On Friday, lower courts in Washington, DC handed down three significant rulings elaborating on the holdings of Citizens United and Heller.  As Lyle Denniston reported for this blog, in Speechnow.org v. FEC, the en banc DC Circuit extended the reasoning of Citizens United from campaign spending to campaign donations, holding unconstitutional a $5000 limit on donations to independent political groups (the "527s").  However, the court upheld requirements that such groups disclose their donors and financial information.  Dan Eggen of The Washington Post wrote that the decision "amounts to a mixed bag for beleaguered advocates of campaign-finance restrictions."  He later expanded upon his initial report.  ACSblog noted the decision, as did Ashby Jones at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and Jordan Weissman at the Blog of LegalTimes.  Eugene Volokh opined that the decision to strike down these contribution limits "[s]ounds quite right to me, and entirely consistent with the Court"™s past jurisprudence on the right to expressive association."

In Republican National Committee v. FEC, a three-judge panel of the DC District Court upheld the federal ban on "soft money" "“ that is, unlimited "“ donations to political parties.  As Lyle Denniston reported for this blog, the district court wrote that the plaintiffs were "asking us to overrule McConnell [v. FEC]"™s holding with respect to the ban on soft-money contributions to national political parties.  As a lower court, we of course have no authority to do so."  Adam Liptak reported on both cases for The New York Times, as did David Savage for The Los Angeles Times and Jess Bravin for the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). 

Heller v. District of Columbia was also decided on Friday by the DC District Court (and covered by Lyle Denniston here).  In this sequel to the Supreme Court case of the same name from the 2007 term, the plaintiff challenged the gun control laws enacted by the District of Columbia in the aftermath of the Court"™s decision in Heller.  Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled that the new restrictions "“ requiring all guns to be registered, and banning assault weapons and large capacity magazines "“ could withstand constitutional scrutiny, as they were designed to do.  Maria Glod of The Washington Post and John Schwarz of The New York Times reported on the decision.  The Blog of LegalTimes also noted the decision, including reactions by gun control advocates and the DC Attorney General.  At The Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh wrote that the court "reached the right answer on the constitutional question, at least insofar as we"™re talking about the right to keep and bear arms in self-defense," but that "the analytical structure, I think, is mistaken."

Several outlets also provided previews of the cases before the Court this week.  Paula Reed-Ward of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on the history of Dillon v. United States, in which a sentence for selling crack cocaine was reduced below the Federal Guidelines minimum.  She includes an interview with Mr. Dillon.  At The Conglomerate, Hannah Buxbaum writes that in Morrison v. National Australia Bank, "the Court will have to deal with the same problem it has addressed in the antitrust context, among others — how to balance the interest in regulating cross-border misconduct with the interest in preserving harmony with foreign regulatory systems."

Briefly:

  • CSPAN broadcast a recording of the recent event at which Justices Breyer and Scalia discussed their judicial philosophies.
  • The editorial board of The New York Times offered its endorsement of Goodwin Liu"™s nomination to the Ninth Circuit.
  • At Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald attempted to refute the perception that Cass Sunstein is favored by "the Left" for a Supreme Court nomination.
  • Judge Mary Murguia of the federal District Court of Arizona was nominated to the Ninth Circuit.  The Blog of LegalTimes offered some background on Judge Murguia.
  • The Boston Globe reported on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court"™s retroactive application of Melendez-Diaz to drug trials held from 2005 to 2009.
  • FoxNews.com reported that Republicans are disputing Democratic charges that they have been unfairly or unusually obstructing President Obama"™s judicial nominees.

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