Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens Says Citizens United Doctrine Won't Hold
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice--and Citizens United dissenter--John Paul Stevens gave a speech in Arkansas on Wednesday where he predicted the Court's controversial 2010 campaign finance decision would be parred back by the Court and identified inconsistencies with subsequent decisions. (The text is here.)
The speech seemed timed to pressure the Court to use a Montana appeal that is now before it to revisit aspects of the Citizens United ruling. However, the legal cracks identified by Stevens did not reargue the case and were not about that appeal, which concerns Montana's century-old ban on corporate political activity. Instead, Stevens pointed to other decisions showing that the absolutist free speech stance taken in Citizens United, protecting speech regardless of the speaker, was contradictory when considering other pressing national issues.
Stevens began by citing President Obama's criticism of the decision in his 2010 State of The Union speech, which visibly bothered some conservative justices. But more pointedly, he said that in some situations, such as the political speech rights of terrorists, whether foreigners had rights to spend money in U.S. elections, and whether non-voters--meaning corporations--had unlimited political speech rights in certain campaign contexts, were all areas where legal lines had to be drawn.
Those lines, he said, would be based on how the "public interest" is served.