CT Supreme Court Set to Hear Arguments on Sen. Sampson, Former Sen. Markley Free Speech Case v. State Elections Enforcement Commission on Wednesday

September 12, 2023

WATCH the arguments here.


After a nearly 10-year battle, The Connecticut State Supreme Court will hear arguments on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in the case of former state senator and candidate for lieutenant governor Joe Markley and current State Sen. Rob Sampson (R-16) versus the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), in a case concerning political free speech during the 2014 election.


The SEEC’s decision found that Markley, then a state senator, and Sampson, then a state representative, violated state law by criticizing Gov. Dan Malloy in their campaign flyers, without seeking reimbursement from Malloy’s opponent that year, Tom Foley.


Markley and Sampson counter that their references to then-Governor Malloy were intended to clarify their own positions and benefit their campaigns, not to aid Foley. In support of their claim, they have pointed out that they made the same criticisms in the same words in campaign mailings two years earlier, when Malloy was not on the ballot.


“The SEEC went after us based on their own advisory opinion, issued a mere two weeks before Election Day,” said Sampson. “It was an attempt to prevent Republicans from tying their opponents to an unpopular governor and his failed policies. Ironically, now Democrats are doing all they can to tie Republican candidates to Donald Trump—and the SEEC itself has proposed legislation to let them do it, after spending years trying to punish us for the same tactic.”


Markley pointed out that the SEEC reading would make a candidate’s political speech dependent on the assent of another candidate. He said, “According to their tortured interpretation of a simple statute, I couldn’t mention the name of the sitting governor in my literature unless Tom Foley’s campaign sent mine a check. And what about Joe Visconti? He was on the ballot too, running against Malloy as an independent. Would his refusal to reimburse my campaign act as a veto on my speech?”


Sampson and Markley both believe that their case involves critical issues of political free speech. They said, “Our job as lawmakers is to debate and vote on matters of public policy. The governor is by far the most important actor in that process, and our comments on his proposals were entirely relevant to our campaigns and informative for the voters. We were offered the chance to settle without penalty with the SEEC, simply by saying we were wrong, but we chose to challenge their ruling, feeling confident that the Constitution protects us, and that nonsensical restrictions on speech must not be allowed to stand.”


Case Information:


Date: Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023

Time: 11:00 AM

Location: Connecticut Supreme Court, 231 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT

Docket: SC 20726 Joe Markley et al. v. State Elections Enforcement Commission