Citizens United

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 21, 2010

My quick reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling is that it is quite reassuring to see that the Supreme Court is dedicated to the principle of free speech, even if some in Congress are not. There was never any reason whatsoever to treat corporate speech differently from individual speech, of course. While the way the Justices lined up on the case was somewhat confusing, it is fair to say that there was something significant about the limits on corporate speech that most of the Justices simply did not like, given the state of First Amendment law. This fact ought to be noted by Congress, in any effort to craft legislation to curb the impact of the Court’s opinion.

To the extent that the Congressional majority disregards the Court’s defense of a robust First Amendment, Republicans in the Senate–aided by the arrival of Senator-elect Scott Brown–ought to filibuster any effort to renew or revive limits on speech. And hopefully, John McCain–who sought to author much of the unjustified limits on political speech–will either see the light, or feel the heat, and join Republicans in resisting efforts to scale back the extent of the Court’s defense of the First Amendment.

UPDATE: Justice Stevens wrote the dissent in Citizens United, which means, of course, that he is not in favor of free speech when it comes to corporations. Eugene Volokh picks his dissent apart. An excellent, and highly informative read. And of course, Justice Stevens completely failed to answer Professor Volokh’s question: If ordinary business corporations lack First Amendment rights, per Justice Stevens’s dissent, why wouldn’t media corporations lack First Amendment rights as well?

The thought that media corporations lack First Amendment rights is truly absurd. Yet the logic behind Justice Stevens’s dissent suggests just that. If one can deny corporations protection under the Free Speech Clause, one can easily deny them protection under the Free Press Clause.

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