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Spannaus v. FEC (91-0681)



On April 20, 1993, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on the 60-day deadline for requesting a court review of an FEC decision to dismiss an administrative complaint. No. 92-5191. The court held that the 60-day period begins on the date the FEC dismisses the complaint, based on a mandatory literal reading of the statute. The appellant, Edward W. Spannaus (treasurer of the LaRouche Democratic Campaign), had argued that the period should begin on the date the complainant receives notice of the dismissal. The ruling by the court of appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit. [1](Civil Action No. 91-0681.)

Appeals court dismissal

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, a petition for judicial review must be filed "within 60 days after the date of the dismissal" of the complaint. 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(8)(B). The court of appeals said that, in accordance with a Supreme Court decision on filing deadlines, the statutory language must be read literally. Therefore, based on the "date of dismissal" of the complaint, the court of appeals found that Mr. Spannaus filed his petition for review after the 60-day deadline.

(The Commission dismissed Mr. Spannaus's complaint on January 9, 1991. The notice of dismissal arrived at his post office box on January 28 and was claimed on February 2. He filed his petition for review with the district court on April 2, 1992.)

Mr. Spannaus said that he had relied on a district court opinion holding that the 60-day review period begins "when the complainant actually receives notice of the dismissal." Common Cause v. Federal Election Commission, 630 F. Supp. 508, 512 (D.D.C. 1985). The court of appeals, however, rejected that holding. Commenting on the appellant's reliance on Common Cause, the court stated that it "[could not] extend the filing deadline for Spannaus simply because he relied on an unreviewed and, we now hold, incorrect district court decision."

Mr. Spannaus alternatively argued that he should be granted a dispensation from the 60-day time period in light of his late receipt of the FEC's notice of dismissal. The court refused the request, noting that Mr. Spannaus "was less than fully diligent" in filing his review petition. The court pointed out that the FEC's notification letter "conspicuously stated the dismissal date and referred Spannaus to the appropriate review provision."


[1] In the case of air travel contracted from a corporation that is not licensed to provide commercial charter air service (e.g., a private corporate jet), a committee may pay the first-class fare if traveling between cities linked by regular commercial service.

Source:   FEC RecordJune 1993