(1886)). By its own terms, the statute bars only legal relief: "the enforcement of any civil fine, penalty or forfeiture." 28 U.S.C. § 2462; see FEC v. National Republican Senatorial Comm., 877 F. Supp. at 21. The Supreme Court also instructs us that "statutes of limitation are not controlling measures of equitable relief." Holmberg, 327 U.S. at 396.
Construing this statute of limitation narrowly, as the Court must, and in light of its plain text, which is ordinarily controlling, this Court declines to accept the Christian Coalition's argument. While 28 U.S.C. § 2462 may protect the Christian Coalition from being assessed a civil fine, penalty or forfeiture for conduct in violation of the FECA that occurred five years before the Complaint was filed, this general statute of limitation provides no such shield from declaratory or injunctive relief.
The authority cited by the Christian Coalition, and relied upon by several other courts, is not sufficient to overcome either the statute's plain language or the clear interpretive commands by the Supreme Court. The defendant relies upon Cope v. Anderson, 331 U.S. 461, 91 L. Ed. 1602, 67 S. Ct. 1340 (1947), and Russell v. Todd, 309 U.S. 280, 84 L. Ed. 754, 60 S. Ct. 527 (1940), for the broad proposition that "where the legal remedy is barred by the statute of limitations, equitable relief should likewise be withheld." Motion to Dismiss at 13. A cursory reading of both cases makes clear that the Christian Coalition's reliance is misplaced. Neither Cope nor Russell involved a limitation on an action by the United States. And, both cases involved the interplay between federal rights and state statutes of limitations--issues not present in a suit brought under the FECA.
More importantly, but perhaps less widely understood in a modern legal world in which courts of law and equity have merged to the point of making their distinctions almost invisible, see 1 Pomeroy's Equity Jurisprudence §§ 42a, 43 (5th ed. 1941), both Cope and Russell were based on the equitable concept of "concurrent jurisdiction." In equity jurisprudence, this is a concept in which the "law must, through its judicial procedure, give some remedy of the same general nature as that given by equity, but this legal remedy is not, under the circumstances, full, adequate, and complete. The fact that the legal remedy is not full, adequate, and complete is, therefore, the real foundation of this concurrent branch of the equity jurisdiction." Id. § 139 (emphasis in original). Thus, concurrent jurisdiction lies where the right is cognizable by the law and the remedy is of the same kind, such as a statutory right to assess a civil fine or penalty based upon a statutory violation. See id.
On the other hand, injunctive relief is based solely on equity's "exclusive jurisdiction." See id. §§ 136, 138. "The exclusive jurisdiction includes . . . all civil cases in which the remedy to be granted . . . is purely equitable, or one which is recognized by courts of equity, and not by courts of law. In the cases of this class, the primary right which is maintained, redressed or enforced is sometimes equitable and is sometimes legal; but the jurisdiction depends, not upon the nature of these rights, estates, or interests, but wholly upon the nature of the remedies." Id. § 138 (emphasis added). This is true even where the primary right is legal in nature and "for the violation of which [courts] give some remedy." Id. (emphasis in original).
The Supreme Court in Russell, upon which the defendant mistakenly relies, explains the crucial distinction in terms of the applicability of statutes of limitation:
"When the jurisdiction of the federal court is concurrent with that at law, or the suit is brought in aid of a legal right, equity will withhold its remedy if the legal right is barred by the local statute of limitations. . . . But where the equity jurisdiction is exclusive and is not exercised in aid or support of a legal right, state statutes of limitations barring actions at law are inapplicable, and in the absence of any state statute barring the equitable remedy in like cases, the federal court is remitted to and applies the doctrine of laches as controlling.