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Court calls for rehearing in Citizens United case

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From the Summer 2009 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 13. The Supreme Court announced on the…

From the Summer 2009 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 13.

The Supreme Court announced on the final day of its 2008-09 session that it would request additional briefing and rehear oral arguments on government regulation of corporate and union speech related to elections, rather than issue a ruling, in the case Citizens United v. FEC.

The oral arguments are set for Sept. 9, in a special session of the court. The Court asked the parties to submit briefs on whether previous campaign speech cases should be overruled to the extent they upheld direct restrictions on corporate speech.

The case deals with the Federal Election Commission’s attempt to regulate a 90-minute political film in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. The group Citizens United had produced Hillary: The Movie in part with corporate donations. The FEC argued those funds gave it the power to regulate the distribution of the film before the election under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold Act.

The Reporters Committee has filed briefs in support of Citizens United because of the unique issues the case raises regarding government control over documentaries and similar media.

The Court is expected to look broadly at the McCain-Feingold Act and related laws when it reconvenes for the special session, perhaps fundamentally reconsidering the ability of states and the federal government to restrict corporate and union election speech.