In this new series, we will attempt to explore the main characters evolving around the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision. Each “card” will represent a character who symbolize one aspect of the Citizen United case.
These characters in fact are either directly linked to the case or are acting against or in favor of it. The full consequences of that decision still have to be determined as the 2012 Presidential campaign is still very much in its beginning. Yet, we can already evaluate the tremendous impact that Super PACs have on campaigns and political communication.
JOHN G. ROBERTS | 17th Chief Justice of the United States
On june 25, 2012 the Supreme Court declined to revisit its Citizens United decision, the court summarily reversed a decision of the Montana Supreme Court that had upheld a state law limiting independent political spending by corporations. That decision, the United States Supreme Court said, was flatly at odds with Citizens United, which said the First Amendment allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they like to support or oppose political candidates. (Read more on the NYT)
John G. Roberts can certainly be considered as the architect behind the Citizens United v. FEC decision. As Jeffrey Toobin explains in The New Yorker on May 21, 2012 :
When Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was first argued before the Supreme Court, on March 24, 2009, it seemed like a case of modest importance. The issue before the Justices was a narrow one When Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was first argued before the Supreme Court, on March 24, 2009, it seemed like a case of modest importance. (…) Citizens United is a distinctive product of the Roberts Court. The decision followed a lengthy and bitter behind-the-scenes struggle among the Justices that produced both secret unpublished opinions and a rare reargument of a case. The case, too, reflects the aggressive conservative judicial activism of the Roberts Court.
John G. Roberts was nominated by former President Georges W. Bush on September 29, 2005 after Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died on September 3, 2005.
During his confirmation hearings, Roberts said that he did not have a comprehensive jurisprudential philosophy, and he did “not think beginning with an all-encompassing approach to constitutional interpretation is the best way to faithfully construe the document”. Roberts analogized judges to baseball umpires: “It’s my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat.”
This Originalist approach of the law contrast with the method and the view expressed by John G. Roberts in the Citizens United decision. This questions the position of the Supreme Court and the influence of John G. Roberts :
They feel that the Court was not playing fair in characterizing precedents. This cynicism is precisely what Chief Justice Roberts pledged to avoid when he was elevated to the High Court. As someone who continues to wish the Chief Justice well, I hope that he will in time achieve his original vision of collegiality and minimalism. To do so, the Court must characterize precedents in terms all of the Justices can accept. ( Jeffrey Rosen, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy)
No doubt that the Citizens United v. FEC decision is the result of Roberts and subsequently Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vision. The impact on the elections - the locals, States, or Federal ones - would have been much less.
Next post : Barack Obama