laws, that is far more difficult than it should be.  Under Florida law, any time two or more people join together to advocate the passage or defeat of a ballot issue, and spend more than $500, they become a fully regulated political committee.   

As a result, before they can even publish an ad, the group would have to register with the state and comply with a host of regulations the Florida Secretary of State admits are “complex,” and the U.S. Supreme Court recently called “burdensome” and “expensive” even for corporations and unions.  This includes appointing a treasurer, opening up a separate bank account, and tracking and reporting every single penny that goes through the organization.  

In other words, the government has created so much red tape that Floridians need to hire an attorney and accountants to cut through it if they want to speak without fear of breaking the law.
That is why on September 29, 2010, the Institute for Justice filed a federal First Amendment challenge to Florida's laws on behalf of Nathan Worley, Pat Wayman, John Scolaro and Robin Stublen. 

Regrettably, on July 2, 2012, Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida rejected most of Plaintiffs’ claims but did strike down Florida’s prohibition on spending money raised within the last five days before an election.  That decision was later affirmed by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  As a result, grassroots groups in Florida continue to be subject to speech-suppressing laws that have been held unconstitutionally burdensome for corporations and unions.  But the fight isn’t over—IJ is litigating similar challenges in other states, and eventually the Supreme Court will have to address these issues.



Essential Background


Backgrounder: Protecting Citizen Speech: Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality Of Florida Campaign Finance Regulations Kicks Off Nationwide Campaign

For a humorous look at how politicians learn how to enact campaign finance laws that stifle free speech, watch a three minute video.
Latest Release: U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review In Major First Amendment Case; Ruling Leaves in Place Florida Law That Gives Ordinary Americans Fewer First Amendment Rights Than Corporations, Unions (November 4, 2013)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Download: Institute for Justice Complaint in Florida Case (PDF)
Launch Release: Grassroots Group Protect Citizen Speech by Challenging Florida’s Campaign Finance Regulations (September 29, 2010) Download: Institute for Justice Preliminary Injunction Brief (PDF)


Download: District court ruling on preliminary injunction (PDF)


Download: Institute for Justice summary judgment brief  (PDF)


Download: District court ruling on summary judgment (PDF)


Download: Institute for Justice appellate brief (PDF)


Download: Appellate court ruling (PDF)


Download: Institute for Justice Petition for Certiorari and Appendix (PDF)


Download: Brief Amici Curiae of the Center for Competitive Politics and the Cato Institute in Support of Certiorari (PDF)


Download: Supplemental Brief in Support of Certiorari (PDF)


Case Timeline

Lawsuit Filed:


September 28, 2010

Court Filed:


United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida



October 26, 2010: Court denies preliminary injunction

July 2, 2012: Court grants in part motion for summary judgment

June 14, 2013: Appellate court affirms district court ruling

Current Court:


U.S. Supreme Court



Certiorari denied on November 4, 2013

Next Key Date:



Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Do Ordinary Americans Have Fewer First Amendment Rights Than Corporations and Unions?; IJ Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Free Speech for Grassroots Groups (September 12, 2013)

Research report: Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Release: Federal Court Refuses to Protect Citizen Speech; Court Upholds Burdens on Grassroots Groups Despite Government Abuse, Lack of Benefits (June 17, 2013)

Op-ed: Campaign regs shouldn't silence the public: Column USA Today (September 12, 2013)

Release: Federal Court Refuses to Protect Citizen Speech (July 5, 2012)

Article: IJ Launches Nationwide Defense of Citizen Speech; Liberty & Law (December 2010)

Release: Grassroots Group Takes Florida’s Campaign Finance Laws to Federal Court Hearing Will Show Laws Violate Ballot-Issue Speakers’ First Amendment Rights (July 27, 2011) Video: Citizens in Florida fight for their free speech. ABC-27; WTXL-ABC (October 4, 2010)
 Report Release: Politicians’ Message for the Rest of Us: Keep Out! (September 29, 2010) Video: Citizen Speech Press Conference 9-29-10; (October 4, 2010)
Op-ed: Your voice isn’t welcome here The Daily Caller (September 29, 2010)

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