Colorado's Amendment 54 declared unconstitutional

Kathy Woods Feb. 23, 2010, 1:07am

Nancy Rice

DENVER (Legal Newsline)-The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday declared the state's landmark Amendment 54 unconstitutional because it violated free speech rights.

The amendment would have banned contributions larger than $100,000 from any organization or individual with a no-bid or single-source government contract. The ban would have also extended to immediate family members of people involved in no-bid contracts.

Judge Catherine Lemon of the 2nd Judicial District in Denver had previously ruled that provisions of Amendment 54 were unconstitutionally over-broad, vague and violate equal protection, and the high court agreed.

The Supreme Court said the amendment cannot be fixed because if the justices took out the unconstitutional sections the amendment would be rendered meaningless.

In a 4-1 decision the high court stated: "We find it impossible to achieve Amendment 54's legitimate purpose without substantially rewriting the amendment from the bench. Therefore, we find the entire amendment unconstitutional."

The high court sent the case back to the lower court "for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

Supreme Court Justice Nancy Rice wrote the opinion, with Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey and Justices Michael Bender and Gregory Hobbs concurring. Justice Alex Martinez was the lone dissenter. Justices Nathan Coats and Allison Eid recused themselves from the case.

Non-profit groups including the Children's Hospital of Aurora and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts had opposed the amendment, arguing it would make it difficult or near impossible to recruit board members.

Meanwhile, Amendment 54 supporters had claimed that the initiative was a way to increase transparency.

From Legal Newsline: Reach courts reporter Kathy Woods at

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