Supreme Court Throws Out Citizens United II Without Debate

Supreme Court JusticesThe Supreme Court just summarily reversed American Tradition v. Montana, essentially throwing out all state level campaign finance laws and any legislative attempts to handle Citizens United without even hearing an argument. This confirms that there is no way to reverse Citizens United through the courts or the legislators. The only way is through a constitutional amendment.

The case, billed as Citizens United II, was appealed from the Supreme Court of the State of Montana. The majority in Montana, sharply criticizing Citizens United, upheld state campaign finance regulations. They argued that their history of the corrupting influence of money demonstrated a particular need that undermined the premise of Citizens United and thus their state should be able to make a factual determination about whether that decision applies to their state campaign finance laws or not. The dissenting Justices agreed that Citizens United was wrongly decided but felt that it applied to their state regardless of any distinguishing facts.

The decision today was on Certiori. That is a petition to ask the Court to hear the case. Almost always, a Certiori petition is either granted or refused. James Bopp, the lawyer behind Citizens United and the principal architect behind the plans to use the court to throw out campaign finance law, wrote a brief arguing that the court should issue a summary reversal. Summary reversal is a rare move, usually reserved for basic questions where the lower court made an obvious error. In a summary reversal, the court will agree to hear the case, but overturn the lower court ruling without hearing argument.

In a single paragraph written by an anonymous Justice without debate, the Supreme Court reversed American Tradition and the State of Montana, and every other state in this nation, lost. The majority has not presented so little analysis in a summary reversal with four dissenting Justices since 1968. Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, dissented. They, like the entire Montana Court, criticized Citizens United, pointing out that the case of Montana and other recent examples seriously call into question the premise that independent expenditures do not having a corrupting influence or an appearance of a corrupting influence. They stated that since the majority was going to reverse, they would prefer not to hear the case at all.

 

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
AMERICAN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., FKA
WESTERN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., ET AL. v. STEVE BULLOCK, ATTORNEY
GENERAL OF MONTANA, ET AL.
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MONTANA

No. 11–1179. Decided June 25, 2012

PER CURIAM.

A Montana state law provides that a “corporation may not make . . . an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” Mont. Code Ann. §13–35–227(1) (2011). The Montana Supreme Court rejected petitioners’ claim that this statute violates the First Amendment. 2011 MT 328, 363 Mont. 220, 271 P. 3d 1. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that “political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation.” 558 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 26) (internal quotation marks omitted). The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. See U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Montana’s arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.

The petition for certiorari is granted. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Montana is reversed.
It is so ordered.


JUSTICE BREYER, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG, JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, and JUSTICE KAGAN join, dissenting.

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court concluded that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” 558 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 42). I disagree with the Court’s holding for the reasons expressed in Justice Stevens’ dissent in that case. As Justice Stevens explained, “technically independent expenditures can be corrupting in much the same way as direct contributions.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 67–68). Indeed, Justice Stevens recounted a “substantial body of evidence” suggesting that “[m]any corporate independent expenditures . . . had become essentially interchangeable with direct contributions in their capacity to generate quid pro quo arrangements.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 64–65).

Moreover, even if I were to accept Citizens United, this Court’s legal conclusion should not bar the Montana Su­preme Court’s finding, made on the record before it, that independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana. Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the State had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations. 2011 MT 328, ¶¶ 36–37, 363 Mont. 220, 235–236, 271 P. 3d 1, 36–37. Thus, Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.

Were the matter up to me, I would vote to grant the petition for certiorari in order to reconsider Citizens United or, at least, its application in this case. But given the Court’s per curiam disposition, I do not see a significant possibility of reconsideration. Consequently, I vote instead to deny the petition.

See the original opinion here

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published this page in Blog 2012-06-25 11:48:00 -0400

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