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- Lee E. Goodman, Chairman, Federal Election Commission
- William Cadigan, Member of the Illinois State Board of Elections
On Thursday July 16, 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an opinion and order ending the long running “John Doe” investigation into potential violations of Wisconsin campaign finance law and whether candidates and outside groups illegally “coordinated” spending. In mid-June of 2015, a young political consultant was sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison for illegally coordinating between a congressional campaign and a Super PAC. The U.S. Department of Justice also recently announced it will look carefully at allegations of coordination between candidate and outside groups. What does all of this mean? Where is the law heading on this? Are civil and criminal investigations into campaign activity going to be increasing?
On Jun 18, the U.S. Supreme Court decided two cases with free speech implications. In Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Court held that the speech involved in a specialty license plate was government speech, and the government can regulate its content. In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, the Court held that the content-based time, size and location regulation of a church's signage did not pass strict scrutiny. Our expert discussed the details of the opinions and took questions from the audience.
On June 18, 2015, the Supreme Court issued two highly anticipated decisions in free speech cases, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., and Reed v. Town of Gilbert.
Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. concerned two First Amendment issues: the first was whether content displayed on specialty license plates issued by the state is government speech immune from First Amendment prohibition on viewpoint discrimination; the second was whether Texas engaged in viewpoint discrimination when it rejected a specialty license plate design which included an image of a Confederate Flag.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that Texas’s specialty license plate designs constitute government speech, and Texas was therefore entitled to reject the design proposed by Sons of Confederate Veterans. The decision of the Fifth Circuit to the contrary was reversed. Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Breyer’s majority opinion. A dissenting opinion was filed by Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Kennedy.
Reed v. Town of Gilbert involved a First Amendment challenge to the sign code for Gilbert, Arizona, which imposes more stringent restrictions on signs directing the public to meetings of nonprofit groups--including churches--than on other signs. By a vote of 9-0, the Court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit (which had rejected the challenge) and remanded the case. Justice Thomas, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Sotomayor, held that the Code’s sign provisions were content-based restrictions of speech that could not survive strict scrutiny. Justice Alito also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Kennedy and Sotomayor. Justice Breyer filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.
To discuss the case, we have Professor Eugene Volokh, the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law.
On June 1, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Elonis v. United States. This case involves two questions. First, this case asks whether the First Amendment requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten in order to convict someone of threatening another person under 18 U.S. C. § 875(c), or whether it is sufficient to demonstrate that a “reasonable person” would consider the statement to be threatening. The second question in this case is whether, as a matter of statutory interpretation, conviction of another person requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten.
In an opinion delivered by the Chief Justice, the Court held that general intent is not sufficient to support a conviction under 18 U.S.C. 875(c) and that the imposition of criminal penalties under the statute requires proof of a “guilty mind.”
Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion for the Court was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Alito filed a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Thomas filed a dissent.
To discuss the case, we have Kent S. Scheidegger, Legal Director & General Counsel, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and John Elwood, Partner, Vinson & Elkins LLP.