Why Hasn't the Supreme Court Decided Citizens United?


Over at the Legal Times blog, Tony Mauro speculates on why it's taking the Supreme Court so long to reach a decision in the campaign finance/free speech case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. As Jacob Sullum has reported, the Court first heard oral arguments in the case back in March, but then asked for a rare second round of arguments to be held in September, prompting many Court-watchers to predict a speedy outcome. As a quick refresher, the case centers on whether the 90-minute documentary Hillary: The Movie, which was produced by the conservative group Citizens United, violates the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, which prohibits corporations and non-profits from sponsoring "any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication" that mentions a candidate in a federal campaign within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.

So why is it taking the Court so long to decide if the First Amendment protects the airing of an unruly political documentary in the days before an election? As Mauro notes:

This morning, the Court gaveled its final session of 2009 to a close without a decision in Citizens United. Speculation has already intensified over what is causing the delay, and what it could mean. The general consensus is that a proliferation of concurrences and dissents has slowed issuance of the final ruling, pointing toward the kind of mix-and-match majority decision that will be hard to decipher—and harder to put into effect. With the 2010 congressional campaign season drawing near, that could mean confusion over the role that corporations can play in the next election.

Read the rest here. For what the Court should do, see here and here.

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  1. Welcome to the future of America.

  2. The hard right bloc wants to dispense with the pretense of a democratic republic and let corporations control government to an even greater degree, but it’s tough when such a broad spectrum of Americans are pissed off about their tax money being transferred directly to Goldman Sachs et al.

    Letting corporations directly spend on electoral campaigns would be a disaster for both republicanism and free enterprise. This press (from the American Independent Business Alliance) release expresses a big part of my concern as a serial small business person: http://bit.ly/5hzILP

    1. And the hard-left bloc wants to control what gets said on TV, radio, and the internet.

      McCain-Feingold was proof that both sides want to edit the political discourse. This case proves the left is just as guilty.

      1. This law is an attempt of the liberal media and the exempt unions from having any competition of the political news and speech in this country. Just like unions ruin businesses, they would love to ruin the political discourse also.

    2. Is Goldman Sachs getting cozy treatment by the Obama administration because they donated money to a corrupt Obama and Democrat Congressional leadership? Or the fact that the ofiicers of Goldman and high ranking Democrats travel in the same social circles and are each others buddies? There are more kinds of influence than just money, and if you eliminate the ability to spend money on political speech you will do more harm than help to people who are ot in the elite social circles.

  3. …as a serial small business person…

    Serial small businessperson? You mean you commit transactions on dozens of innocent customers?

  4. For what the Court should do

    Go fuck themselves if they don’t decide 9-0 against the FEC.

  5. Where did the First Amendment declare that corporations have a right to free speech again?

    How is it that entities created by state law for the purposes of receiving favorable tax structures and limited liability are entitled by the federal Constitution to not have any additional conditions placed upon their expenditures?

    I don’t know what the right answer is. But I know that the questions are messed up.

    1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      The text of the amendment imposes no limitations on who is entitled to freedom of the press; so it doesn’t matter who or what owns the press.

      The amendment only prohibits actions by the government.

    2. A corporation is a group of individuals. Do you believe that all voluntary groups of individuals should be deprived of their First Amendment rights, or only those who come together to make a profit?

      The “limited liability” extends only to the personal assets of the stockholders and bondholders. In addition to its insurance, all of the company’s assets are potentially fair game, as every tort lawyer knows.

      Also, except for “S” corporations (which are generally rather small), corporations are taxed twice – once at the corporate level, and then again at the personal level. Stockholders and bondholders are taxed on their income, and then taxed again on any dividends, interest, or capital gains they receive.

      1. Thank you. You said what I wanted to say, but about 1,000 times better than I could have.

  6. So why is it taking the Court so long to decide if the First Amendment protects the airing of an unruly political documentary in the days before an election?

    Because Justice Kennedy hasn’t made up his mind.

  7. “Where did the First Amendment declare that corporations have a right to free speech again?”

    Where did the First Amendment declare that natural persons have a right to free speech again?

  8. The NY Times is published by a corporation. If corporations have no rights, then the Times has no rights.

  9. Anything short of the complete elimination of McCain Feingold will be a travesty of justice. The arguments screamed for detangling the speech restrictions. The NRA lost me for life with their brief urging for a moderate approach.

  10. Hey, it’s hard to write an opinion that repeals the first ammendment without SOUNDING like you’re repealing the first ammendment.

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