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Campaign finance hearing expanded

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to expand its Sept. 9 argument on constitutional issues affecting corporations’ spending on federal election campaigns, adding 20 minutes to the schedule to allow lawyers for members of Congress to take part. The argument in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (08-205) will now run for a scheduled 80 minutes.  The action was taken as the Court issued its second round of summer orders, during its recess; Monday’s orders can be found here.

The Court’s newest Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, took part in the Court’s action on the argument schedule.  This was the first time she had cast any votes as a member of the Court; she took her oaths and began work on Saturday, Aug. 8.

As a result of the argument’s expansion, lawyers for the advocacy group Citizens United will have 30 minutes to argue, the FEC 30 minutes, four present or former members of Congress who were sponsors of major campaign legislation will have 10 minutes, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, an opponent of limits on campaign finance, will have 10 minutes.  Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., would have the option of expanding the argument beyond 80 minutes as the hearing proceeds, if that seems appropriate.

The Court is hearing the case in advance of the formal opening of the new Term on Monday, Oct. 5.  That is because the case is considered to be a part of the Court Term that informally ended on June 29.

Besides expanding the Citizens United argument time, the Court on Monday agreed to divide the argument in Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter (08-678), now scheduled for argument at 1 p.m. on opening day, Oct. 5.  The case tests the right to appeal when a court has ordered the disclosure of attorney-client communications.  The U.S. Solicitor General, entering the case in support of Carpenter, was allowed to divide time on that side of the case.

In an order included with Monday’s list, Justice Sotomayor was assigned duties as Circuit Justice for the Tenth Circuit.  (The Second Circuit, on which she had sat previously,  remains assigned to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.)  Some of the other assignments have changed with the arrival of Sotomayor.


By tradition, the Chief Justice has the D.C. Circuit, the Fourth Circuit, and the Federal Circuit.  Justice Stephen G. Breyer is Circuit Justice for the First — a Court on which he formerly sat.  Justice Ginsburg keeps the Second.  Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., has the Third — a Court on which he formerly sat, and continues on the Eighth; Justice Antnin Scalia retains  the Fifth Circuit; Justice John Paul Stevens (the senior Associate Justice) has the Sixth and Seventh Circuits (he formerly sat on the Seventh); Justice Anthony M. Kennedy continues on the Ninth — a Court on which he formerly sat; and Justice Clarence Thomas retains the Eleventh Circuit.

Roberts, Ginsburg, Scalia and Thomas formerly sat on the D.C. C ircuit.   There is no necessity that a Justice have an assignment for the Circuit in which he or she formerly served, but that is a common practice (except for the traditional assignments that always go to the Chief Justice).