Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra, Att'y Gen. of CA

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: January 8, 2021
  • Case #: 19-251
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 903 F.3d 1000 (9th Cir. 2018)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the exacting scrutiny this Court has long required of laws that abridge the freedoms of speech and association outside the election context—as called for by NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449 (1958), and its progeny—can be satisfied absent any showing that a blanket governmental demand for the individual identities and addresses of major donors to private nonprofit organizations is narrowly tailored to an asserted law-enforcement interest.

Under California’s Supervision of Trustees and Fundraisers for Charitable Purposes Act (The Act), nonprofits that raise money in the state must register with the Attorney General. The Act also requires registration of an annual IRS form 990. Because the Attorney General has discretion regarding the content of the reports, recently the Attorney General interpreted The Act to require not only the 990, but the schedules as well, which include donors’ names, addresses, donation amounts, and types. This case has been consolidated with Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra. In both cases, nonprofit organizations challenged the information schedule reporting requirement under First Amendment grounds and the Ninth Circuit held that only exacting scrutiny was necessary for reviewing the issue rather than a strict scrutiny standard. The Ninth Circuit reasoned that the Attorney General’s 990 schedule rule was substantially related to a sufficiently important government interest, the state interest being preventing charitable fraud. Petitioners argue that the Attorney General’s interpretation of The Act burdens freedom of association. Petitioners reason that because this case is outside of the electoral context, strict scrutiny applies. Petitioners further argue that the Attorney General is treating all charities in a “blanket” fashion that is not narrowly tailored.

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