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Tagged: Constitutional Law

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FAN 10.1 (First Amendment News) The 2014 Jefferson Muzzles are Here! — 2015 Candidates in Wings

Since 1992, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has celebrated the birth and ideals of its namesake by calling attention to those who in the past year forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech “cannot be limited without being lost.”

Announced on or near April 13—the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson—the Jefferson Muzzles are awarded as a means to draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment.TJCenter-copy

As the Center sees it, because the importance and value of free expression extend far beyond the First Amendment’s limit on government censorship, acts of private censorship are not spared consideration for the dubious honor of receiving a Muzzle.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, by way of the Thomas Jefferson Center, I present you the

2014 Jefferson Muzzles

Re: 2013 Muzzles, go here

On a related point, see David Berstein’s “Brandeis University’s Double Standard on Honorary Degrees,” Volokh Conspiracy, April 9, 2014.

If Josh Wheeler and the folks at the Jefferson Center are considering candidates for the 2015 Muzzles, check out John L. Smith’s column entitled “Government in full force to corral cattle, First Amendment,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 7, 2014. As Smith  put it:

Perhaps I’ve led a sheltered life, but . . . I had never set foot in a First Amendment Area. On Saturday, the lot was otherwise empty. There were no fiery voices of libertarian protest, no throng of angry Nevada ranchers with rifles in their pickups, not even a gaggle of curious tourists or a covey of head-scratching reporters. Of course, the fact the free-speech pen was located several miles from Bundy’s ranch and even farther from the federal government’s corral of “trespass cattle,” the lack of attendance was understandable. (By Monday, the voices of peaceful protest would increase considerably a few miles up the road near the banks of the Virgin River.)

Adds Smith: “A sign marks a ‘First Amendment area’ to designate where protesters can protest near Bunkerville.” See lonely “First Amendment Area” below in pic. Turns out that sometime later a protester ventured out with an American flag and placard that read: “The First Amendment is not an area.”

web1_bundy_040114JL_09_4Last FAN.10 Column: (“Justice Stevens’ Proposal to Amend the 1st Amendment”) go here

Next Scheduled FAN Column: April 16th

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Fan.10 (First Amendment News) — Justice Stevens’ Proposal to Amend the 1st Amendment

justice-stevensWhile the Justices busily prepared their respective opinions in the McCutcheon campaign finance case, one of their Brethren was preparing to release a book that calls on Americans to reverse some of his former colleagues’ constitutional handiwork. The forthcoming book is Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution (Little, Brown & Co., pp. 170). The author is Justice John Paul Stevens.

This short book is offered up against the backdrop of Justice Stevens’ co-authored opinion in McConnell v. FEC (2003), his dissents in Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee v. FEC (1996), Randall v. Sorrell (2006),  Davis v. Federal Election Commission (2008), and Citizens United v. FEC (2010), his criticism of that case in his Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir (2011), and in his various criticisms of the Court’s campaign finance jurisprudence in his print and TV interviews along with his public addresses. Moreover, it is highly likely that Justice Stevens is just as critical of the Court’s recent 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC. In short, John Paul Stevens is a man on a constitutional mission.

Quite apart from Citizens United, Justice Stevens has long had serious reservations about vindicating First Amendment claims in most campaign finance cases. Coming onto the Court shortly after Buckley v. Valeo (1976), he witnessed firsthand what Justice William Brennan and his colleagues had wrought in sustaining several of the First Amendment claims urged by  Senator James L. Buckley, presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, and the ACLU. It left him, he recalled in Five Chiefs, with an “extreme distaste” for that precedent. That distaste, he added, “never abated, and I have felt ever since that the Court would have been best served by inserting itself into campaign finance debates with less frequency.”

Given that, he thinks it is time to resort to Article V for a constitutional remedy. Admittedly, it is (and should be) difficult to amend the Constitution. From 1789 to April 2014, some 11,539 amendments have been proposed, but only twenty-six have been ratified. But that fact has not deterred the retired Justice from Hyde Park, Chicago. Here, then, is the text of the 43 words Justice Stevens would add to the Constitution in order to amend the First Amendment.

Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.

(Though the publication date is not until April 22, the text of the above language, which has been confirmed to be the final text, has heretofore appeared here and here and here.)

Reactions from Select 1st Amendment Scholars & Lawyers

Professor Martin Redish, a noted First Amendment scholar who teaches at Justice Stevens’ alma mater, takes exception to this proposed constitutional amendment: “As much as I respect Justice Stevens, I believe that his proposed amendment is sorely misguided.”

  1. “Its inescapable impact would be to reduce dramatically the flow of information and opinion to the voters about political campaigns, thereby substantially undermining core goals of the First Amendment and its role as a facilitator of democracy. The simple fact is that speech costs money, and by limiting the amount of money that candidates and supporters can spend the provision would necessarily limit the flow of often valuable expression which could help the voters perform their governing function in the voting booth.”
  2.  ”Moreover, Justice Stevens’ proposal would have the inescapable effect of locking in non-monetary inequalities—for example, incumbency, political connections or fame— perversely, in the name of equality. These are inequalities that have traditionally been diluted by opponents’ use of money to equalize the voters’ awareness of the candidates.”
  3.  ”Finally, the provision would create an interpretive nightmare. How much money is “reasonable”? Would it differ from state to state? From campaign to campaign? And who gets to decide? Would courts invoke strict scrutiny or rational basis review of the legislature’s judgment? To give the authority of determining how much is “reasonable” to a state legislature invites the fox to watch the hen house: legislators who will stand for reelection will naturally attempt to shape the limits in a way that facilitates their continued victory. Also on an interpretive level, enormous uncertainty would be created by the task of determining who is a “supporter” of a candidate. And even if courts were somehow able to establish coherent interpretive standards for that word, is it appropriate for the Constitution to engage in what amounts to viewpoint-based discrimination by giving preferences to those who are neutral over those who have chosen to support a particular candidate?”

“In sum, Justice Stevens’ proposal would bring about all of these nightmares—political, social, and interpretive. We would be left with a doctrinal morass and a substantial disruption of the flow of information and opinion fundamental to the operation of the democratic process. To be sure, there are problems with our current campaign system, but as Madison warned in Federalist No. 10, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.”Unknown

Professor Steven Shiffrin, another noted First Amendment scholar, takes a different view: “The proposal of Justice Stevens directly speaks to the major evil confronting our elections and our democracy. Nonetheless, I worry that conservatives on the Court, as they have in the past, will make a distinction between commentary on issues and election commentary allowing the former, but not the latter. They have previously ruled that commentary was about issues rather than candidates even when the purpose and effect of the commentary was to influence the outcome of an election. This loophole could seriously undermine the purpose of the proposed amendment.”

Such comments notwithstanding, Justice Stevens is “confident that the soundness” of his proposal “will become more and more evident, and that ultimately [it] will be adopted.” The purpose of his forthcoming book, he tells us, “is to expedite that process and to avoid future crises before they occur.”

Not surprisingly, Robert Corn-Revere, a noted First Amendment lawyer, was also skeptical of the Justice’s amendment idea: “The idea of proposing an amendment to reverse Supreme Court decisions one doesn’t like is not new – witness the myriad amendments that purported to ‘fix’ the First Amendment in the wake of the flag burning cases Texas v. Johnson and U.S. v. Eichmann.  But such a thing is rare when it comes from a retired Supreme Court justice, and even more surprising is the degree of latitude the proposed language would give government to restrict our most basic rights. I would have hoped Justice Stevens’ long experience with Fourth Amendment jurisprudence would have suggested the danger of giving the courts power to decide which abridgements are ‘reasonable.’”

Two Opposing Views

John Nichols & Robert McChesney, Dollarocracy (2013): “Every major reform period in American history…has been accompanied by numerous amendments to the Constitution, amendments that were deemed unthinkable until almost the moment they were passed. If the problems faced at this point in the American journey are going to be solved, history suggests constitutional amendments will be a significant part of the process”

– Laura W. Murphy, director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office (June 2012): “If there is one thing we absolutely should not be doing, it’s tinkering with our founding document to prevent groups like the ACLU (or even billionaires like Sheldon Adelson) from speaking freely about the central issues in our democracy. Doing so will fatally undermine the First Amendment, diminish the deterrent factor of a durable Constitution and give comfort to those who would use the amendment process to limit basic civil liberties and rights. It will literally ‘break’ the Constitution.”

Other Proposed Amendments to the First Amendment re Campaign Finance Issues

Read More

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E-Book on McCutcheon Case Just Published

At the risk of being accused of shameful promotion, I am nonetheless delighted to say that my book with David Skover was released yesterday and is now available as an e-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play. The book is titled When Money Speaks: The McCutcheon Decision, Campaign Finance Laws, and the First Amendment and was available 36 hours after the Court rendered its ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC. davidskoverThis is the first book to be released in the SCOTUS-Books-in-Brief series.

This is also my fifth book with David (going back to 1996) and the ride has been an incredible one. As a co-author he is all things wonderful and wondrous and none of those books would have been possible but for his incredible talents and work ethic. So, a BIG NOD to my co-author. One more thing: the book is dedicated to Nadine Strossen, “The First Lady of Liberty,” as we tag her. I can think of no one who has been a greater champion of liberty than Nadine. All that said, here is a dollop of yet more of shameless promotion:

Book Description

Top Five Books: Publication Date: April 2, 2014WMS-cover2

80,000 words, e-book: $2.99

“A brilliant discussion of campaign finance in America…a must for all who care about the American political system.” —Erwin Chemerinsky

“Thorough, dispassionate, and immensely readable.” —Floyd Abrams 

“A must read for anyone interested in constitutional law, free speech, or elections. An original and welcome brand of narrative scholarship.”  —Adam Winkler

“Informative. Reliable.  Accessible. This is the best book on the general topic. And a great read, too!” —David M. O’Brien

On April 2, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down aggregate limits on how much money individuals could contribute to political candidates, parties, and committees. The McCutcheon v. FEC decision fundamentally changes how people (and corporations, thanks to Citizens United) can fund campaigns, opening the floodgates for millions of dollars in new spending, which had been curtailed by campaign finance laws going back to the early 1970s.

WHEN MONEY SPEAKS is the first book to explain and dissect the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in McCutcheon, including analysis of the tumultuous history of campaign finance law in the U.S. and the new legal and political repercussions likely to be felt from the Court’s decision. The book is cast in narrative form, replete with accounts of the players who made the case what it has become. Also included are photos of the key players — the lawyers, activists, and Shaun McCutcheon, too. The authors also did extensive interviews (up to and including the day of the ruling) with several of the key figures in the case.

McCutcheon has been billed as “the sequel to Citizens United,” the decision giving corporations the same rights as individuals to contribute to political campaigns. Lauded by the right as a victory for free speech, and condemned by the left as handing the keys to our government to the rich and powerful, the Court’s ruling has inflamed a debate that is not going to go away anytime soon, with calls for new laws and even a constitutional amendment on the left—while those on the right (including Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion) call for an end to all contribution limits. Two of the nation’s top First Amendment scholars—Ronald Collins and David Skover—have produced a highly engaging, incisive account of the case, including exclusive interviews with petitioner Scott McCutcheon and other key players, as well as an eye-opening history of campaign finance law in the U.S.

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FAN.9.1 (First Amendment News) — McCutcheon Wins: Supreme Court strikes down aggregate limits law

Only minutes ago the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, the aggregate limits campaign finance case.

Link to opinion is here.

Vote to Reverse:  5-4 (sustaining First Amendment claim)

Plurality Opinion:  Chief Justice John Roberts (joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy & Alito)

Concurring Opinion: Justice Clarence Thomas (would overrule Buckley)

Dissenting Opinions: Justice Stephen Breyer joined by Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, & Sotomayor.

The issues before the Court were: (1) Whether the biennial limit on contributions to non-candidate committees, 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(3)(B), is unconstitutional for lacking a constitutionally cognizable interest as applied to contributions to national party committees; (2) whether the biennial limits on contributions to non-candidate committees, 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(3)(B), are unconstitutional facially for lacking a constitutionally cognizable interest; (3) whether the biennial limits on contributions to non-candidate committees are unconstitutionally too low, as applied and facially; and (4) whether the biennial limit on contributions to candidate committees, 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(3)(A), is unconstitutional for lacking a constitutionally cognizable interest.

Commentary: SCOTUSblog (Amy Howe): “The Court rules in the Chief’s opinion that the aggregate limits do not further the permissible government interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or the appearance of such corruption.”

 Lawyers: Supreme Court

For Appellant Shaun McCutcheon: Erin Murphy (lead counsel) & Paul Clement

For Appellant RNC: James Bopp, Jr. (NB: Though the NRC brief was prepared by Mr. Bopp, Ms. Murphy argued the case for both McCutcheon and the RNC)

For Senator Mitch McConnell (amicus): Bobby Burchfield 

For Appellee: Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr.

Oral Arguments 

Resources & Related Materials 

  • Lower Court opinion (per Judge Janice Rogers-Brown) (argued by James Bopp, Jr., for Appellant)

Selected Supreme Court Briefs

  • Cert. Petition of Shaun McCutcheon & RNC (James Bopp, Jr., counsel of record)
  • Merits Brief of Appellant RNC (James Bopp, Jr., counsel of record)
  • Merits Brief of Appellant Shaun McCutcheon (Michael T. Morley, counsel of record)
  • Reply Brief of Appellant Republican National Committee  (James Bopp, Jr., counsel of record)
  • Amicus Brief of Sen. Mitch McConnell (Bobby Burchfield, counsel of record)
  • Amicus Brief of the Cato Institute in support of the Appellant (Ilya Shapiro, counsel of record)
  • Amicus Brief of Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and the Media Institute in support of the Appellant (J. Joshua Wheeler, counsel of record)
  • Brief of Appellee FEC (S.G. Donald Verrilli, Jr., counsel of record)
  • Amicus Brief of Brennan Center for Justice in support of Appellee (Daniel Kolb, counsel of record)
  • Amicus Brief of Americans for Campaign Reform in support of Appellee (Charles Fried)
  • Amicus Brief of Democratic Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of Appellee (Paul M. Smith, counsel of record)
  • Amicus Brief of Representatives Chris Van Hollen & David Price in support of Appellee (Seth Waxman, counsel of record)
  • Amicus Brief of Professor Lawrence Lessig in support of Appellee (Douglas T. Kendall, counsel of record)
  • For Additional Briefs, go here (ABA site)

Books, Symposia & Articles

  • SCOTUSblog Symposium on McCutcheon (forthcoming, 2014) (contributors: Jan Witold Baran, Richard Hasen, Burt Neuborne, Ilya Shapiro, & Fred Wertheimer)
  • SCOTUSblog Symposium on McCutcheon (Aug., 2013) (contributors: Erwin Chemerinsky, Ronald Collins, Robert Corn-Revere, Joel Gora, Justin Levitt, Tamara Piety, David Skover, & Adam Winkler)
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FAN.9 (First Amendment News) — Sunstein on Sullivan & its “Dark Side”

In the wide-open, robust, and uninhibited world of the First Amendment, nothing is sacred, not even the hallowed opinion in New York Times, Inc. v. Sullivan (1964). Case in point: Justice Antonin Scalia’s originalist reservations about Justice William Brennan’s constitutional handiwork in that landmark case. But alas, the conservative jurist is not alone. Enter the sometimes liberal Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, who has recently authored an op-ed titled “The dark side of the First Amendment” (Bloomberg, March 26, 2014).Unknown

Some two decades ago, in his Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech, Professor Sunstein labeled the Sullivan case as “one of the greatest cases of modern free speech law.” Even so, he made it clear in that book and in later works that his understanding of the Sullivan principle was a cabined one. Later, in an August 21, 1995 review essay in The New Republic, he spoke of the question of causation, among other things. There Sunstein maintained that “it isn’t necessary to demand proof of causation before encouraging greater responsibility on simple prudential grounds.” In that regard, he argued that cultural questions should not be confused with constitutional ones when it comes to questions of causation. It is against that backdrop that we return to his views on Sullivan, which are at once somewhat laudatory and at the same time rather cautionary.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Sullivan, Sunstein writes: “amid the justified celebration, we should pay close attention to the dark side of New York Times vs. Sullivan. While it has granted indispensable breathing space for speakers, it has also created a continuing problem for public civility and for democratic self-government.” (emphasis added).  Later on in his op-ed, he was more modest in his critique: “False accusations are hardly new. But New York Times vs. Sullivan can claim at least some responsibility for adding to a climate of distrust and political polarization in the U.S.” (emphasis added). Having said all of that, in the end he conceded that “the Court got the balance right” in Sullivan. What are we to make of this?

A few preliminary responses, first my own, and then some from a colleague. If I read him correctly, Professor Sunstein seems to be saying that constitutionally speaking Sullivan is a good thing, but culturally speaking it is not, or may not be so wonderful. Fair enough, for general discussion purposes anyway. That said, it must be remembered that we pay a price for liberty. So much for the constitutional side of the equation. On the cultural side, however, Sunstein seems to make his case on the back of a weak causation claim (recall: “it isn’t necessary to demand proof of causation . . . .”). That leads me to wonder: Is it unreasonable to expect that any meaningful cultural critique of Sullivan be related in some actual sense to questions of proof of causation? In other words, should cultural critiques be oblivious to what science can tell us, or at least suggest to us? Granted, one might understandably deplore the state of “discourse” in modern America.  But faulting Sullivan is another matter. More importantly, what is sorely missing from Professor Sunstein’s cultural critique is a critique of the culture writ large. By that measure, Sullivan may make for a convenient scapegoat, but little more, at least standing alone.

By way of another look, American University law professor Stephen Wermiel, who co-authored the seminal biography of Justice Brennan and more recently co-authored a book on Sullivan and its legacy, offered the following comment on Professor Sunstein’s article:

“Professor Cass Sunstein joined the fiftieth anniversary celebration of New York Times v. Sullivan, but bemoaned the ability of “talk show hosts, bloggers and users of social media” to “spread ugly falsehoods in an instant,” adding to “a climate of distrust and political polarization.” But Sunstein’s concerns lay too much blame on the shoulders of Sullivan. That unanimous ruling did not create a society in which free-flowing criticism, replete with occasional falsehoods, is rampant. That culture already existed; Sullivan only helped to fit it all into a robust constitutional democracy. To the extent that Sunstein’s criticism turns on the proliferation of instant means of communication, he gives too little weight to the access that victims of social media have to respond. Moreover, Justice Brennan, the author of Sullivan, was not alone in his belief that society benefits from “robust and wide-open debate.” It was, after all, the more judicially modest Justice John Harlan who 1971 observed that the ability of society to handle the cacophony of free speech is a sign of strength, not weakness.”

Returning to the constitutional side of the ledger, in his latest book (Conspiracy Theories and other Dangerous Ideas) Professor Sunstein further elaborates on his ideas about the virtues of “minimalist” judging, which makes one wonder if he would have indeed signed onto what Justice Brennan wrote in Sullivan. My guess: no.

Watch your calendar: The petition in Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock is scheduled to be considered at the Court’s April 4th Conference.

Note: I plan to have immediate and updated postings re McCutcheon v. FEC, the campaign finance First Amendment case now awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court.

Journalists & “qualified First Amendment privileges”

Joel Kurtzberg of Cahill Gordon & Reindel has just filed a cert. petition in the case of Risen v. United States in which two issues are presented: (1) Do journalists have a qualified First Amendment privilege when subpoenaed to reveal the identity of confidential sources in a federal criminal trial?, and (2) should a federal common law privilege be recognized under Federal Rule of Evidence 501 to provide protection to journalists who are subpoenaed to reveal the identity of their confidential sources in a federal criminal trial? Read More

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My Textualist Moment — the Use of the Words “Person” or “Persons” or “People” in Our National Bill of Rights

There has been much talk lately about whether corporations are or should be “persons” under the First Amendment, both for free speech and free exercise purposes.images

In a textualist moment, this got me to thinking about the wording of our federal Bill of Rights and what light it might shed on this. Let’s start with the First Amendment. Its focus is a limitation on the powers of Congress and makes no mention of persons until the reference to “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The Second Amendment mentions people in a similar way: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Third Amendment uses the word “Owner” but not person or persons or people.

The Fourth Amendment is quite explicit: It speaks of the “right of the people” and the rights of “persons.” So, too, with the Fifth Amendment and its reference to “person.”

The Sixth Amendment mentions the rights of “the accused” and likewise uses the male pronoun “his” and “him” in this regard.

The Seventh and Eighth Amendments are silent on the personhood question.

The Ninth Amendment, of course, refers to the rights “retained by the people.”

And the Tenth Amendment reserves rights to “the states respectively, or to the people.”

There you have it. What to make of it? Well, I leave that to others to decide since I am not a bona fide textualist fundamentalist, though I do think text matters as a part of the constitutional calculation of things. Y tu? What do you think? (Feel free to respond in either your individual or corporate capacity.)

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FAN.8 (First Amendment News) — Shaun McCutcheon to write e-book

Ever the entrepreneurial figure, Shaun McCutcheon, the man at the center of the latest campaign finance storm known at McCutcheon v. FEC, has decided to take his case to yet a higher plateau — he’s writing an e-book titled Outsider Inside The Supreme Court — A Decisive First Amendment Battle. “It’s mainly about the actual [experience of being] an activist plaintiff (a DC ‘outsider’),” he told me. The work will be an e-book consisting of nine chapters. According to Mr. McCutcheon, the e-book is being written with significant assistance from Richard E. Cohen, a seasoned correspondent for Congressional Quarterly and the National Journal. Cohen, who has written on politics (see, e.g., here) and campaign finance issues (see, e.g., here), reportedly began working on the writing project with Mr. McCutcheon in late November or early December of last year. (Mr. Cohen is no newcomer to the subject of campaign finance laws. See, e.g., his “Giving till It Hurts: 1982 Campaign Prompts New Look at Financing Races,” National Journal, Dec. 18, 1982.)

SM_Book_Cover_ConceptsHere is the opening paragraph from the first chapter of the forthcoming e-book: “I strongly believe in Freedom of Speech and your right to spend your money on as many candidates and political activities as you choose. Free political speech and assembly are especially important to the future, because we can’t change anything in Washington, DC if we can’t change whom we send to Washington. Supporting those we believe will bring about change – and doing so through transparent contributions — is a good thing.” (emphasis added) He goes on to note: “So I filed a lawsuit, which was argued before the United States Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 2013. As I write this I’m waiting on the High Court’s ruling. This e-book is about the case, and the legal and political forces that drive it.”

Not to be overlooked is his attorney, Erin Murphy, who argued his case in the Supreme Court. He quotes her early on in the work: “‘By prohibiting contributions that are within the modest base limits Congress has already imposed to combat the reality or appearance of corruption,’ Erin Murphy—a former clerk to Chief Justice Roberts, who has become a Supreme Court litigator with a Washington D.C. law firm—told the Justices, ‘these limits simply seek to prevent individuals from engaging in too much First Amendment activity.’”

Some of the other chapters (which are each 3,000 words or fewer) concern:mcc-shaun

  • How Shaun McCutcheon first got actively involved in politics
  • How his case evolved
  • The various attorneys (notably Dan Backer) with whom he has worked on his case
  • How the media has covered the case and controversy, and
  • How the Court will ultimately rule in his case.

McCutcheon’s aim is to provide “a rare inside perspective of the evolution of an important court case from the view of an Alabama businessman.” To that end, he hopes that his account “will help demystify an important part of how our government operates.”

The e-book is slated to come out sometime shortly after the Court rules in McCutcheon. Read More

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FAN.7 (First Amendment News) — Justice Scalia & the First Amendment

“The words are the law.” Sound familiar?  Of course, they are the words of none other than Justice Antonin Scalia, spoken at Catholic University of America on Oct. 18, 1996. As I considered them recently, I wondered, yet again, how the Justice’s view of textualism and originalism — I do not say “original intent,” which would be a breach of the Scalia creed — plays out in the First Amendment context. That took me back to the First Amendment debate between then Judges Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia in Ollman v. Evans (D.C. Cir., 1984), which is well worth reflective consideration. See e.g. Steven Calabresi & Lauren Pope, “Judge Robert H. Bork and Constitutional Change: An Essay on Ollman v Evans,” 80 U Chi. L. Rev. Dialogue 155 (2013).220px-Antonin_Scalia_2010

All of this brings me to my main point: Though it is not news in the literal textualist sense, it was news to me and may likewise be so to many others — I refer to Justice Scalia’s March 8, 2012 Hugo Black lecture on freedom of expression at Wesley College. The title of that lecture was “The Originalist Approach to the First Amendment.” A packed audience of college students and others listened to lecture. “After Scalia’s 40-minute speech, protesters in the balcony of the chapel where he spoke unfurled a banner reading, ‘There can be no justice in the court of the conqueror’ and flung dozens of condoms carrying pro-gay rights and pro-abortion messages.”

As to the substance, here are a few samples of what Justice Scalia reportedly said (the full text is, to the best of my knowledge, unpublished):

Libel. According to a news report, the Justice maintained that “[t]here’s no doubt that libel of a public figure, even good faith libel of a public figure, was unprotected by the First Amendment in 1791. Indeed, it remains unprotected even today in England. But the Warren Court had determined, as the framers had not, that allowing good faith libel of public figures would be good for democracy. And so the First Amendment was revised accordingly . . . .”

As for symbolic speech expressed by way of conduct, Scalia was quoted as saying: “You should be in no doubt that patriotic conservative that I am, I detest the burning of the nation’s flag, and if I were king, I would make it a crime. But as I understand the First Amendment, it guarantees the right to express contempt for the government, Congress, the Supreme Court, even the nation and the nation’s flag.”

Associations. Further elaborating on his ideas, and in response to a question, the Justice added: “The text guarantees the freedom of speech. That freedom of speech was never withheld from associations of people. Associations of people can speak just as people can speak and can band together to make their speech more effective, pool their resources . . . . If you’re going to deny it to corporations, are you going to deny it to the Washington Post? Most newspapers, most sources of political commentary, are corporations. How do you create an exception for that in the First Amendment? Because freedom of speech and of the press? C’mon, ‘press.’ The word ‘press’ meant publishing—anybody—not the institutional press. I’m not sure they had an institutional press.”

Questions? Mindful of such considerations, and duly sensitive to the “text and traditions of our people” concerning the words of the First Amendment, one might respectfully ask the textualist/originalist the following questions:

  1. Does the constitutional restriction on “Congress” extend to the other branches of government such as the executive and judicial branches? If so, how?
  2. How should one interpret the constitutional ban against Congress making laws? (Consider Hans Linde, “‘Clear and Present Danger’ Reexamined,” 22 Stan. L. Rev. 1163, 1183 & n.66 (1970).)
  3. What does “abridging” mean and is it synonymous “prohibiting” or “denying”?
  4. What exactly does “freedom of speech” mean? Did “speech” mean “money,” as in spending money for expressive purposes? Whatever else it meant, for Justice Scalia the term “speech” apparently did not include anonymous speech as evidenced by his dissent in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission (1995) and his concurrence in Doe v. Reed (2010).
  5. How far does the notion of “press” extend? (Consider Volokh here)
  6. How exactly should we understand the term “petition”? (Consider S. Higginson here)
  7. What does the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language (apparently, the preferred edition?) tell us about such matters and how are we to discern the original “public meaning” insofar as these queries are concerned? Read More
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FAN.6 (First Amendment News) — Cellphone Privacy & the First Amendment

employee_Corn-RevereRobThere has been quite a bit of news lately, along with general commentary on this blog, about the legality of police searches of the contents of an arrestee’s cell phone. The issue raised in United States v. Wurie, which the Court has agreed to review, is whether the Fourth Amendment permits the police, without obtaining a warrant, to review the call log of a cellphone found on a person who has been lawfully arrested. (The Court has also agreed to hear a companion case out of California: Riley v. California.) But there is more here than meets the constitutional eye, or so maintains Robert Corn-Revere, a noted First Amendment lawyer who is a partner at the Washington, D.C. office of Davis Wright Tremaine. Yesterday, he filed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association and thirteen media organizations in support of the Petitioner in the Wurie case. What is interesting about this brief is the First Amendment argument Mr. Corn-Revere offers up to buttress the Fourth Amendment claim at stake in these cases.

Here is the media interest in all of this: “Of particular concern to Amici, media outlets increasingly rely on issuing reporters smart phones to take photographs and to record other story elements. Cell phone cameras are capable of taking high quality photographs and audio-visual recordings. And, because smart phones can connect to the Internet, it is easy for journalists to upload photo, video, audio, or text files to the Internet to file reports.” So opens this amicus brief.

Here is the problem for the media: “These new technologies have greatly expanded the ability to gather and report news, but the same capabilities that make them a boon to journalists create a grave threat if they are subject to unrestricted warrantless searches incident to arrest. Unfortunately, the threat is not just hypothetical, and the enhanced newsgathering capacity may have made reporters more frequent targets of police action. There has been an epidemic of arrests for nothing more than the journalistic enterprise of photographing public events. Frequently, such arrests are made on generalized charges of ‘disorderly conduct’ or ‘disturbing the peace,’ and often charges are dismissed without further action. But such circumstances could be used, and in some cases have been used, as a predicate to search or seize photographic equipment.”

Here is the First Amendment take on this: “It is essential that the Fourth Amendment be scrupulously applied in cases that involve sophisticated communications technologies because of the inherent intrusion of warrantless searches on . . . other fundamental rights,” including First Amendment rights. This interconnectivity of rights, Corn-Revere argues, has both historical roots and contemporary significance in our cellular world.  Or as he puts it: “These interconnected rights have long been ‘part of the intellectual matrix within which our own constitutional fabric was shaped,’ . . . and [any] failure to protect them in light of changing technology would risk converting constitutional principles into ‘impotent and lifeless formulas’ whereby ‘[r]ights declared in words might be lost in reality.’ Olmstead, 277 U.S. at 473-74 (Brandeis, J., dissenting).”

Oral argument in the two cases is set for April 29th. Read More

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Fan.5 (First Amendment News) Is sharing a hyperlink protected expression?

I had hoped to post a piece today on Justice John Paul Stevens and his forthcoming book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution (Little, Brown & Co., pp. 170, to be released on April 22). However, since it was impossible to confirm the advanced-copy wording of his proposed amendment to the First Amendment until the final printed version is released, I opted to wait until next month to post the piece and the commentaries accompanying it.

That said, here are some news items that might be of interest to you.

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Is Sharing a Hyperlink Protected Expression? The lawyer for Barrett Brown thinks so and has argued as much in his motion to dismiss criminal charges against his client for sharing a publicly available hyperlink. The matter is pending in a federal district court in Texas. The hyperlink in question was transmitted in a chat-room and pointed to data that was obtained during the hacking of Stratfor Global Intelligence, this in purported violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028. The motion to dismiss was filed by University of Texas clinical law instructor Ahmed Ghappour and the Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic. Though he argues that the pertinent statutory provisions are inapplicable to his client (thus triggering the doctrine of constitutional avoidance), Professor Ghappour maintains that if they are, the First Amendment nonetheless protects his client. Here is how he put it in his March 3, 2014 motion:

First, the allegations in this case are encompassed by the Supreme Court’s holding in Bartnicki v. Vopper, in that Mr. Brown’s publication of truthful information (by republishing a hyperlink) obtained in a lawful manner cannot be punished absent a showing of a heightened state interest. Second, Mr. Brown was engaged in pure political speech in republishing the hyperlink. Because §1028 as applied imposes a complete prohibition on such speech, and does so based on the speech’s content, Count 1 (and Counts 3-12) must be dismissed absent a showing of a compelling state interest and least restrictive means. Finally, as applied to Mr. Brown, §1028 also fails the O’Brien test for intermediate scrutiny because it is not at parity with any substantial government interest that would be achieved less effectively absent regulation.” (Update: Government Dismisses Bulk of Indictment Against Barrett Brown — hat tip to Ruthann Robson.)

Advertising Pot & the First Amendment: Though it is now legal to enjoy pot in Colorado, the Colorado Department of Revenue, Marijuana Enforcement Division, has promulgated certain rules limiting the advertising of the product. For example, there is this rule:

A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not utilize television Advertising unless the Retail Marijuana Establishment has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the audience for the program on which the Advertising is to air is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.

Similar rules exist for radio, print media, and the Internet. Another rule provides: “A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not engage in Advertising that specifically targets Persons located outside the state of Colorado.” As for outdoor advertising, there is this rule:

Except as otherwise  provided in this rule, it shall be unlawful for any Retail Marijuana Establishment to engage in Advertising that is visible to members of the public from any street, sidewalk, park or other public place, including Advertising utilizing any of the following media: any  billboard or other outdoor general Advertising device; any sign mounted on a vehicle, any hand-held or other portable sign; or any handbill, leaflet or flier directly handed to any person in a public  place, left upon a motor vehicle, or posted upon any public or  private property without the consent of the property owner.

High Times magazine and Westword (an alternative weekly newspaper) have challenged the rules in a suit brought in a federal district court in Colorado. U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger has been assigned to the case. The plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief. They argue that such restrictions violate the First Amendment as interpreted by Central Hudson and 44 Liquormart.  David A. Lane of Killmer, Lane, & Newman is representing the two publications. When Jacob Sullum, writing for Forbes, asked UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh for his take on the matter, here is how Volokh replied: “I don’t see how marijuana sales are lawful, given the federal prohibition, so I think advertising marijuana is not protected under commercial speech doctrine,” Volokh said. “I realize that here the commercial speech restriction is imposed by the state, and the sales restriction is imposed by the federal government, but I don’t think that would change the First Amendment analysis.” That said, in a Reason magazine piece Mr. Sullum urged that such challenges be brought in state court instead of federal court, and under Article II, section 10 of the Colorado Constitution.

Monitoring Newsrooms? FCC Declines. Late last month the Federal Communications Commission issued a statement that it was nixing a proposal that involved sending government researchers into newsrooms to conduct survey questions related to how news organizations chose which stories to run. In its statement, the FCC noted: “To be clear, media owners and journalists will no longer be asked to participate in the Columbia, S.C. pilot study. The pilot will not be undertaken until a new study design is final. Any subsequent market studies conducted by the FCC, if determined necessary, will not seek participation from or include questions for media owners, news directors or reporters.” The proposal came under attack in a February 10, 2014 Wall St. Journal op.-ed by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.  Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, and his group also weighed in by way of a campaign to express public opposition to the proposed study. “This is significant victory for the First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” said Sekulow.  “By shutting down this proposal,” he added, “the FCC took the only action it could. We will now remain vigilant to ensure that the FCC follows through on its pledge to refrain from putting monitors in America’s newsrooms.”

University Settles in Dispute with Pro-Life Student Group: When Oklahoma State University officials barred Cowboys for Life from displaying certain photos near the University’s Student Union building, the Cowboys bucked. The photos they wanted to display depicted aborted fetuses. They were, however, given an alternative: relocate at a less populated site and display a warning. They declined.  The Alliance Defending Freedom came to their First Amendment defense and sued the University. The group’s lawyer, Travis Barham, maintained that “OSU needs to learn that it does not have free reign to censor its students. It can’t exile displays to remote areas of campus, or restrict students from distributing literature just because the hyper-sensitive feelings of a university administrator got ruffled.” Though not admitting guilt, the University agreed to pay $25,000 in legal fees and to amend its student conduct code.

Upcoming Conference on Sullivan:  On April 23, 2014, the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communications will host a conference entitled “How Far from Near? 50 Years of New York Times v. Sullivan in Minnesota and Beyond: A Symposium Honoring the Legacy of Silha Professor Emeritus Donald M. Gillmor.”  Robert D. Sack, Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, will give the keynote address entitled “Thirteen Ways of Looking at New York TImes v. Sullivan.” Twelve participants will discuss the Sullivan case and its legacy. The titles of the panels are:

  • Academic panel: “Beyond First Amendment Exceptionalism: The Multiple Legacies of Near and Sullivan”
  • Practitioners panel: “Time After Times: Defamation Law (and Privacy, Too) in Minnesota”

(Hat tip to Professor Kyu Ho Youm)

Next Scheduled FAN Column: Wednesday, March 12th.