Amicus Brief, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock

Amicus Brief, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock

May 18, 2012
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This amicus brief, submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on May 18, 2012, argues that the Court should not summarily reverse the decision of the Montana Supreme Court upholding a state law restricting corporate spending in Montana elections.  The brief was authored by Arnold & Porter LLP and Demos on behalf of former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger and Professor James Sample of Hofstra Law School.
 
Summary reversal would be inappropriate because of the importance of the issue raised, the respect due a sovereign state supreme court, and the fact that the Montana court attempted a good faith application of Citizens United’s new doctrine to an extensive set of facts, as well as new issues that the Supreme Court did not address in its earlier holding.
 
According to the brief, the “bitter medicine of summary reversal,” as Chief Justice Roberts referred to the procedure, “should be reserved for decisions so clearly contrary to well-settled precedents…as to constitute a manifest and grievous error plainly not worth the time required for briefing and argument on the merits.”  Authors argue that the Montana Supreme Court did not commit such an error but rather conducted a good faith application of the new constitutional holding announced in Citizens United to an extensive and novel factual record.
 
In addition, brief authors argue that Citizens United left significant questions unanswered.  As one of 39 states in which judges stand for election, Montana has a compelling state interest in preventing both the actuality and appearance of justice for sale---an interest plainly not before the Court in Citizens United.
 
In sum, the brief urged the U.S. Supreme Court to allow further development of the law in the states or, if it intends to review the matter this term, give Montana the opportunity to be heard before passing judgment on its hundred-year-old pro-democracy law.