5th Circuit upholds Texas Democrats’ loyalty oath

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that the Texas Democratic Party has the right to impose a loyalty oath on candidates seeking the party’s nomination, rejecting a challenge by former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, ruling in Kucinich v. Texas Democratic Party, affirmed a Texas federal court’s ruling that the oath does not violate the U.S. Constitution. But Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote that the court was not judging “the wisdom or utility” of the oath requirement.

“That we find the oath permissible does not, of course, suggest that it is prudent,” the judges wrote.

The congressman from Cleveland said he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state Democratic Party argued that it has a right to require candidates to pledge to “fully support” the party’s eventual nominee. Kucinich claimed the rule violated his First Amendment right to free speech and that it shouldn’t be a requirement for qualifying for the ballot.

“No state has the ability to trump a national nomination procedure through disparagement of the First Amendment,” Kucinich said. “I am confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will conclude that no state is above the First Amendment.”

Kucinich and country singer Willie Nelson, one of his prominent supporters, filed the lawsuit.

Kucinich abandoned his second presidential campaign in January 2008, not long after a federal judge ruled the Texas party had the right to require the oath. His attorney later told the appeals court that Kucinich supported Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, but that he believes people can disagree on certain issues.

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