Jordan v. FEC
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment to the FEC on May 27, 1994, upholding the agency's dismissal of an administrative complaint filed by Absalom F. Jordan, Jr., against Handgun Control, Inc.
On November 3, 1995, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit remanded the case to the district court. The court of appeals instructed the district court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction because Mr. Jordan had failed to file suit within 60 days after the FEC dismissed his complaint.
The district court dismissed the case on January 23, 1996.
In his complaint, Mr. Jordan claimed that Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI) had violated the law by soliciting contributions from individuals who did not qualify as "members" because they lacked sufficient rights to participate in the governance of HCI.
Mr. Jordan 's complaint raised the same membership issue as a succession of complaints filed against HCI by the National Rifle Association (NRA) between 1983 and 1992. The first NRA complaint resulted in a conciliation agreement requiring HCI to pay a civil penalty and to amend its bylaws to establish voting rights for its members.
Three more NRA complaints challenging HCI membership were dismissed by the FEC, which had already concluded that HCI members, under the new bylaws, had sufficient governance rights through their ability to vote for an at-large board member. The FEC's dismissals of the third and fourth complaints were affirmed by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
In dismissing the Jordan complaint, the FEC stated that his claims were "substantially similar" to those in the four NRA complaints, which had already been "conclusively resolved."
Definition of member
Until recently, FEC regulations defined member simply as a person who satisfied the requirements for membership, but FEC advisory opinions had refined the term to mean persons who had some right to participate in the organization's governance and the obligation to pay regular dues. This reading was based on the Supreme Court's decision in FEC v. National Right to Work Committee (NRWC), 459 U.S. 197 (1982). The agency determined that HCI member's voting rights, under the new bylaws, were sufficient to satisfy this definition when the issue arose in three more NRA complaints.
Mr. Jordan challenged that interpretation, claiming that HCI's members were not solicitable because they lacked the power to remove management. He based his argument on the NRWC holding that members should be defined "at least in part, by analogy to stockholders of a business corporation."
District court ruling
Finding the FEC's definition of member to be reasonable, the court pointed out that, while the NRWC Court said that there had to be "some" attachment between the organization and its membership, that Court "certainly did not require that members be provided with the opportunity to seize total control of the organization, as plaintiff argue[d]."
Furthermore, the court said the FEC's refusal even to consider Mr. Jordan 's claims was neither arbitrary nor capricious but, instead, made "perfect sense," considering that the agency had already conclusively resolved the HCI membership issue. The court said that a "scrupulous adherence to precedent is hardly arbitrary."
Court of appeals ruling
The court of appeals noted that the FEC dismissed Mr. Jordan 's complaint on July 24, 1991, and that Mr. Jordan did not file suit with the district court until September 25, 1991. Under 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(8)(B), a petition to review an FEC decision to dismiss an administrative complaint must be filed within 60 days after the date of dismissal. The court ruled that the 60-day period began when the Commission voted to dismiss the complaint, and not on the date of the FEC's letter informing Mr. Jordan of the dismissal. When Mr. Jordan received the FEC's letter informing him of the dismissal, he had 53 days left on the 60-day limit in which to file a suit. He did not file suit with the district court until 63 days after the FEC voted to dismiss his complaint. As a result, the court of appeals ruled that the courts lacked jurisdiction to review this case. On January 23, 1996, the district court carried out the appeals court's instructions to dismiss this case.
 The FEC further clarified the definition of member at revised 11 CFR 114.1(e), effective November 1993.