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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down campaign finance restrictions. What is your reaction to this decision? (The Hill, 01/22/10)
Thomas E. Mann, senior fellow of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institue: "It makes a mockery of Chief Justice Roberts’ pious statements during his confirmation hearing before Congress about his embrace of judicial modesty and constitutional avoidance. His concurring decision fashioned to answer this expected criticism strikes this reader as defensive and lame. This decision constitutes a dramatic change in law yet nothing has changed to produce it other than the composition of the Court. Sadly, deliberation on the Court is becoming as ideologically driven as that in Congress."

EDITORIAL: Campaign floodgates already open; The High Court’s campaign spending ruling is sweeping (Register Guard [OR], 01/22/10)
"notable is evidence of the court majority’s willingness to paint with broad legal strokes, reversing long-standing precedents and established law, pointing toward an era of conservative judicial activism.... the court’s majority clearly has staked a claim to an activist role. The decision shows neither reverence for precedent nor deference to the legislative branch of government. On Thursday, the court’s majority — perhaps sensing that one more appointment by President Obama would foreclose its opportunity — may have signaled a readiness to set restraint aside. Complaints about judicial activism, long a staple of conservative commentary, are likely to become muted as the court asserts its power for conservative purposes."

Editorial: Government by the people, RIP (Detroit Free Press [MI] , 01/22/10)
"Astonishingly, five U.S. Supreme Court justices ... delusional premise has become the basis for a radical and dangerous reversal of judicial precedent."

Editorial: A game changer: The high court's ruling on corporations and political spending is what quaintly used to be called legislating from the bench. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [WI], 01/22/10)
"During confirmation hearings Chief Justice John Roberts indicated a reverence for precedent. That was then. On Thursday, Roberts, joining the four other conservative justices in a 5-4 vote, made it clear that this was simply an expedient."

Conservatives embrace judicial activism in campaign finance ruling: The Supreme Court's decision in favor of corporate spending in elections makes previous rhetoric laughable. (Los Angeles Times, 01/22/10)
Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky: "The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision holding that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of money in election campaigns is a stunning example of judicial activism by its five most conservative justices. In striking down a federal statute and explicitly overturning prior decisions, the court has changed the nature of elections in the United States. At the same time, the conservative justices have demonstrated that decades of conservative criticism of judicial activism was nonsense. Conservative justices are happy to be activists when it serves their ideological agenda."

Editorial: Talk about judicial activism (Scranton Times-Tribune [PA], 01/22/10)
"A decision by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court, however, is a breathtaking exercise in judicial activism."

Money talks. And buys votes in Congress (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 01/22/10)
Cynthia Tucker: "Lobbyists and their money have corrupted the American political process, legally buying members of Congress.... That trend will just grow worse with yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling."

Our View: Power to the ... unions and corporations: 'Activist' Supreme Court overturns 100 years of precedent to open spigot of campaign spending. (Merced Sun-Star [CA] , 01/22/10)
"The 5-4 majority made up of supposedly conservative justices took a decidedly activist stand, applying the same First Amendment that individuals enjoy to corporations and labor unions."

Editorial: Justices Strike Down Campaign Finance Laws; Money talks, high court rules (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 01/22/10)
"Five robed radicals on the Supreme Court have pushed money-infused politics in the wrong direction by overturning a century's worth of campaign spending laws....The five-member majority didn't just blaze new ground; it torched the court's own past record."

Editorial: Coming soon: More attack ads: COURT RULING MAY UNLEASH POLITICAL SPENDING BY BUSINESS, OTHERS  (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 01/22/10)
"The 5-4 majority made up of conservative justices took a decidedly activist stand"

Our view: Corporations free to speak over public voice (Town Talk [LA], 01/22/10)
"the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned 20 years of campaign finance regulations, unleashing corporations to wield unprecedented control over U.S. elections....Trust has just walked out the door."

Editorial: Big biz, 1 People, 0 (Hays Daily News [KS], 01/22/10)
"The Supreme Court was wrong to toss out the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill ...The financial juggernaut that's about to be unleashed in campaigns will be insufferable. The American public is the big loser with this decision. "

Citizens ruling: an intellectually dishonest power grab (Washington Post, 01/22/10)
Ruth Marcus: "In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty....It was unnecessary for the court to go so far when there were several less-radical grounds available. It was audacious to seize the opportunity to overrule precedents when the parties had not pressed this issue and the lower courts not considered it. It was the height of activism to usurp the judgments of Congress and state legislatures about how best to prevent corruption of the political process.... As bad as the court's activism, though, was its shoddy scholarship."

Editorial: Our View: Court ruling a troubling turn (Norwich Bulletin [CT] , 01/22/10)
"The U.S. Supreme Court decision this week allowing corporations and unions to freely pump as much money as they want into political campaigns is a major step backward in efforts to curtail special interest influence on the political process."

Campaign finance ruling reflects Supreme Court's growing audacity (Washington Post, 01/22/10)
Michael Waldman: "deeply significant is what this shows about the court and its relationship to the Obama administration and Congress. ...The Citizens United decision suggests an assertive court, eager to overturn precedent, looming as a challenge to President Obama's agenda. ... he court boldly reached to consider a major constitutional case when it didn't have to. ... Health care, climate change, financial reregulation, the auto bailout -- all heighten government's role in the economy. The Citizens United ruling suggests the court may smile on even the most audacious conservative legal theories, such as those alleging that regulations are an improper taking by the government. And it shows an unsettling eagerness to overturn precedent in line with ideological predilection."

Editorial: Campaigns up for sale (Boston Herald, 01/22/10)
"the court on a 5-4 vote overturned not simply a major section of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, but also a 63-year-old law.... In the interest of, as Chief Justice John Roberts put it, not restraining “the vibrant public discourse that is at the foundation of our democracy,” the court has thrown open the floodgates for special interests."

Editorial: Company cash: Flooding into politics? (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 01/22/10)
four right-wing justices -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and John Roberts -- persuaded moderate Anthony Kennedy to join them in allowing corporate campaign cash, on the pretext that company spending is "free speech."

Editorial: Supreme Court favors corporations over voters (Advocate [Stamford-Norwalk, CT], 01/22/10)
"by elevating corporate influence to a shout, Thursday's 5-4 ruling diminishes the voice of average people to a relative whisper. We disagree with the high court's prevailing opinion that injecting billions of big-business bucks into election campaigns represents democracy in action."

How the Roberts Court Announced its Coup in September (Talking Points Memo, 01/22/10)
Jim Sleeper: "Citizens United was never about "freedom of speech." It was never about "censorship." Ever since it was taken up by the Roberts Court, it has always been about judicial radicals' determination to give corporations "rights" a free people should never give them."

Editorial: Court's campaign ruling threatens the public interest: Our view: It's hard to see what good can come from unleashing companies, unions.  (USA Today, 01/22/10)
"the 5-4 majority abandoned judicial modesty and overturned all or part of two previous decisions, including a 2003 ruling that declared the ban was "firmly embedded in our law.""

Citizens United: What Happens Next? (Huffington Post, 01/21/10)
Rick Hasen: "Today's Supreme Court opinion marks a very bad day for American democracy, and one that was totally avoidable. Make no mistake: the Supreme Court had ample ways (I count at least six) to have avoided deciding the issues in the case."

Editorial: The Court’s Blow to Democracy (New York Times, 01/21/10)
"With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century....This issue should never have been before the court. The justices overreached and seized on a case involving a narrower, technical question ... Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., no doubt aware of how sharply these actions clash with his confirmation-time vow to be judicially modest and simply “call balls and strikes,” wrote a separate opinion trying to excuse the shameless judicial overreaching."

Corporations are not people; money is not speech (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 01/21/10)
Jay Bookman: Today’s Supreme Court ruling is an Alice in Wonderland exercise. The five-justice majority reached the outcome it sought — an outcome that greatly expands the legal rights and political power of corporations — by trying to redefine basic reality. No matter what the Court majority may prefer to argue or believe, corporations are not people and money is not speech. They simply are not. ... To rule that Congress cannot limit the rights of corporations that are invented by man and controlled by man — to endow those legal fictions with the same natural rights as living, human beings — is absurd. To claim the U.S. Constitution as the basis for that ruling is an outright fabrication."

Citizens United: The Problem Isn't the Law, It's the Court (Huffington Post, 01/21/10)
Doug Kendall: "As overwhelmingly demonstrated by Justice John Paul Stevens' breathtaking dissent -- read aloud from the bench and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor -- today's ruling is startlingly activist and plainly contrary to constitutional text and history.... A progressive long-term strategy to put the Supreme Court back on track is particularly fitting, given that today's ruling is the result of a long-term conservative plan to change the Court to serve corporations' interests"

Who's activist now? In election spending case, conservatives (McClatchy newspapers, 01/21/10)
Michael Doyle: "The 5-4 ruling exposes how the court's stark ideological divide is stronger than Chief Justice John G. Roberts' stated fealty to precedence and consensus building. It's a markedly activist decision, going well beyond what the justices were asked to do.... Ironically, the 57-page opinion that united the court's conservative wing might also provide ammunition for critics of "activist" judges.... League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski quickly warned the ruling "will open the floodgates for oil companies like Exxon to spend vast sums of money to influence the outcome of federal elections.""

The Pinocchio ProjectWatching as the Supreme Court turns a corporation into a real live boy. (Slate Magazine, 01/21/10)
Dahlia Lithwick: "The court had to reach out far beyond any place it needed to go to strike down century-old restrictions on corporate spending in federal elections....Even former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist once warned that treating corporate spending as the First Amendment equivalent of individual free speech is "to confuse metaphor with reality." Today that metaphor won a very real victory at the Supreme Court."

Money GrubbersThe Supreme Court kills campaign finance reform. (Slate Magazine, 01/21/10)
Richard L. Hasen: "It is time for everyone to drop all the talk about the Roberts court's "judicial minimalism," with Chief Justice Roberts as an "umpire" who just calls balls and strikes. Make no mistake, this is an activist court that is well on its way to recrafting constitutional law in its image."

Editorial: Restoring Access to the Courts  (New York Times, 12/22/09)
"In a lamentable 5-to-4 decision earlier this year, the Supreme Court discarded 50 years of legal precedent to make it significantly harder for Americans to assert their legal rights in federal court....The court altered the procedural rules for initiating a lawsuit, raising the bar in a fashion destined to make it far harder to bring valid actions and to allow wrongdoers to avoid accountability....It is the responsibility of Congress to reopen the courthouse doors."

Editorial: Clean Water: Still Elusive  (New York Times, 10/21/09)
"Two misguided Supreme Court decisions have forced the E.P.A. to use precious resources to resolve jurisdictional disputes over its authority to protect wetlands and small streams."