Supreme Court to Consider Two Important Campaign Finance Cases Friday

James Madison Center for Free Speech
1 South 6th Street
Terre Haute, IN 47807-3510

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Contact: James Bopp, Jr.
Phone 812/232-2434; Fax 812/235-3685

Supreme Court to Consider Two Important Campaign Finance Cases Friday

The Supreme Court will decide on Friday whether to hear two campaign finance cases filed by the James Madison Center for Free Speech to protect vital First Amendment rights. One involves a Washington law that could force an organization to register as a political action committee if it speaks out against a ballot measure. The other involves challenges to numerous restrictions on judicial candidates for elective office.

The first case, Human Life of Washington v. Brumsickle, concerns a nonprofit, pro-life advocacy group that wanted to advocate against a state initiative legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Under state law, however, Human Life of Washington was required to spend many hours keeping exact records and filing detailed, complicated reports of receipts and expenditures. The group therefore challenged the law as placing a burden on its right to engage in political speech. After the challenged laws were upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Human Life of Washington filed a petition for review by the Supreme Court in November of 2010.

The second case, Bauer v. Shepard, concerned efforts by Indiana Right to Life to inform voters about where candidates for elective judicial office stand on important legal and political issues. Every election, Indiana Right to Life sends out a questionnaire asking judicial candidates to state their views on such issues as abortion. Judicial candidates have been reluctant to answer the questionnaire, citing a state rule prohibiting them from indicating how they will rule in a case. In 2008, Indiana Right to Life brought suit along with two judicial candidates, Judge David Certo and Torrey Bauer, claiming that the state rule violated their First Amendment rights. Judge Certo also challenged rules preventing him from asking family and friends for campaign donations and from publicly showing his support for the Republican Party through speeches and by asking for money for the Party. A petition for review by the Supreme Court was filed in September of 2010.

Both challenges rely on recent Supreme Court decisions. Last year, in Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court held that the sorts of reporting and record-keeping requirements imposed by Washington on political groups were severely burdensome to groups who wanted to speak out on political issues. And in 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White that judicial candidates have a right to announce their political views during their election campaigns.

While it is unusual for multiple cases handled by the same attorneys to be conferenced by the Supreme Court on the same day, James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for the plaintiffs in both cases, declined to draw any special significance from the scheduling. “Both cases involve fundamental constitutional issues that are worthy of the Supreme Court’s consideration. The more restrictions the government places on the ability of people to get involved in the political process, the harder it is for voters to make an informed decision about which candidates to elect and which issues to support.”

The results of the Friday conference are expected to be made public on Monday, February 21. More information about each of the cases is available online at the James Madison Center’s website,

James Bopp, Jr. has a national federal and state election law practice. He is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech and Co-Chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee of the Federalist Society.