Case Details


Campaign Contributions, Qualified Immunity

Filing State



U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit




Dean v. Blumenthal, 577 F. 3d 60 (2d Cir. 2009)


Attorney General was entitled to qualified immunity from damages for policy that allegedly violated plantiff’s constitutional right to received campaign contributions from particular parties

Case Description

A contractual provision was included in all contracts for legal services entered into by the Connecticut Attorney General which prohibited contributions to candidates for Attorney General from private counsel who were under contract with the state for legal services. Plaintiff was a candidate for Attorney General who challenged the provision on the grounds that it deprived her of a First Amendment right to receive political contributions. Shortly after the suit was filed, the Attorney General suspended enforcement of this contractual provision, and sent notice to all law firms under contract with the state notifying them of the suspension. The suspension was continued until the legislature superseded it with a more general statutory provision covering contributions by state contractors. The suit was dismissed by the District Court and the plaintiff appealed. The Second Circuit first determined that much the plaintiff’s claims for injunctive and declaratory relief were moot, because the office policy that was originally challenged had been superseded by legislation, and the Attorney General’s assertion that he had no intention of re-instituting the policy, coupled with his voluntarily declining to enforce the policy for six years, was sufficient. Turning to plaintiff’s claim for damages, the Court of Appeals applied a two-pronged test to determine if the Attorney General was entitled to qualified immunity: 1) is there a clearly-established Constitutional right; 2) did the government actor’s conduct violate that right. The court concluded that there was no clearly established right to receive campaign contributions during the relevant period. The Attorney General was therefore entitled to qualified immunity, and the case was dismissed.