Yesterday’s troika of SCOTUS rulings (as Hart wrote about below), mostly centering on issues of speech and the first amendment, seem to have come down mainly in favor of speech by the wealthy. In other words, if you’re “average”, poor or disenfranchised, your speech doesn’t count (once again, Jeannie Shawl at Jurist has a great roundup).
The major ruling, of course, involved campaign finance. Breaking 5-4, the “gang of five” conservative majority in FEC v. Wisconsin Right To Life (2007) said that “as interpreted broadly by federal regulators and the law’s supporters, the restrictions on television advertisements paid for from corporate or union treasuries in the weeks before an election amounted to censorship of core political speech unless those advertisements explicitly urge a vote for or against a particular candidate.”
“Where the First Amendment is implicated,” the chief justice said, “the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.”
Mighty big words, and words I would probably normally agree with except for the fact that the “speaker” in question has to be a corporation or 527 group. Because if the speaker happens to be a kid waiving a sign that says “Bong Hits For Jesus”, the tie goes to the censor.
In Morse v. Frederick (2007), the same gang of five who felt so strongly about free speech for fat cats, ruled that the high school student waiving said banner did not enjoy an “unlimited first amendment right” to do so. Apparently, after the banner was unfurled, the dude was suspended and he promptly filed suit. The suit (standing, again) was tossed by the gang of five (with a concurrence by Breyer).
Wrote Roberts: “The First Amendment does not require schools to tolerate at school events student expression that contributes to those dangers.”
[snicker] If only those “students” were corporations or fat cat political donors…
Lastly, the court slammed the door on “average taxpayers” who might find the government’s sponsor of religion (a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of said 1st amendment) objectionable. Writing again in a 5-4 split (Hein, et al v. Freedom From Religion Foundation 2007), Justice Alito and the gang of five wrote that “average taxpayers do not have standing to challenge executive branch actions under the Establishment Clause.”
Ah, but if those “average taxpayers” were fat cat corporations and 527 political smear organizations…
As the Times editorialized this morning, it “The Supreme Court hit the trifecta yesterday: Three cases involving the First Amendment. Three dismaying decisions by Chief Justice John Roberts’s new conservative majority.”
I’m dreading Thursday. For more on these decisions, as usual, see SCOTUSblog.
Cross posted in re AoF