Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Liptak and Nader on the Supreme Ct. Decision


Corporate Personhood Should Be Banned, Once and For All

Outrageous SCOTUS Decision Should Reignite Most Necessary of Debates

By Ralph Nader

January 21, 2010 - -Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission shreds the fabric of our
already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely
dominate our corrupted electoral process. It is outrageous that corporations
already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their
political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders
for donations. With this decision, corporations can now also draw on their
corporate treasuries and pour vast amounts of corporate money, through
independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with
corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars.

This corporatist, anti-voter decision is so extreme that it should
galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a Constitutional Amendment to once
and for all end corporate personhood and curtail the corrosive impact of big
money on politics. It is indeed time for a Constitutional amendment to
prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections
and drowning out the civic and political voices and values of citizens and
voters. It is way overdue to overthrow "King Corporation" and restore the
sovereignty of "We the People"!



A Plainspoken Justice Gets Louder

By Adam Liptak,
NY Times Op-Ed: January 24, 2010

In his dissent, Justice Stevens said no principle required overruling two
major campaign finance precedents. "The only relevant thing that has changed
since" those two decisions, he wrote, "is the composition of this court."

The Supreme Court announced its big campaign finance decision at 10 in the
morning last Thursday. By 10:30 a.m., after Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had
offered a brisk summary of the majority opinion and Justice John Paul
Stevens labored through a 20-minute rebuttal, a sort of twilight had settled
over the courtroom.

It seemed the Stevens era was ending.

Justice Stevens, who will turn 90 in April, joined the court in 1975 and is
the longest-serving current justice by more than a decade. He has given
signals that he intends to retire at the end of this term, and his dissent
on Thursday was shot through with disappointment, frustration and
uncharacteristic sarcasm.

He seemed weary, and more than once he stumbled over and mispronounced
ordinary words in the lawyer's lexicon - corruption, corporation,
allegation. Sometimes he would take a second or third run at the word,
sometimes not.

But there was no mistaking his basic message. "The rule announced today -
that Congress must treat corporations exactly like human speakers in the
political realm - represents a radical change in the law," he said from the
bench. "The court's decision is at war with the views of generations of

That was the plainspoken style of the last years of Justice Stevens's
tenure. In cases involving prisoners held without charge at Guantánamo Bay
and the mentally retarded on death row, his version of American justice was
propelled by common sense and moral clarity, and it commanded a majority.

He was on the short end of the 2008 decision finding that the Second
Amendment protected an individual right to bear arms, and he had mixed
success in fighting what he saw as illegitimate justifications for
discrimination against African-Americans, women and homosexuals.

Justice Stevens is the leader of the court's liberal wing, and its three
other members - Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia
Sotomayor - all joined his 90-page dissent. They must have been tempted to
write separately, as the case was bristling with issues of particular
interest to all of them. Instead, they allowed the spotlight to shine solely
on Justice Stevens.

There was no such solidarity among the conservatives. Though Chief Justice
John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel
A. Alito Jr. all joined Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's majority opinion on its
main point, three of them added separate concurrences.

In his dissent, Justice Stevens said no principle required overruling two
major campaign finance precedents. "The only relevant thing that has changed
since" those decisions, he wrote, "is the composition of this court."

In Justice Stevens's early years on the court, his views often seemed
idiosyncratic, and he would often write separate opinions joined by no other
justice. Over the years, though, he has emerged as a master tactician, and
he came to use his seniority to great advantage. The senior justice in the
majority has the power to assign the majority opinion, and Justice Stevens
used that power with patience and skill.

This term, though, Justice Stevens has been more of a loner. Thursday's
decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, was only the 10th
signed decision of the term. In the previous nine, Justice Stevens wrote
separately and only for himself three times. On a fourth occasion, he was
joined only by Justice Kennedy.

A theme ran through these recent opinions: that the Supreme Court had lost
touch with fundamental notions of fair play. In two of the cases, Justice
Stevens lashed out at the court's failure to condemn what he called shoddy
work by defense lawyers in death penalty cases.

On Wednesday, in Wood v. Allen, Justice Stevens dissented from a majority
decision that said a lawyer fresh out of law school had made a reasonable
strategic choice in not pursuing evidence that his client was mentally

"A decision cannot be fairly characterized as 'strategic' unless it is a
conscious choice between two legitimate and rational alternatives," Justice
Stevens wrote. "It must be borne of deliberation and not happenstance,
inattention or neglect."

He made a similar point this month in a second capital case, Smith v.

"It is difficult to convey how thoroughly egregious counsel's closing
argument was," Justice Stevens wrote of a defense lawyer's work. "Suffice it
to say that the argument shares far more in common with a prosecutor's
closing than with a criminal defense attorney's. Indeed, the argument was so
outrageous that it would have rightly subjected a prosecutor to charges of

In the second case, Justice Stevens did vote to uphold the death sentence,
saying that even a closing argument worthy of Clarence Darrow would not have
spared the defendant.

That carefully calibrated distinction was of a piece with the view he
announced in 2008 in Baze v. Rees, when he said he had come to the
conclusion that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. But he went
on to say that his conclusion did not justify "a refusal to respect
precedents that remain a part of our law."

Thursday's decision in the Citizens United case was more full-throated.

"The majority blazes through our precedents," he wrote, "overruling or
disavowing a body of case law" that included seven decisions.

Justice Stevens, who served in the Navy during World War II, reached back to
those days to show the depth of his outrage at the majority's conclusion
that the government may not make legal distinctions based on whether a
corporation or a person was doing the speaking.

"Such an assumption," he wrote, "would have accorded the propaganda
broadcasts to our troops by 'Tokyo Rose' during World War II the same
protection as speech by Allied commanders."

The reference to Tokyo Rose was probably lost on many of Justice Stevens's
readers. But the concluding sentence of what may be his last major dissent
could not have been clearer.

"While American democracy is imperfect," he wrote, "few outside the majority
of this court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate
money in politics."

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