Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Personal commentary of COAST attorney Chris Finney on the US Supreme Court proceedings

We reprint below today's Facebook entry of COAST attorney Chris Finney on yesterday's US Supreme Court oral argument in Susan B. Anthony List and COAST v. the Ohio Elections Commission.

A lot of things transpired yesterday at the US Supreme Court, all of them really good. I will share a few stories in the entries over the next couple of days.
The history of how we got there was important. For five years I have had a principle I thought important -- stopping the Ohio Elections Commission from implementing a statute in a manner that was absolutely abusive of everything I understood about the First Amendment.
In a case at the beginning of this journey, I watched bureaucrat after bureaucrat empowered by an unconstitutional statute blithely trample the First Amendment rights of those who chose to participate in the great political debates in communities throughout Ohio. 
However, in a series of cases before three different local federal District Court Judges, and all 15 Judges on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, not a single one seemed to appreciate the arguments we made. They either rejected or could not seem to understand the important "chilling" argument about the OEC "false claims" proceedings, and one at a a time in a series of decisions upheld the clearly unconstitutional scheme.
Our legal team lost case after case, four of them in all. Not a single Judge of 18 that looked at the issue agreed with our position. But we persisted in the relatively difficult and expensive task of bringing the case before the United States Supreme Court. They accept less than 1% of all cases brought to them -- this year only about 80 of 10,000 "cert" petitions were granted. 
Finally, yesterday, one by one, each of the nine Justices revealed in their questioning that they each had a fundamental understanding of exactly the issues we had complained of, and they held to account the state bureaucrats who trampled First Amendment rights we fought so hard -- and vainly up until now -- to vindicate. 
In my public interest practice, I have said that there is no moment so satisfying as when I force an out-of-control bureaucrat to stand before a Judge and account for his conduct.
That happened yesterday in the highest court in the land, and it was enormously just to witness. 
Even this Supreme Court case is just another step in a long, but appearing now inexorable, process to have Ohio's False Claims law declared unconstitutional. But seeing that the case will turn out eventually as it should is a great professional milestone.
It is likely that I will never pass this way again. For me, it was absolutely everything it was cracked up to be.

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