Category: General Law

Three on the Gig Economy

July has been a big month for public discussion of the gig economy. For those interested in the issue, here are three of my recent pieces:

1) Is Your Digital Boss Cheating You? (part of a collection of “5 Ways to Take Back Tech”)

2) Serfing the Web: On-Demand Workers Deserve a Place at the Table (with Trebor Scholz). If you have comments for the FTC on the gig economy, their deadline is August 4.

3) Uber and the lawlessness of ‘sharing economy’ corporates (with Siva Vaidhyanathan)

In related news: for anyone interested in the future of legal regulation of the interaction between software and work, please submit an abstract to “Unlocking the Black Box: The Promise and Limits of Algorithmic Accountability in the Professions” (due by August 23).


Roundup: Law and Humanities 07.30.15

There’s a lot going on in law and the humanities these days. Here’s a sampling.

First, an opportunity for publication:

Fairleigh Dickinson University Press invites the submission of proposals for books, monographs, or essay collections in the interdisciplinary fields of humanistically-oriented legal scholarship for the series The Fairleigh Dickinson University Press Series in Law, Culture and the Humanities.

Possible topics range from scholarship on legal history; legal theory and jurisprudence; law and critical/cultural studies, law and anthropology, law and literature, law and film, law and society, law and the performing arts, law and communication, law and philosophy, and legal hermeneutics.

Proposals must include: a description of the issue/s you intend to explore and the method/s you will use; a comparison and contrast with existing books on similar or related topics; a table of contents and a precis of what each chapter aims to cover; a description of the book’s target market/s; the author’s/authors’ or editor’s/editors’ curriculum vitae; if it is a collection of essays, a compiled and alphabetized list of short biographies of prospective contributors, and a list of three experts in the field capable of assessing the value of the project.

The series also welcomes submissions of completed monographs and essay collections; kindly make an inquiry prior to sending over the completed book or collection of essays, together with the author’s curriculum vitae and three suggested experts, if you are the author/authors. If you are an editor/editors of a completed collection of essays, please include a compiled and alphabetized list of short biographies of prospective contributors, together with your curriculum vitae and list of possible experts. Essay collections must be of previously unpublished material. Conference sessions, properly edited and often expanded by calls for papers, into essay collections, are also welcome.

Referees may or may not be from the submitted list of suggested experts. The series benefits from the advice of an international board of leading scholars in the field. Proposals may be sent to:

Caroline Joan S. Picart, Ph.D., J.D., Esquire
Tim Bower Rodriguez, P.A.
601 N. Ashley Drive, Suite 310,

Tampa, FL 33602


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FAN 70 (First Amendment News) 10 Little known or long forgotten facts about the First Amendment

Since the news slows down in the summer, I thought I’d share some little known or long forgotten facts about the First Amendment. They concern everything from the text of the First Amendment / to Holmes and his 1919 opinions / to the first woman who argued a free-speech case in the Supreme Court / to Robert L. Carter’s ideas about freedom of association and his subsequent victory in NAACP v. Alabama / to the opinion Richard Posner wrote in NAACP v. Button / to the author of the famous line in Sullivan / to Ralph Nader and the origins of the modern commercial speech doctrine and more.

* * *  *

  1. Does any Justice (originalists, textualists, and others, living or dead) have any idea of what exactly the word abridge means as used in the First Amendment? To the best of my knowledge, no member of the Court (including Justices Hugo Black, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas) has ever devoted any serious ink to this definitional question. (see here for a discussion of the word).
  2. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was not the first person to use the phrase clear and present danger in a legal context. As Professor Lucas Powe has observed, in “the summer of 1918, Benjamin W. Shaw, defending (unsuccessfully until appeal) an Espionage Act case, uttered the following during his closing argument to the jury”: Under all of the facts and circumstances disclosed by the evidence in this case, how can it be said that he wilfully [sic] said and did the things alleged? How can the words used under the circumstances detailed in the evidence have the tendency to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent?” (John Fontana, 12 American State Trials 897, 932 (John D. Lawson, editor) (F.H. Thomas Book Co., 1920) (emphasis added), quoted in L. A. Powe, “Searching for the False Shout of ‘Fire,’” 19 Constitutional Commentary 345, 352, n. 61 (2002)
  3. Notwithstanding what the Court did in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), the holdings in Schenck v. United States (1919), Debs v. United States (1919) and Dennis v. United States (1951) have never been formally overruled.
  4. In his concurrence in Whitney v. California (1927), Justice Louis Brandeis flagged his substantive agreement with the majority’s judgment: “[In this case] there was other testimony which tended to establish the existence of a conspiracy, on the part of members of the International Workers of the World, to commit present serious crimes, and likewise to show that such a conspiracy would be furthered by the activity of the society of which Miss Whitney was a member. Under these circumstances, the judgment of the state court cannot be disturbed.” (emphasis added)
  5. The first woman to argue a free speech case (though not a First Amendment case) in the Supreme Court was Olive Rabe — the case was United States v. Schwimmer (1929). It was nearly 40 years before another woman represented a rights claimant in a free-speech case in the Supreme Court. The woman was Eleanor Holmes Norton, a woman of color; the case was Carroll v. President & Commissioners of Princess Anne (1968). As with Olive Rabe, few if any know or remember that Eleanor Holmes Norton, now a member of Congress, was the first woman to represent a rights claimant in the Supreme Court in a First Amendment free-expression case. (Collins & Hudson: “To the high court: Olive Rabe representing Rosika Schwimmer“).
  6. the young Robert L. Carter

    the young Robert L. Carter

    Robert L. Carter successfully argued NAACP v. Alabama (1958). In the NAACP’s brief and in the course of oral arguments (Jan. 15-16, 1958) Mr. Carter stated: “We contend that the order to require us to disclose the list of our members is a denial of our right — the right of a corporation and the right of its members — to free speech and freedom of association and is protected by the First Amendment.” Years earlier Mr. Carter wrote a post-graduate thesis on the First Amendment while at Columbia Law School, this after having received his J.D. from Howard University. (Collins & Chaltain, We Must not be Afraid to be Free)

    (See box below re Carter’s LLM thesis)

  7. Though Justice Brennan is formally credited with authoring NAACP v. Button (1963), the opinion was actually written by his law clerk Richard Posner. “That was one I did for Brennan,” Posner told Kenneth Durr in a 2011 interview.
  8. The famous prhrase, “debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” originated with Stephen R. Barnett, one of Justice Brennan’s law clerks in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964). (Stern & Wermiel, Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion)
  9. For decades before before Citizens United (2010), most of the appellate challenges to campaign finance laws were brought by liberals, liberal groups, or labor unions. (Collins & Skover, When Money Speaks (2014))
  10. The emergence of the modern commercial speech doctrine was made possible by Ralph Nader’s group, Public Citizen. Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Consumer Council (1976) was successfully argued by Alan Morrison, who was then affiliated with Public Citizen. Earlier, Morrison had submitted an amicus brief to the same effect in Bigelow v. Virginia (1975).

The Three Freedoms

by Robert L. Carter

submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Law in the Faculty of the School of Law, Columbia University.

August 1, 1941

TRO Granted in Online Adult/Escort Advertising Case Read More


The Anti-Novelty Doctrine

I’ve been catching up on what’s new in the law reviews, and I want to recommend Neal Katyal and Thomas Schmidt’s paper in Harvard on “Active Avoidance.”  Much of the article provides a well-deserved critique of the Court’s recent practice of reading statutes in absurd ways to avoid constitutional difficulties.  The paper also points out that in these cases the Court introduces new constitutional arguments in dicta to explain those alleged difficulties, which do not get adequate attention then but then get cited later as authoritative.

Another part of this article that deserves more scrutiny is its attack on the Court’s recent cases suggesting that a law which is novel should be presumed unconstitutional.  I’ve blogged in the past about this idea, which showed up in the Affordable Care Act case (on the individual mandate), the challenge to DOMA, and some other decisions.  I’m not sure how I come down on the “anti-novelty” doctrine, but it is true that this idea clashes with the general presumption of constitutionality.


FAN 69 (First Amendment News) Justice Alito discusses four First Amendment cases in Kristol interview — Free-Speech Jurisprudence Comes into Sharper Focus

“[I]f we lose focus on what is at the core of the free-speech protection by concentrating on . . . peripheral issues, I think, there’s a real danger that our free-speech cases will go off in a bad direction.” — Justice Samuel Alito

Recently, Justice Samuel Alito participated in a video-recoreded interview with Bill Kristol. In the “Conversations with Bill Kristol” program the Justice discussed his legal education and the workings of the Supreme Court. He also discussed four First Amendment free-expression cases: United States v. Stevens (2010), Snyder v. Phelps (2011), United States v. Alvarez (2012), and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010).

Below are some excerpts I transcribed from the video-recorded interview in which Justice Alito discussed the First Amendment, this in response to questions posed to him by Mr. Kristol. I have added captions to the transcript and have edited it in places as well. (There is also a transcript of the entire interview  (login required) on the “Conversations with Bill Kristol website.)    

Following the exchange between the Justice and Mr. Kristol, I added some preliminary commentaries on what Justice Alito’s remarks may suggest about his larger First Amendment jurisprudence.  

Finally, I ended with some general information about Justice Alito and his free-speech jurisprudence.  

The Stevens Case

Justice Alito on "Conversations with Bill Kristol"

Justice Alito on “Conversations with Bill Kristol”

The Justice’s discussion of Stevens — the videoing of animal cruelty case — was largely descriptive. What concerned Justice Alito about the case the fact that it was “virtually impossible to find out who was [killing the animals that were being filmed]. The physical activity could be made illegal,” he noted. “[N]o one questions that . . . you could have a law against animal cruelty. Can you have a law that prohibits the creation of these videos without which the animal cruelty would not take place?”

Because of overbreadth problems, seven Justices voted to strike down the law on First Amendment grounds while Justice Alito felt otherwise and dissented.

The Phelps Case

Here, too, much of the discussion of Phelps — the military funerals protest case — was descriptive. What concerned the Justice was the fact that in “this particular case the . . .  [protesters] had placards that said horrible things about [the soldier being buried] . . . It was very distressing to the family members, who were in attendance.”

“So they were sued under a very well-established tort that goes back to the nineteenth century — the intentional infliction of severe emotional distress. And I thought that this tort constituted a reasonable exception to the First Amendment, but my colleagues disagreed about that.”

Bill Kristol

William Kristol

Mr. Kristol: “. . . What about the obvious sort of simple argument that . . . it is a slippery slope, that you cannot curtail speech? That is kind of the argument that the majority made, in one way or  the other, I would say.”

Justice Alito: “Well I think that some members of the majority — this is not based on inside information, this is what I get from reading the opinion — I think that there are those who would support the majority decision in both those cases for exactly that reason. So if we say, even in these outrageous situations, ‘we will not tolerate any abridgment of freedom of speech,’ then when something comes along that I would regard, and I think our cases would regard as really being at the core of the free-speech protection, these decisions provide a guarantee, or they provide a wall of proaction against a bad decision in those areas. If I really believed that to be the case, I might think it was an appropriate tradeoff. I don’t think that’s the case. I think that judges who are inclined to make a bad decision, an anti-free speech decision in a case involving core political speech, will find a way of getting around these little cases.”

The Alvarez Case

Justice Alito: “So what I think has been going on in those two cases and another one where I was in dissent, this time not by myself, in United States v. Alvarez, which had to do with the constitutionality of a statute passed by Congress called ‘The Stolen Valor Act,’ [which] prohibited a false claim of having received a military medal. . . .”

Mr. Kristol: “Which was happening a lot at the time.”

Justice Alito: “It was happening a lot. People were making up, you know, claiming to have won the Congressional Medal of Honor . . . “

Reflecting on StevensPhelps and Alvarez, Justice Alito stressed that “those cases involve a diversion, I think, of attention from the core, from what is most important about the guarantee of freedom of speech.”

He then developed that point as noted below.

Protecting Core Political Speech

Justice Alito: “I think freedom of speech protects and serves many purposes, but I believe, and I think the Court has said that at the core, whatever other purposes it may serve, it is vitally important for democratic self-government. If people cannot debate public issues, if they cannot debate the relative merits of political candidates, then democracy is basically impossible. So I think that is the core of the protection. These cases involving . . . depictions of animal cruelty, the protest at military funerals, [and] falsely claiming to have won the Congressional Medal of Honor don’t involve anything like that.”

“And if we lose focus on what is at the core of the free-speech protection by concentrating on these peripheral issues, I think, there’s a real danger that our free-speech cases will go off in a bad direction. In the cases that we’ve had that I think involve core free speech. . . the chief example that I would give from my time on the Court is the Citizens United case. . . . [N[ow that [case] came out five to four . . . . Citizens United, I think, is core political speech. It is a video about a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. If that’s not protected by First Amendment free speech, by the First Amendment free speech guarantee, I don’t know what is.”

“So on things that are at the core, the Court has been shakier than it has been on these things that are at the periphery.”

Mr. Kristol: “So the argument that protecting the periphery helps protect the core doesn’t seem to hold in this case.”

Justice Alito: “I don’t think it works.”

Mr. Kristol: “You also make the argument, as I recall, in at least one or two of those three dissents, you make more of a positive argument for the virtues, for the right, for . . . the ability of the community to draw certain boundaries around civility or civilized behavior almost, mostly in the case of the soldiers’ funerals or all of them really, the animal cruelty [and the] lying [case]. Those are all things a community would have a reasonable interest in discouraging, to say the least.”

Justice Alito: “I think that’s true. And I think that’s appropriate in cases that don’t involve political speech. I would not make the same argument in a case . . . involving political speech. I thought all of them were cabined by specific rules, very reasonable rules. So in the animal cruelty case, I thought that was very similar to the rationale . . . against child pornography. Which is that you can’t produce child pornography without abusing a child and by stamping out child pornography, or trying to stamp out child pornography, you are attacking the underlying abuse – same thing [holds true] with these crush videos. You couldn’t stamp them out without preventing the creation and the circulation of the videos. . . . I think that kind of an argument is a dangerous argument when you’re talking about political speech. . . .”

The discussion ended with some brief additional comments about hate speech in Europe.

[ht: Tony Mauro]

Commentary Read More


The Certiorari Grant in Fisher

I’d been meaning to say something about the not-so-new affirmative action case, but writing a book review knocked me offline for a while.

The new grant of cert in Fisher is peculiar.  Media reports suggest that the last time around the Court was going to issue a stronger opinion curtailing the use of race-conscious admissions policies.  Faced with a sharp dissent from Justice Sotomayor, though, the majority backed down and (after extended wrangling) produced a brief opinion remanding the case to the Fifth Circuit.  Now we get another grant (after the Fifth Circuit reaffirmed its prior holding).

It’s worth noting that this second grant is problematic in a couple of respects.  First, there’s a certain waste of resources in going through a second round of briefing and argument in the same case.  Sure, the briefs will be freshened up a bit, and you have a new circuit opinion as well, but the Justices are largely spinning their wheels.  Second, there is the awkward fact that Justice Kagan is recused because she worked on the case as Solicitor General.  (Indeed, you would think that this is the last case that will prompt her recusal for that reason.)  Any other challenge to university admissions accepted by the Court would have been decided by all nine Justices–perhaps that would have better.  Finally, Fisher has always struck me as a poor vehicle for thinking about race-conscious admissions given the structure of Texas public schools and the way the UT plan was designed.

So what’s going on?  Could it be that the current majority (that is, the one that did go forward the first time) is aware that there may not be another opportunity to take a stand before there is a different majority?  Or is this a situation where (as with campaign regulation and the Voting Rights Act) the Court will use Fisher I as authority for a broader ruling in Fisher II, but was not comfortable doing that without a Fisher I?


Kozinski Revisited — 10 ways to become a Federal Judge by 35 . . . and more!

Give credit where it is due — and especially where it is not. — Alex Kozinski (8-19-96)

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy Eugene recently posted excerpts from a new article by Judge Alex Kozinski; the piece is titled “12 Reasons to Worry about our Criminal Justice System.” Eugene’s posting got me to thinking (yet again) about Kozinskian lessons on life and law.

Thus this post concerning an August 19, 1996 National Law Journal article by the Judge titled “So You want to Become a Federal Judge by 35?

Judge Alex Kozinski (credit: The Recorder)

Judge Alex Kozinski (credit: The Recorder)

Given the sound counsel in that piece, I thought our under 35 age readers might appreciate familiarizing themselves with the his 10 “commandments.” Take heed: they may serve you well. At the end of these “commandments” (as I term them), I asked the Judge a few followup questions, which he kindly answered. They should be of interest to the over 35 crowd.

Onward, then, to Alex Kozinski’s Ten Commandments, albeit in abbreviated form:

Commandment I: “Decide early. This, the most obvious step of all, is often overlooked. .”

Commandment II: “Get into politics. Judging is not a partisan political process, but being fitted for the robe definitely is. . . .”

Commandment III: “Never back a loser. Campaiging for the Spotted Owl Party in the middle of a lumberjack country won’t get you a robe. . .”

Commandment IV: “Get a job in Washington. If you want to become a federal judge; you might as well peddle your wares in the federal judgeship bazaar. . . .”

Commandment V: “Get to know your senators. You won’t get a federal judgeship if a senator from your state objects” to you or your credentials.

Commandment VI: “Make friends on both sides of the aisle. . . .”

Commandment VII: “Ask a lot of people for favors. . . . Most people believe that the way to get ahead in politics is to do a lot of favors for others so they’ll owe you favors when you need help. In fact, people hate to pay back favors — it makes them feel cheap; anyway, they always think the favor you’re cashing in is worth lesss than the one you’re asking in return. . . .”

Commandment VIII: “Give credit where it is due — and especially where it is not. When you do achieve a measure of success . . . be sure to thank those who helped. . . .”

Commandment IX: “Do your level best at whatever job is entrusted to you. Political assignments are not merely stepping stones; they are important jobs in themselves. . . . [And] if you disappoint someone who has helped you, don’t expect that person’s help again.”

Commandment X: “Don’t be daunted. . . There’s a fine line between being persistent and being a pest; don’t crosss it, but get close to it.”

So if one follows those ten commandments, will they work? Well, “you’ll have a very good shot” wrote Kozinski, provided you have a “modicum of intelligence and common sense.” And, of course, a kindly nod from Fortuna is always helpful.

* * *  *

 Twenty Years Later — A Few Followup Questions 

Most judges leave politics behind when they take the bench. — Judge Alex Kozinski (7-18-15)

In 1981-1982 Alex Kozinski served as the first U.S. Special Counsel; he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Thereafter, he was nominated to be Chief Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims. In 2002 he spoke at a conference celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the US Court of Federal Claims. On that occasion he said: 

My acquaintance with the new court started one day while riding the Metro during the spring of 1982. In those days, I used to read U.S. Law Week religiously, even the boring parts at the end where they reported on new legislation and such stuff. I was getting near my stop – it was Farragut North in those days – when I came across a new statute called the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982. Yeah right, I thought. How can one possibly improve the federal courts? But, as I read on my eyes opened wide: 

The Act created two new courts, the Federal Circuit and the United States Claims Court. I glossed quickly over the Federal Circuit; too ambitious, I thought. Maybe in three years or so I could think about becoming a circuit judge. But the Claims Court retained my interest. The Act provided that the President would be appointing all the judges of that court – fifteen in all – and, most interesting to me, he would also be designating the court’s chief judge. “Shezam!,” I thought to myself. That’s my job! 

Over the next couple of weeks I spent considerable time on the phone calling everyone I knew in the White House and Justice Department, explaining to them why I’d be the ideal candidate to be chief judge of the Claims Court. In truth, I don’t remember what I said, because I can’t think of anyone less suited for that position. In addition to knowing nothing about the court, I knew nothing about trials.

In 1985, after having served on that court and when he was 35, President Reagan nominated Kozinski to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was confirmed: 54 to 43.   

Question: Did you follow your own advice? Be honest!

Kozinski: For the most part. I’d probably do a better job on some of them today — like making more friends with people on the other side of the political fence.

Question: Your 10 “commandments” speak mostly to the prospect of being nominated to be a federal judge. Do you have any additional advice — e.g., dos and don’ts — on how best to weather confirmation hearings?

Kozinski: Try answering questions by using baseball metaphors.

Question: If Judge Robert Bork had taken you’re advice, starting from when he was 25 in 1952, would he have had a “very good shot” at becoming a Supreme Court Justice?

Kozinski:  With my advice he’d have certainly become a Justice.

Question: The political atmosphere today seems different from what it was twenty years ago when you wrote your article.  It seems more polarized. No? If so, how does that affect your “get into politics”/ “make friends on both sides of the aisle” maxims?

Kozinski: Those maxims are probably more relevant now than ever.

Question: Can you give an example of when persistence turns into annoyance?

Kozinski: When you persist by trying the same (failed) strategy over and over again. To avoid annoyance you have to be imaginative in your persistence.

Question: Tell us more about the art of asking favors of others so that they do not feel exploited.

Kozinski: Appeal to their better nature. Make no promises as to how you would vote on cases or issues. Be dignified. And don’t overreach. Most important of all, promise to reciprocate when you’re in a position to do so.

Question: Say more about what you meant when you said “give credit . . . where it is not” due.

Kozinski: Let’s say you ask 10 people for help and you then find out that only one or two made a difference.  The rest either didn’t try or were ineffective. Never mind — they all get 100 percent of the credit:  “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Question: You claim that “judging is not a partisan political process.” Are you speaking of the ideal of appellate judging or the reality of such judging? It seems that many people now just assume that such judging is partisan.

Kozinski: Not in my experience. Most judges leave politics behind when they take the bench. Of course, your philosophy stays with you, and that will inform you decisions-making. Sometimes that looks like politics, but it’s not.

Question: Mindful of what you say in “Commandments” 6-8, can you tell us the names of some of the people whose help made a difference in you getting nominated to be a Circuit judge?

Kozinski: I probably shouldn’t mention names without their consent, but there are many names you’d recognize.

Question: Given how confirmation hearings are conducted in the post-Bork era, just how candid do you think that a judicial nominee can be in answering senator’s questions? Isn’t the name of the game to be as evasive as possible? Or not?  What is your sense of this?

Kozinski: Yes, total candor is probably best left for private conversations. Always follow the three rules of  live in Washington:

  1. Don’t say it if you don’t want to see it quoted in the Washington Post.
  2. Don’t do it if you don’t want to be asked about it during your confirmation hearings, and
  3. If you can eat it and drink it in a single sitting, it’s not a bribe.

Question: What do you think of an 11th “Commandment”: Whatever else you do, avoid writing anything on any potentially controversial topic (e.g. capital punishment, criminal justice, abortion, campaign finance, gay rights, women’s rights, corporate rights, environmental protection, etcetera).

Kozinski: I’m not so sure. You do have to do something to be noticed. Timidity may result in its own kind of failure.

Question: What is your sense of the A.B.A. committee that evaluates judicial nominees?

Kozinski:They gave me a hard time and eventually gave me a mixed Q/NQ rating. But they did let me get by, so I’m grateful.

purported sighting of the young Kozinski in a forest (credit: NBC News)

purported sighting of the young Kozinski in a forest  (credit: NBC News)

Question: Given your talents in advising young men and women on how to best secure a federal judgeship, do you have a few words of wisdom for law students who aspire to be law clerks for a federal judge?

Kozinski: Bust your buns; sleep little; read much; and take lots of practice exams.

Question: If your plans to be a judge had never panned out, what do you suppose you’d be doing today?

Kozinski: I would have been a lumberjack!


Flashback circa 2006 — First Amendment lawyers, scholars and journalists gather to discuss press freedoms & Espionage Act


20 July 2006, Newseum, Rosslyn, Virginia

In ascending order, from left to right:

Floyd Abrams, Jeffrey H. Smith, Robert Corn-Revere, Susan Buckley, Shelby Coffey,  Lee Levine, Geoffrey Stone, Sandra Baron, Lucy Dalglish, Ronald Collins, Tiffany Villager, David Hudson, Scott Armstrong, Stephen Vladeck, Harold Edgar, and Paul McMasters. 

The participants gathered for a First Amendment Center workshop on the Espionage Act and Press Freedoms. The workshop produced a book by Geoffrey Stone: Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps us in the Dark (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007) (foreword by Ron Collins & commentary by Stephen Vladeck).

Those were the days!


FAN 68.1 (First Amendment News) Wisconsin high court strikes down campaign finance laws in Walker dispute

As reported in the New York Times: “The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a criminal investigation into coordination between conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 campaign cannot continue. The decision of the court ends the specter of a criminal investigation as Mr. Walker pursues the Republican nomination for president. Mr. Walker, who has won three elections for governor over the last five years including a recall challenge in 2012, officially announced his bid on Monday.”

Today the Wisconsin Supreme Court handed down in ruling in Wisconsin v. Peterson, et alJustice Michael Gableman wrote the lead opinion. Justice David T. Prosser wrote a long concurring opinion in which Chief Justice Patience Drake Roggensack joined as to Sections IV and V of the opinion, and Justices Annette Kingsland Ziegler and Michael Gableman joined as to Section IV of the opinion. Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote an opinion concurring and dissenting in part. Justice Patrick Crooks likewise wrote an opinion concurring and dissenting in part. All tolled the various opinions came to 634 paragraphs. (Justice Ann Walsh Bradley did not participate).

The case concerned charges that Governor Scott Walker’s campaign team violated certain campaign finance laws during the 2012 recall elections by working in conjunction with dark money groups.

In relevant part, the Court declared:

To be clear, this conclusion ends the John Doe investigation because the special prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law.  Consequently, the investigation is closed.  Consistent with our decision and the order entered by Reserve Judge Peterson, we order that the special prosecutor and the district attorneys involved in this investigation must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.  All Unnamed Movants are relieved of any duty to cooperate further with the investigation.

It also added:

Our lengthy discussion of these three cases can be distilled into a few simple, but important, points.  It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.   In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a “perfect storm” of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them.  It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution.  Further, these brave individuals played a crucial role in presenting this court with an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation.

Over at the Election Law Blog, Professor Richard Hasen noted:

Today’s lengthy and contentious 4-2 ruling dividing the Court on partisan/ideological lines, from the Wisconsin Supreme Court ending the so-called “John Doe” probe is significant for three reasons: (1) it removes a cloud from the Scott Walker presidential campaign; (2) it guts, perhaps for years, the effectiveness of the state of Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws, and (3) it reenforces conservative beliefs that they are the victims of frightening harassment, a belief which is likely to lead conservative judges to strike more campaign laws.  The case also raises significant questions about judicial recusal which go unanswered, and provide one of two potential bases to seek U.S. Supreme Court review in this case. Still, high court review seems unlikely.

Check with the Election Law Blog as Professor Hasen has additional substantive comments on the case.