Citizens United

  • November 24, 2015
    Guest Post

    by J. Chris Sanders, Attorney, Chris Sanders Law PLLC

    Two things I’m not going to say in this brief post. First, I’m not going to explain the Citizens United decision. Ever since the Supreme Court spoke in 2010, there’s been plenty of explanation. More than explanation, there are a number of campaigns to reverse the decision, to pass a constitutional amendment overturning it, and/or to blunt its worst effects. Those campaigns do a complete and admirable job of explaining the decision, its ramifications, and the fix that we’re in. But just to keep us on the same page, here’s my two cents. I keep it short: “the Supreme Court perverted Freedom of Speech into legalized corruption by promoting unlimited campaign cash in our elections.”

    We know what the problem is. The question for this post is what to name the problem, or rather, what not to name the problem. We just have to stop saying, “we hate Citizens United.” Or “end citizens united.” Or “citizens united is bad for democracy.” I’m sorry to step on friends’ toes, but I’m concerned. Standing alone, without backstory about the decision, “we’re against citizens united” is counterintuitive. Unless the hearer knows that “citizens united” means the Supreme Court legalized giant money’s control over our politics, it makes no sense.

    You can almost see the baffled stares and hear the snide rhetorical questions in the media. “Why are progressives against united citizens?” We aren’t- we are the united citizens! Not them- they’re organized and united money, remember? The organization “Citizens United” was just a multi-million-dollar “nonprofit” masquerading as a movement. It’s Orwellian to get people to believe that organized money is really united citizens, but that’s exactly what CU was trying to do.

  • October 30, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Ahead of Monday’s oral arguments in Foster v. Chatman, Garrett Epps in The Atlantic examines the standards governing peremptory challenges and asks, when is it constitutional to purge black jurors?

    In Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, ACS Board member Erwin Chemerinsky discusses Spokeo v. Robins and argues that the infringement of statutory rights created by Congress provides sufficient injury for standing.

    Jim Hightower at Salon explains how the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling allowed the rich to buy America’s political system, effectively destroying the First Amendment. 

    In Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Marci A. Hamilton decries Pennsylvania’s short statute of limitations for child sex abuse ten years after the groundbreaking Grand Jury Report on Child Sex Abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese was first released. 

  • October 5, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Garrett Epps at The Atlantic discusses the partisan implications of three forthcoming Supreme Court cases.

    At The New Republic, Lawrence Goldstone explains that the decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission has misguided legal roots in “a series of late nineteenth century Supreme Court rulings that disemboweled the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments and ushered in the Jim Crow era.”

    Catherine Fisk at On Labor argues that Justice Antonin Scalia’s frequent opinion that public employees have minimal free speech rights “should require him to reject the First Amendment challenge to union fair share fees in Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association.”

    At Vice, Max Rivlin-Nadler explains why budget constraints are undermining defendants’ right to an attorney in legal proceedings. This story is part of a larger series on mass incarceration in America. 

  • September 16, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

    The power to prosecute is the power to destroy a person’s reputation.  It is the power to seize the hard-earned treasure of a life’s work, to strip a person of liberty, and even in some jurisdictions in this country, to kill a fellow human being.  Simply put, a criminal prosecution is the most awesome use of government power short of warfare.  For this reason, the founders of this nation constructed a network of fundamental constitutional rights to ensure that this enormous power is used fairly and with appropriate limitations and safeguards. The American system of government entrusts the enforcement of these rights to an independent judiciary. As Chief Justice John Roberts famously explained in his confirmation hearing: the role of a judge is like an umpire, “to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”  In other words, the role of the judge is to make the hard calls, applying constitutional principles, statutory provisions, and case precedent without fear or favor, and unencumbered by self-interest. But that imperative is under assault.

    As a criminal defense attorney for nearly 30 years, I represented hundreds of accused persons whose lives were profoundly affected by judicial decision-making, and nothing is more heartbreaking than to see a judge take the easy way out to avoid criticism in the criminal context. Nothing is more corrosive of public confidence in the criminal justice system than the perception that the game is rigged. That perception breeds resentment and contempt.  It denigrates the courts in the eyes of the public. It polarizes society—and turns a process that should promote healing into one that perpetuates mistrust and division.

    Skewed Justice: Citizens United, Television Advertising and State Supreme Court Justices’ Decisions in Criminal Cases confirms the corrosive effect of money on judicial behavior. It is an important contribution to the mounting data that proves that there is an inverse relationship between the influx of the outside judicial campaign money authorized by the Citizens United decision and due process in criminal cases. This report empirically demonstrates that the infusion of spending to influence judicial elections increases the likelihood that state supreme court justices will vote against the interests of criminal defendants and that the greater the number of television advertisements the greater the likelihood that those judges will vote against those interests.

  • June 8, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    Jerry Markon reports for The Washington Post that the White House has stopped work on its immigration program in response to numerous legal setbacks this year.

    At SalonHeather Digby Parton writes about the plot against the Affordable Care Act and the dire circumstances that would arise should the Court rule against the healthcare law. 

    Sarah Kliff of Vox takes a critical look at the GOP's five plans to fix the Affordable Care Act should the Supreme Court strikes down the law.

    At SlateMichael J. Socolow explains how television stations are the major winners of the Citizens United ruling. 

    Kenneth Jost considers at ‚ÄčJost on Justice Texas's challenge to the "one-person, one-vote" rule that the Supreme Court granted cert to late last month.