US Supreme Court Strikes Down AZ Campaign Finance Law
In a 5-4 vote yesterday, the US Supreme Court struck down as an unconstitutional violation of free speech a provision in an Arizona public campaign finance law that gives additional public funds to a candidate who adheres to personal spending limits of $500, agrees to participate in at least one debate, will return unspent money, and faces a high-spending opponent who does not accept public funds. The extra funding depends upon the amount spent by an opponent candidate. The law, the result of a 1998 ballot initiative following a bribery scandal in Arizona involving state legislators, aimed to "level the playing field" for candidates who accept public funds in their campaigns. The decision will likely discourage candidates, many of whom are women, from accepting public funding for fear that they will be greatly outspent by self-financed opponents.
This case involves the fifth campaign finance law struck down by the Roberts Court in a 5-4 decision. This is the first campaign-finance decision to go before the Supreme Court since the Citizens United case last year, in which the Roberts Court ruled 5-4 that corporations are people and struck down limiting independent election spending by corporations and unions.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr., and Anthony Kennedy, contended that the Arizona law violates the First Amendment rights of candidates who choose to self-finance their campaign and/or raise private money. However, Justice Elena Kagan, who was joined in dissent by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer, defended the Arizona law stating, "By providing more resources to many candidates, [the law] creates more speech and thereby broadens public debate....Less corruption, more speech. Robust campaigns leading to the election of representatives not beholden to the few, but accountable to the many. The people of Arizona might have expected a decent respect for those objectives."
Media Resources: New York Times 6/27/11; Los Angeles Times 6/27/11
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .
10/30/2014 North Dakota Medical Students Speak Out Against Measure 1 - Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall.
The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against "the government's taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens." Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the "very broad and ambiguous language" used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies.
Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an "inalienable right to life" for humans "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. . . .