Friday, December 27, 2013

Federal Election Comm’n v. Wisconsin Right to Life case brief

Federal Election Comm’n v. Wisconsin Right to Life case brief summary
551 U.S. 449 (2007)

Upon remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, appellee nonprofit political advocacy corporation brought an action against appellant Federal Election Commission (FEC), asserting that the organization's advertisements were not barred by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). The FEC appealed the judgment of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia which found the BCRA unconstitutional as applied to the ads.

The organization's ads, which were intended for publication shortly before a primary election, asserted that a filibuster to block voting on federal judicial nominees was a political delaying tactic, and the ads requested citizens to contact certain elected officials whom the ads identified by name. The organization conceded that the ads violated the BCRA but contended that the BCRA was overbroad in proscribing the ads which were directed to political issues rather than the election of specific candidates.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court first held that the case was not moot even though the election already occurred, since the organization could not expect prompt judicial review of subsequent ads related to time-sensitive issues and it was reasonable to expect the FEC to raise the same objections to the subsequent ads. 
  • Further, the Court found that the BCRA unconstitutionally precluded the ads, but there was no majority consensus concerning the basis for the unconstitutionality. 
  • Certain Justices found that the specific ads at issue were not the functional equivalent of express campaign speech, while other Justices deemed the specific statutory prohibition to be facially unconstitutional.
The judgment that the ads were unconstitutionally barred was affirmed.

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