ACLU Lends Support to Challenge of Pennsylvania's Lobbying Disclosure Act

September 25, 2000 12:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and other public interest legal organizations joined forces today to challenge the state’s Lobbying Disclosure Act.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the organizations argue that the Lobbying Disclosure Act treats common and everyday legal work as lobbying. They also assert that the Act can distort many of the strategic decisions that public interest lawyers make when undertaking litigation.

“In the course of diligently representing our clients, we frequently communicate with state agencies,” said Larry Frankel, Executive Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, much of our legal work on behalf of our clients can be considered lobbying because the Act covers proceedings before state agencies.”

Like the ACLU, the other organizations provide free representation to individuals who face significant legal and constitutional problems. The organizations believe that the brief will help the Supreme Court better understand how much the act impacts public interest lawyers.

“Ironically, this law could lead to more lawsuits,” said Frankel. “Negotiations with state agencies over policies and regulations are considered lobbying. This may lead public interest lawyers to elect to sue the state rather than go to meetings to work out amicable resolutions since attending those meetings will be treated as lobbying.”

The other organizations that joined together to file the friend-of-the-court brief are the ACLU Foundation of Pennsylvania, Education Law Center-PA, and the Juvenile Law Center. None of the organizations provide gifts, hospitality or entertainment to legislators or employees of the state. Nor do they make contributions to political campaigns.

The brief was filed in the case of Gmerek and Artz v. State Ethics Commission.

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