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A very modest request for time

If ten minutes of oral argument time is enough to say something meaningful to the Supreme Court, could the same be done in one minute?  A pair of groups seeking to speak on behalf of the citizenry is testing that question, asking the Court to give their attorney “as long as one minute” to argue in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (08-205), the campaign finance case that has  now spawned a major constitutional controversy.

In  a motion filed Aug. 18, an attorney for the Wyoming Liberty Group and Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation sought that bit of time to join in the hearing scheduled for Sept. 9.

Ten minutes, of course, is the usual time the Court allots for participation in oral argument by someone other than one of the main parties — usually, an amicus.   The plea for one-tenth as much time is extremely rare, if not unprecedented.

Noting that the Court has agreed to allow lawyers for present and former members of Congress to take part in the Sept. 9 argument, Washington attorney Benjamin Barr said citizens should get in on it, too.  “Allowing the powerful few to speak while denying citizens the same ability attenuates healthy debate that this Court so depends upon as a chamber of justice,” his motion said.

Barr indicated he wanted a role in order to attack the FEC for ways in which it has “misinterpreted” campaign finance law, and has “beffuddled or contradicted itself on key free speech principles.”