With 2022 well underway, many states are in the process of passing a series of new legislation, while simultaneously attempting to repeal some obsolete legal mainstays of the past. Most recently, the United States District Court turned their attention to the state of Connecticut, where a final ruling in the case of Kissel v. Seagull was about to be issued. Aimed at striking down on the state’s historically restrictive solicitation and regulatory laws, Adam Kissel, currently a senior fellow at the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, originally filed a lawsuit against the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DPC) commissioner Michelle Seagull on January 28, 2021.
During this time, Kissel was working as an independent contractor at the Jack Miller Center, a non-profit educational organization based out of Philadelphia. While seeking organizational funds, Kissel found that rather than providing structure or order, Connecticut’s fundraising laws instead hindered him from effectively communicating with prospective donors.
Under the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act, the state mandates that all independently paid solicitors notify the DPC of any planned communications with a potential donor at least 20 days in advance, a law that also requires them to draft and submit a script of the intended conversation. Additionally, the state requires solicitors to inform potential donors of exactly what percentage of their donation will go to a charitable organization as well as maintaining detailed reports that include donor names, addresses and contribution amounts, info all subject to future DCP inspection.
“The State of Connecticut imposes a series of barriers which restrict both the ability of paid charitable fundraisers to speak freely and the ability of individual donors to give to these organizations anonymously, imposing significant costs and substantially violating the First Amendment,” stated civil rights lawyer Alexander Taubes, who along with attorneys Daniel Ortner and Jim Manly, was tasked with representing Kissel.
On January 19, 2022, after nearly a full year of litigation, state courts finally released their judgement in the case of Kissel v. Seagull, ruling that the state’s previous regulations requiring a 20-day notice, solicitation transcripts and donor ledgers are in direct “violation of the First Amendment in its current form.” Additionally, the court ordered the DCP to compensate Kissel $42,000 in personal costs and attorneys’ fees. Being one of only 92 disclosure cases litigated across four different states in the last year, legal experts expect the reverse decision in Kissel v. Seagull to dramatically shift the public’s opinion when it comes to state disclosure laws, possibly leading to other districts re-evaluating their current regulatory status on the matter.