Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Going down this road would destroy constitutional rights for just about everyone..."

Another Citizen's United post - Ilya Somin is addressing many of the same things that I did yesterday, albeit more formally and with far, far more legal training. The conclusions are similar.
If you define “state-created entity” narrowly, then it won’t include most corporations. But if you define it broadly as any legally defined status that carries government-granted rights or privileges, then pretty much every important private organization is a state-created entity. Individual citizens may be “state-created entities” as well, and naturalized citizens certainly are. Going down this road would destroy constitutional rights for just about everyone. That may be why even the liberal justices most enthusiastic about campaign finance regulation have been unwilling to really bite this particular bullet. True, Justice Stevens’ dissent does note that “A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it.” Yet even Stevens stops short of stating that this by itself proves that corporations don’t have free speech rights. I doubt that Stevens and the other liberal justices are willing to really follow that logic. For example, they’re not going to overrule New York Times v. Sullivan or conclude that the government has the power to search corporate property unconstrained by the Fourth Amendment. Yet that is where the “creature of law” argument inexorably leads. The better approach is the common sense conclusion that people are entitled to full constitutional rights whenever they use their privately owned resources to exercise them, whether those resources are legally assigned to “state-created entities” or not.
Bottom line - there are satifying (to some) emotional rants which can be made about the decision, but there's no real legal justification for them, and the majority decision is clearly correct.

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