A Victory For Free Speech

The Supreme Court has issued its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and it has come down on the side of the First Amendment.

The case arises from a Citizens United documentary which portrayed Hillary Clinton in a very negative light.  The FEC barred Citizens United from airing television commercials promoting  the documentary within thirty days of the presidential primaries – a provision of McCain-Feingold.

By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.

Critics of the stricter limits have argued that they amount to an unconstitutional restraint of free speech, and the court majority apparently agreed.

“The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion, joined by his four more conservative colleagues.

However, Justice John Paul Stevens, dissenting from the main holding, said, “The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.”

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined Stevens’ dissent, parts of which he read aloud in the courtroom.

The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

The Wise Latina ruled against free speech in her first high-profile decision as a Supreme Court Justice.  How utterly predictable.

New Haven Firefighters Finally Get Their Promotions

No thanks to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Hat tip: smokefire

NEW HAVEN — Frank Ricci, a firefighter whose name became synonymous with a six-year legal fight for a promotion he believed was improperly denied, received his lieutenant’s badge Thursday.

He was joined by 13 other members of the so-called New Haven 20.

In the audience, the lawyer who brought their case to the U.S. Supreme Court sat in the front row, wiping away tears as her clients walked by.

“The important thing to remember is 14 plaintiffs are getting their badges today, but it took 20 to make history,” Ricci said Thursday afternoon as he prepared to march into the packed auditorium at Wilbur Cross High School.

The Ricci case was the sixth Wise Latina decision to be flipped by the Supreme Court.

Will the real Sotomayor please stand up?

Sonia Sotomayor did the moonwalk away from her controversial statements at today’s confirmation hearing.  Eva Rodriguez of the Washington Post provides a withering assessment of Sotomayor’s performance.

Sotomayor’s most quoted comment is, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male.” Under often very effective questioning by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she essentially disavowed her statement. She explained that she was trying to play off of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s assertion that a wise old man and a wise old woman should be able to reach the same conclusion in a case. “My play…fell flat,” Sotomayor said in response to Session’s question. “It was bad, because it left an impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that’s clearly not what I do as a judge.”

I wonder which of the five times she made the statement was she referring to at today’s hearing.

Here’s another disturbing exchange, in which Sessions asks about another of Sotomayor’s assertions in speeches that life experiences may affect a judge’s view of the facts in a case:

SOTOMAYOR: “It’s not a question of choosing to see some facts or another, Senator. I didn’t intend to suggest that. And in the wider context, what I believe I was — the point I was making was that our life experiences do permit us to see some facts and understand them more easily than others.”SESSIONS: “Do you stand by your statement that my experiences affect the facts I choose to see?”

SOTOMAYOR: “No, sir. I don’t stand by the understanding of that statement that I will ignore other facts or other experiences because I haven’t had them. I do believe that life experiences are important to the process of judging. They help you to understand and listen but that the law requires a result. And it would command you to the facts that are relevant to the disposition of the case.”

As for the second half of her response, I wish Sessions had followed up by asking how a jurist would determine the “relevant” facts in a case in light of Sotomayor’s assertion that life experiences can affect how a judge views a case.

Sotomayor’s initial response (“what I believe I was – the point I was making”) reeks of a nominee who’s been prepped exhaustively in how to deflect possibly damaging questions. Most people don’t have to recall what they “believe” they meant; they just say it.

Updated with video of Lindsey Graham taking Sotomayor to task.