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About Citizens United v Federal Election Commission

About The Case

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is a landmark First Amendment case before the Supreme Court of the United States that is poised to overturn two decades of overly-restrictive campaign finance law.

On June 29th, the last day of the Supreme Court’s most recent term, the Court was expected to hand down its decision in Citizens United v. FEC having heard oral arguments from both sides in March. Represented by former Solicitor General Ted Olson, Citizens United was cautiously optimistic that the Court would rule in its favor, possibly narrowing the application of the section of the McCain-Feingold Act that applies to so-called “electioneering communications.” Such a decision would have been consistent with the approach taken two years ago in Wisconsin Right To Life v. FEC.

Instead of releasing its decision as expected, the Court ordered an extremely rare special session to rehear oral arguments on September 9th, and ordered both parties to address whether or not the Court should overturn either or both Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and that portion of McConnell v. FEC, which upheld the corporate ban on electioneering communications. (Austin upheld the constitutionality of the ban on the use of corporate funds for independent expenditures, which expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates.)

Legal experts are almost unanimous in their assessment that the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC could result in the most tectonic shift in campaign finance law in decades. As Columbia Law Professor Nathaniel Persily told The New York Times recently, “The court is poised to reverse longstanding precedents concerning the rights of corporations to participate in politics,” and “the only reason to ask for reargument on this is if they’re going to overturn Austin and McConnell.”

Calendar

July 24, 2009
The briefs, not to exceed 6,000 words, are to be filed simultaneously with the Clerk and served upon opposing counsel on or before 2 p.m.

July 31, 2009
Amicus briefs, not to exceed 4,500 words, may be filed with the Clerk and served upon counsel to the parties by 2 p.m.

August 19, 2009
Reply briefs, not to exceed 3,000 words, may be filed with the Clerk and served upon opposing counsel on or before 2 p.m.

September 9, 2009
The case is set for oral argument at 10 a.m.

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