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EXPERT AVAILABLE:Campaign Finance Ruling Shows Activist Mindset of Supreme Court, MU Expert Says

January 25th, 2010

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The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— A new U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down corporate campaign spending laws shows a bold activist mindset, says a University of Missouri expert. Richard Reuben, an MU School of Law professor and U.S Supreme Court specialist, believes the ruling that allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money for campaign ads could be just the beginning of an aggressive activist agenda.

“The court here is clearly engaged in judicial activism,” Reuben said. “It’s conservative activism, but it’s activism in that the court has shown how willing it is to overturn well-established constitutional precedents that it simply disagrees with.”

As a result, Reuben said, it could be “open season” on precedents, particularly liberal precedents, in a wide array of areas, such as religious freedom, free speech, and criminal law.

“A lot could depend upon the particular lineup of justices,” Reuben said. “There are going to be some areas where the court is going to prefer making smaller changes instead of larger ones, but the threat is out there, and we can expect the advocacy to get more aggressive now that lawyers know how far the court is willing to go.”

Reuben says the recent court ruling shows a sense of blindness as well boldness.

“As in other areas of its conservative activism, the court is willing to turn a blind eye to the consequences of its decisions,” Reuben said. “In principle, it might make sense to say, ‘corporations are just like people, they have free speech rights too.’ However that ignores the fact that corporations have an enormous capacity to amass wealth and power, thanks to special benefits given to them by the state.”

Reuben joined the MU School of Law in 2000, coming from Harvard Law School, where he was a Hewlett Senior Fellow in dispute resolution. He earned his doctoral degree in law at Stanford Law School. Reuben covered the U.S. Supreme Court for the American Bar Association Journal, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, San Francisco Daily Journal and other publications for more than a decade.