National Republican Senatorial Committee v. FEC (94-0332)
On March 14, 1995, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated the district court's decision of May 11, 1994, and ordered the court to dismiss the complaint against the FEC as moot. The district court had dismissed the case on the grounds that it was not ripe for adjudication.
District court decision
On May 11, 1994, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed this suit in which the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) had asked the court to stop the FEC from proceeding in an internal enforcement matter opened in 1991, Matter Under Review (MUR) 3204. The NRSC claimed that the FEC's vote to find "reason to believe" that the committee had violated the law and the ensuing investigation were invalid because they took place when the composition of the FEC was unconstitutional. The court ruled that the case was not ripe for adjudication since the FEC had not yet taken "'concrete' action" in MUR 3204. But the court was doubtful whether NRSC would have succeeded on the merits even if its case had been ripe for review.
NRSC had relied on the October 1993 appellate court ruling in FEC v. NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA). In that case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FEC lacked authority to bring action against the NRA because the composition of the agency was unconstitutional.1
The court said that NRSC's reliance on NRA was "misplaced" because, in that case, the court of appeals was confronted with an otherwise final district court judgment obtained by an unlawfully constituted Commission against a respondent. By contrast, the court pointed out, in this case, NRSC had filed suit before the FEC had taken final action. The agency had not even voted on whether to find "probable cause to believe" that NRSC had violated the law, the next step in the enforcement process. The court said that the impending vote "will either confirm and ratify what was thought sufficient to warrant an investigation" in 1991, or the FEC will terminate the matter.
Concluding that the NRSC had filed its case prematurely, the court observed that, even had the case been ripe for judicial review, NRSC would have failed to satisfy the standards for a preliminary injunction to stop the FEC from proceeding in the MUR.
Appeals court decision
The NRSC's suit became moot because, after the district court's decision, the FEC closed MUR 3204 without finding probable cause to believe the NRSC had violated federal election law. The court of appeals therefore ordered the district court to dismiss the case as moot.
 6 F.3d 821 (D.C. Cir. 1993). The court found that the presence of the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate as nonvoting, ex officio Commission members violated the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine. After the October 1993 NRA ruling was handed down, the FEC immediately reconstituted itself by excluding the ex officio members.