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Supreme Court allows challenge to law criminalizing false political statements

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously Monday in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) [advocacy websites] can proceed with a lawsuit challenging an Ohio law that criminalizes spreading false statements during the course of a political campaign. In 2010 then US Representative Steve Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission over billboards put up by the SBA in his congressional district. After Driehaus lost his re-election bid, his complaint was dismissed. However, the SBA had already filed a suit in federal district court challenging the constitutionality of the Ohio law. The district court held that the suit was non-justiciable, and the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed. In an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court reversed:

The treat of future enforcement of the false statement statute is substantial. Most obviously, there is a history of past enforcement here: SBA was the subject of a complaint in a recent election cycle. … In sum, we find that both SBA and COAST have alleged a credible threat of enforcement.

The court remanded the case for further proceedings, including a determination of whether plaintiffs have standing.

The court heard arguments in the case in April after granting certiorari [JURIST reports] in January. Also on Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear [JURIST report] a case concerning threatening speech and Facebook. Anthony Elonis was arrested in Pennsylvania for posting violent and threatening rap lyrics on Facebook. The court has yet to schedule a date for arguments.

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