Posts Tagged ‘campaign regulation’

Free speech roundup

  • Those who want to protect American university life from mob intimidation, speak now or forever hold your peace [Conor Friedersdorf on Yale and Missouri incidents, Greg Lukianoff on Yale, Thom Lambert on Missouri; more on Missouri; John Samples/Cato] “Sorry, kids, the First Amendment does protect ‘hate speech'” [Michael McGough, L.A. Times]
  • #ExxonKnew folks, please listen: “engaging in scientific research and public advocacy shouldn’t be crimes in a free country. Using the criminal law to shame and encumber companies that do so is a dangerous arrogation of power.” [Bloomberg View editorial, earlier here, etc.]
  • Judge orders Facebook post taken down as campaign contribution improper under Colorado law; while target of enforcement was public charter school, logic of ruling could extend to entirely private entities as well [Megan Geuss, ArsTechnica]
  • Did anyone really not see this coming? Hate speech laws give authorities powerful weapon with which to crack down on speech by critics and minorities [Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason, on Kenya]
  • Cato amicus brief, Kentucky Court of Appeals: printers shouldn’t be forced to print gay-pride messages they don’t agree with [Ilya Shapiro/Cato, Eugene Volokh]
  • “That’s not harassing, stalking, libeling or cyber bullying. That’s called reporting.” Florida Man offers to help with online reputation management but digs himself and client in further [Tim Cushing, TechDirt, background]
  • Feminist lawprof we’ve met before attacks Internet-protecting Section 230, confusion ensues [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]

Finally! Wisconsin Gov. Walker signs John Doe reform

And some political liberals, though it is not clear why they should deserve that honorable name, are sad that Wisconsin officials can no longer use the law so freely to raid opponents’ homes at dawn or gag them from talking to the press [background, more; Watchdog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, New York Times] More: WSJ editorial, paywall, via Tim Lynch, Cato:

The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office, run by Democrat John Chisholm, sent GAB staff a spreadsheet of search terms [for rifling seized electronic archives] that included prominent national conservatives….The government snoops created ideological search concepts like “big union bosses” and “big government,” as if such phrases suggest some law-breaking intent. Recall that when the IRS targeted conservative groups for special vetting, it created a “Be On the Lookout” list of key words such as “patriot” and “tea party.”

“Wisconsin’s ‘John Doe’ Raids Two Years Later”

Caleb Brown interviews Eric O’Keefe on the abusive Wisconsin John Doe prosecution of alleged unlawful campaign coordination, much covered in this space. O’Keefe says the growing scope of campaign regulation allows wider scope for the law to be used to harass and persecute outsiders and minority viewpoints, and also speculates as to why the prosecution has not been subject to more intense scrutiny in the press: “The prosecutors have cultivated relationships over a long period of time with the newspapers. Prosecutors get a lot of good stories first, like who they’re going to indict, who got arrested…so the newspapers tend to pander to prosecutors and together they have extremely powerful weapons.” Emails from the Wisconsin John Doe targets’ private accounts, for example, scooped up by prosecutors’ secret subpoenas, later surfaced in stories in the newspapers putting the targets in a bad light.

Bernie Sanders: I’ll make justices pledge

“Sen. Sanders goes one step further. He would require that nominees publicly commit to case outcomes…. Although under President Sanders’ proposal judicial impartiality in fact and in appearance will suffer, there is a bright side. If President Sanders filled a majority of seats on the Court with pre-committed Justices, lawyers before the Court could significantly reduce the time and effort expended on the argument sections of their briefs.” [Raymond McKoski, Legal Ethics Forum]

Note also that Sanders managed to find a position on Citizens United worse than Hillary Clinton’s “Banning a critical movie about me should’ve been OK.”

Free speech roundup

  • Supreme Court’s sleeper case of the term, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, may greatly toughen First Amendment scrutiny of many laws [Adam Liptak, New York Times]
  • Authorities to press charges against Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly, arrested last year in a McDonald’s during Ferguson protests [Newsweek]
  • Having said obnoxious things is grounds for exclusion from Canada. Right? [CTV] Related musings about speech that affronts us [Ken at Popehat]
  • In case paralleling issues in SBA List v. Driehaus, Massachusetts high court strikes down false-campaign-speech law that enabled incumbent to inflict legal woe on critics; state’s attorney general comes off poorly in account [Ilya Shapiro and Gabriel Latner/Cato]
  • Court strikes down of Idaho ag-gag law, and Prof. Volokh notes some parallels to Planned Parenthood covert filming battle;
  • Update: city of Inglewood, Calif. not faring well in effort to use copyright law to keep a critic from putting video clips of its council proceedings on YouTube [Adam Steinbaugh, earlier]
  • Denver digs itself deeper in charges over leafleting by jury nullification activists [Jacob Sullum, earlier]

Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down John Doe II probe

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has struck down the notorious secret prosecution of conservative political figures in the state, the implementation of which included dawn paramilitary raids at the homes of aides to Gov. Scott Walker and leaders of private advocacy groups. Two justices on the seven-member court dissented from key elements of the ruling and one did not participate. From the court’s opinion:

The special prosecutor has disregarded the vital principle that in our nation and our state political speech is a fundamental right and is afforded the highest level of protection. The special prosecutor’s theories, rather than “assur[ing] [the] unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people,” Roth, 354 U.S. at 484, instead would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished.


Our lengthy discussion of these three cases can be distilled into a few simple, but important, points. It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing. In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a “perfect storm” of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them. It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution. Further, these brave individuals played a crucial role in presenting this court with an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation.

Coverage and commentary: Roger Pilon/Cato; Gabriel Malor. The conservative Wisconsin Watchdog has provided extensive coverage in more than 200 stories.

Last year I described the conduct of the prosecution in the case as “stunningly abusive” and wrote:

The citizens of Wisconsin must now demand a full accounting of how these raids could have happened. They should also insist on changes in state law, in particular the “John Doe” law, aimed at ensuring that nothing like them ever happens again.

In dissent, former chief justice Shirley Abrahamson writes that the constitutionality of the search methods used was not under review in the cases at hand. Well known election law academic Rick Hasen laments that the ruling endorses the version of events of Walker aides concerning the raids without a full legal airing, although (he writes) the charges of abusive conduct during the raids were “never fully verified” and are part of a set of “fears which generally do not stand up to scrutiny.” (To be clear about what was going on, the aides in question appear to have been gagged by a court order throughout, though someone on their side appears to have succeeded in eventually conveying the story to the Wall Street Journal and other outlets).

Another reaction yesterday, from a well-known advocacy shop in Washington, D.C., might be summed up as follows: “We need 500 words on the Wisconsin John Doe dismissal, but don’t mention the dawn paramilitary raids or the gag orders.” “OK, can do.

Related: Ilya Shapiro says a petition for certiorari by former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch “provides an excellent vehicle for the U.S. Supreme Court to address the degree to which the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant for searching electronic data, tailored to probable cause.”

Free speech roundup

California AG Kamala Harris demands donor list of a 501 (c) (3)

That raises the possibility of later disclosure of the information, retaliation against donors, or both; whether it’s unusual enough for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in to stop it remains to be seen. Harris’s target and adversary in the resulting suit, by coincidence or otherwise, is the “Center for Competitive Politics, a vigorous supporter of political free-speech rights that does not get involved in election campaigns” but does speak out strongly about the First Amendment implications of campaign regulation; we’ve often cited its work and that of its founder, Brad Smith. [Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSBlog; Instapundit, citing “Supreme Court’s 1958 decision in NAACP v. Alabama, in which the Court unanimously protected the NAACP’s membership lists against compelled disclosure to Alabama officials.”]

Free speech roundup

  • Yikes: Granby, Quebec, “moves to fine people insulting police on social media” [CBC]
  • “Plaintiffs in foreign ‘hate speech’ lawsuit seeking to subpoena records from U.S. service providers” [Eugene Volokh] Visa for Dutch politician Geert Wilders aside, Reps. Keith Ellison and André Carson imply they’d like to limit speech for Americans too [same]
  • “Why The D.C. Circuit’s Anti-SLAPP Ruling Is Important” [Popehat]
  • Federal court strikes down Pennsylvania law allowing “re-victimization” suits for “renewed anguish” against convicts who speak about their crimes [Volokh, earlier]
  • How different are judges? Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar marks an exception in Court’s preference for speech over regulation in campaign cases [SCOTUSBlog symposium, Elizabeth Price Foley/Instapundit, Daniel Fisher, Ilya Shapiro, our coverage of judicial elections]
  • “New Jersey’s Sensitive Victim Bias Crime Unconstitutional” [Scott Greenfield]
  • Amazing: Wisconsin John Doe prosecutor suggests criminally charging Gov. Scott Walker over remarks critical of probe [Journal-Sentinel, Volokh; more at Cato, Roger Pilon and Tim Lynch; earlier from me here, etc.]