BALTIMORE, MD – Pillar of Law Institute attorneys Stephen Klein and Benjamin Barr filed a federal lawsuit in Maryland today on behalf of Dennis Fusaro against Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt and the Maryland State Board of Elections. The case challenges the constitutionality of laws that restrict access to Maryland’s registered voter list and certain restrictions on the use of the list. Fusaro, a Virginia resident, submitted an application and payment for the voter list, but was denied a copy.
“The State Board of Elections maintains a voter list that may only be purchased by registered Maryland voters,” said Stephen Klein, co-counsel to Fusaro. “The law prevents out-of-staters like Fusaro or Marylanders who have not registered to vote from acquiring the list. It’s not just an absurd restriction, it’s unconstitutional.”
In August, Fusaro was acquitted in a jury trial de novo for alleged violations of Maryland campaign finance laws for failing to include a disclaimer on speech that cost less than $100 to produce and distribute. State Prosecutor Davitt oversaw the prosecution and sought to imprison Fusaro. After his acquittal, Fusaro requested the voter list so he could send letters to certain Marylanders requesting they ask Davitt to resign his office. But the law flatly bars Fusaro from using the list in this way.
“Even if he could acquire the voter list, Fusaro could again be prosecuted for ‘improper’ political speech if he used it simply to speak out against State Prosecutor Davitt,” said Benjamin Barr, Pillar of Law president and counsel to Fusaro. “The law says the list may only be used for ‘electoral purposes,’ and since the state prosecutor is not an elected position, such use of the list would be illegal. The Constitution does not recognize ‘proper’ and ‘improper’ political speech—it just protects citizens like Fusaro who want to speak out.”
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, which would prevent State Prosecutor Davitt and the Board of Elections from enforcing the registered voter and “electoral purpose” content restriction.
“Fusaro has already been unjustly prosecuted once, and then the Board denied him the voter list.” said Klein. “Maryland’s election laws have numerous censorship problems, and this case aims to remedy two of them.”
John Garza of the Garza Law Firm in Rockville serves as co-counsel in the case.
The Pillar of Law Institute is a nonprofit organization located in Washington, D.C. that educates the public about their First Amendment rights and defends citizens against investigations and prosecutions that abridge these rights.