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Wednesday round-up

Last Thursday’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC continues to be the overwhelming focus of Supreme Court coverage and commentary.  Dominating the most recent news cycle are comments made by former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at Georgetown University Law Center and on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”  The New York Times, NPR, the Washington Post, and ABC News report that Justice O’Connor regards the ruling as a “problem for maintaining an independent judiciary.”  O’Connor remarked on the Court itself: “‘Gosh, I step away for a couple of years and there’s no telling what’s going to happen.’”  Bob Barnes of the Washington Post also takes note of her exchange with Wolf Blitzer about the Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore: “‘Was that the right decision?’ Blitzer asked. ‘I don’t know,’ O’Connor said. ‘It was a hard decision to make.’”

Politico reports that President Obama will address the Citizens United decision in his State of the Union address tonight, urging Congress to restrict foreign companies from getting involved in federal elections.  NPR explores what impact the ruling could have on minority politicians.  In a New York Times op-ed, Jan Witold Baran predicts that the substantive impact of Citizens United will not be on elections themselves but “on further legislative meddling with campaign speech.”  Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel agrees that the practical effect of the ruling will be limited, citing Florida’s experience with permissive campaign finance laws governing state elections.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres propose that Congress “target the very large class [of companies] that does business with the federal government and ban those companies from ‘endorsing or opposing a candidate for public office.’”  Ackerman suggests another response to Citizens United in the Wall Street Journal (with co-author David Wu). Ackerman and Wu argue that “[e]ach American should get a refundable federal tax credit of $50 that they can use to make contributions to federal candidates during presidential years, and a suitably smaller sum during off-year federal elections” in order to “overwhelm the sums that corporations are likely to spend under the recent Supreme Court decision.”

ACSblog adds two more installments to its debate on the constitutional rights of corporations between David Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center and Michael Greve of the American Enterprise Institute.  The Huffington Post also has reactions to Citizens United from Madeleine Kunin, a former governor of Vermont, Karl Frisch of Media Matters for America, and Joel Epstein, a consultant to the Annenberg Foundation.

Citizens United has even attracted the attention of comedians.  The Daily Show featured a segment on the decision, and Funny or Die imagines President Obama’s reaction to the ruling.

Not all coverage of the Court yesterday was about Citizens United, of course. The Court’s refusal to block Manuel Noriega’s extradition to France—covered in yesterday’s New York Times and Washington Post—generated some commentary from bloggers.  Michael Dorf praises Justice Thomas’s dissent from the denial of certiorari, writing that “[w]hat I admire about Justice Thomas’s Noriega dissent is that he presents the legal issues without even hinting that he thinks the underlying claim is meritless.”  At the Volokh Conspiracy, Kenneth Anderson offers a historical perspective on the Noriega saga, gleaned from his involvement in earlier proceedings on behalf of Human Rights Watch.


  • According to the Hollywood Reporter, NBC has picked up a pilot, tentatively called “Justice,” about a Supreme Court justice who leaves the Court to start his own legal practice.
  • The Wall Street Journal examines states’ responses to last Term’s ruling in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., which found a judge’s participation in a case involving a major donor to the judge’s election campaign to be unconstitutional.  Nathan Koppel writes that “some states are reluctant to force judges to disqualify themselves from cases solely because they have received large contributions.”
  • The BLT highlights a cert. petition filed Friday on behalf of an assistant U.S. attorney asking the Court to grant review to consider whether prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity when working with grand juries.
  • NPR has a story on Vicki Behringer, a courtroom sketch artist who welcomed the Court’s decision to block the video broadcast of the Proposition 8 trial in San Francisco.
  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler takes issue with Adam Liptak’s recent column on Justice Stevens in the New York Times.