U.S. Supreme Court

New Predictions of an Impending Campaign Finance Ruling


Why hasn’t the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling yet in a campaign finance case that challenges restrictions on corporate campaign spending before elections?

The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, was argued on Sept. 9, and some had predicted a decision would be issued in December. More rulings will be issued Tuesday, and that could be the day for the campaign finance ruling, the National Law Journal reports.

“The fact that no ruling has yet emerged in spite of a looming election has triggered more speculation than the whereabouts of Tiger Woods,” the legal newspaper says.

The Washington Post outlines two possible reasons for the delay. One is that a decision striking down corporate spending limits as a violation of the First Amendment could be drawing some lengthy dissents from justices who aren’t in any hurry. Another is that there is no clear majority for a broad ruling, and the final decision will be a narrow one, culled from several competing opinions.

No matter what the outcome, previous court rulings already “all but stripped away” corporate campaign restrictions, the New York Times reports. “Though the rulings have not challenged the bans on direct corporate contributions to parties and candidates, political operatives say that as a practical matter, the rulings and a deadlock at the Federal Election Commission have already opened wide latitude for independent groups to advocate for and against candidates.”

Those previous rulings include a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing outside groups to pay for issue ads as long as they don’t advocate a vote for or against a candidate.

The Post and NLJ stories also preview upcoming oral arguments and question whether Justice John Paul Stevens will announce his retirement this year. According to the NLJ, “Blockbuster opinions, riveting oral arguments and a possible retirement loom in the next six months, all promising to make the court’s first three months in session fade quickly from view.”

Other upcoming cases include:

American Needle Inc. v. National Football League, an antitrust case challenging the National Football League’s exclusive merchandising contract with Reebok. The ABA Journal previews the case, to be argued on Wednesday, according to SCOTUSblog.

Briscoe v. Virginia, on the scope of the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation. The state of Virginia allows prosecutors to present paper reports to support forensic cases, but requires crime lab analysts to testify for cross-examination if the defense requests it. The issue is whether the procedure satisfies the dictates of a June ruling, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, that says crime lab evidence can’t be used in court unless analysts are subject to cross-examination. Arguments are today.

Skilling v. United States, challenging the constitutionality and application of the honest services fraud law. Arguments are March 1. The ABA Journal previews the case.

Abbott v. Abbott, concerning protections in a treaty intended to discourage child abduction. The case will be argued Tuesday, SCOTUSblog reports.

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