Wyoming Liberty Group

We here at the Wyoming Liberty Group strive to bring you the latest information. Please enjoy the blogs and comment on them often.

Steve Klein serves as attorney and research counsel with the Wyoming Liberty Group and Pillar of Law Institute, focusing on free speech and criminal law.  Steve has co-authored numerous amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs for state and federal courts in several important free speech cases, advocating in favor of political speech across the country. In 2014, Steve was co-counsel in three successful free speech cases in Wyoming.
In the 2015 Wyoming Legislative Session, Steve lobbied on behalf of reforming the state’s civil asset forfeiture law. 2015 Senate File 14 passed the entire legislature 80-9 before being vetoed by Governor Mead. Steve continues to lobby on behalf of reform in the 2015-16 legislative interim.
Steve holds a bachelors degree in politics from Hillsdale College and a law degree from Ave Maria School of Law, where he served as Managing Editor of the Ave Maria Law Review and President of the Ave Maria Federalist Society. He is licensed to practice law in Illinois and Michigan.

“Let’s be Real Here”? A Retort

After five years of gridlock, last week a majority of four of six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission finally voted to update the FEC’s regulations to comply with the Citizens United decision. For years, the three commissioners representing the Democrats insisted that along with updating the regulations the commission should add new “disclosure” requirements. Thankfully, Democrat appointee Ann Ravel, who has served on the commission for just over a year, finally agreed to break the stopgap and drop the demand. One of her fellow Democrat commissioners Ellen Weintraub—who has served on the commission for a long time and remains despite her latest term being years expired—is not pleased, and issued a statement of reasons why she would not vote to simply follow the Citizens United precedent.

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Embracing a Prospective First Amendment for Campaign Finance Disclosure

One of the silliest carve-outs (or exceptions) in modern campaign finance law is the so-called “Socialist Workers” exemption to campaign finance reporting. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1976 case Buckley v. Valeo that if certain groups could show retaliation and oppression due to their views, they could be exempted from disclosing their contributors publicly. The Socialist Workers Party achieved this in 1982 after prolonged litigation that also went to the Supreme Court. The Federal Election Commission recently renewed the SWP’s exemption in 2013

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Civil Forfeiture Reform Advances from Wyoming Joint Judiciary Committee

LARAMIE – The Joint Judiciary Committee of the Wyoming Legislature voted to sponsor a bill that would substantially amend the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act today, by a vote of 12-1 (1 excused). The bill would eliminate the practice of “civil forfeiture” in Wyoming, which allows police to seize, and the attorney general to permanently deprive owners of, property that is allegedly related to the drug trade.

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Stairway to Halbig

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the opinion in Halbig v. Burwell and agreed to hear the case en banc. This means that the entire D.C. Circuit (or a large number of its judges) will hear and decide the case instead of just the three judges on the original appellate panel.

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Signs, Speech Everywhere in Cheyenne

(Disclaimer: This blog post contains photographs of political signs. Wyoming Liberty Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that cannot, and does not, endorse candidates. We can, however, champion the rights of free people to speak out about candidates, including through political signs.)

We won our lawsuit in Williams v. City of Cheyenne earlier this year, overturning Cheyenne’s restrictive sign ordinance that limited Cheyenne residents to displaying two political signs on their lots during election season. Now, election season is upon us, and many Cheyenne residents are exercising free speech with more than two signs.

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Playing Chicken with the FEC

Since the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in our case Free Speech v. Federal Election Commission (that is, declined to hear the case), one of the issues raised in the case has only become more pressing. We argued that three men in Wyoming who wanted to spend as little as a few thousand dollars on ads criticizing the President and other federal officeholders for their positions on certain issues should not have to register and report as a political committee (“PAC”) with the FEC. This was because Free Speech, though criticizing federal candidates, was not expressly advocating for their election or defeat and, furthermore, did not have the major purpose of electing or defeating candidates.

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Civil Forfeiture is a Problem in Wyoming

Last week, at the meeting of the Joint Judiciary Committee of the Wyoming Legislature in Newcastle, I testified in favor of two bills that, if passed, will reform the practice of civil forfeiture in Wyoming. Both bills would bolster due process and property rights that are currently at risk under the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act. Wyoming police agencies may currently seize and the Attorney General may permanently forfeit one’s property on the basis that it’s “intended for use” in the drug trade, without actually charging the property owner of a drug crime. This includes cash, cars, firearms, houses, and just about any other personal property. The proposed committee bills will help alleviate—if not entirely end—cases where property is seized without charging the owner of a crime. Indeed, the second committee bill requires conviction of a felony before property may be forfeited.

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