- Professor John McGinnis, Northwestern Law
- Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulis?, Chicago Law
On November 4, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Shapiro v. McManus. In this case several Maryland citizens sued state election officials claiming that a 2011 redistricting plan violated their rights to political association and equal representation under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Although federal law normally requires such claims to be heard by a three-judge federal court, a single judge dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether a single-judge federal district court may determine that a claim governed by the Three-Judge Court Act is insubstantial, and that three judges therefore are not required--not because it concludes that the complaint is wholly frivolous, but because it concludes that the complaint fails to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
To discuss the case, we have Michael T. Morley, who is Assistant Professor at Barry University School of Law.
If we accept the premise that government, and government power, is growing, then the stakes for elective office have never been higher. With the levers of power at stake, are we seeing an increase in the use of the criminal justice system to attack legitimate political activity? Or are we perhaps seeing the proper policing of increased fraud and abuse by those in the political sphere? In a media climate in which a mere investigation can be fatal to a political campaign or career, what actions are political and what actions are criminal, and who should decide?
Criminal Law: Free Speech, Anti-Corruption, and the Criminalization of Government Affairs
12:00 noon – 2:15 p.m.
The Mayflower Hotel
On March 25, 2015 the Supreme Court decided Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, which was consolidated with Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama.
These cases ask whether Alabama's 2012 legislative redistricting plans classify black voters by race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge federal district court rejected plaintiffs’ challenge to the redistricting plan. By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court vacated that decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court determined that the district court made four key errors: (1) treating the racial gerrymandering claim as referring to the State “as a whole,” rather than district-by-district; (2) finding that the Alabama Democratic Conference lacked standing.; (3) improperly calculating “predominance” in the alternative holding that “[r]ace was not the predominant motivating factor” in the creation of any of the challenged districts; and (4) concluding that “the [challenged] Districts would satisfy strict scrutiny.”
Justice Breyer's opinion for the Court was joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Scalia filed a dissent, which was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas and Alito. Justice Thomas also filed a separate dissent.
To discuss the case, we have Stephen Davis, who is an associate at the Washington, D.C. office of Arent Fox.
The National Constitution Center, the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society presented this debate on Citizens United. Professor Anthony Johnstone, argued in favor of the resolution and Professor John McGinnis argued against the resolution. Jeffrey Rosen, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, moderated the program.
This debate was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
May 12, 2015
The opinions expressed in this debate are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.