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.