DC Circuit Rejects Johnson, Stein Antitrust and First-Amendment Complaints About Presidential Debate Exclusion

Judge Brown opinion, with a Judge Pillard concurrence. The majority opinion begins:

Every four years, we suffer through the celebration of democracy (and national nightmare) that is a presidential election. And, in the end, one person is selected to occupy our nation’s highest office. But in every hard-fought presidential election there are losers. And, with quadrennial regularity, those losers turn to the courts. See, e.g., Perot v. FEC, 97 F.3d 553 (D.C. Cir. 1996); Fulani v. Brady, 935 F.2d 1324 (D.C. Cir. 1991); Johnson v. FCC, 829 F.2d 157 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Today’s challenge concerns 2012 third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Their Complaint presents novel claims under antitrust law and familiar First Amendment allegations. The district court dismissed the Complaint, finding Plaintiffs lacked Article III standing, antitrust standing, and in the alternative, failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. See Johnson v. Comm’n on Presidential Debates, 202 F. Supp. 3d 159 (D.D.C. 2016). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

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