Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Government Reform
Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Clinton 1993)
Voting Rights Act still needed to prevent discrimination
In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down the section of the Voting Rights Act which established a formula for determining if a state requires prior approval before changing its voting laws. Nine states with a history of discrimination
must still get clearance from Congress before changing voting rules to make sure racial minorities are not negatively affected--this section was made toothless. Chief Justice Roberts said the formula Congress now uses, which was written in 1965, has
become outdated. Justice Ginsburg, dissenting, said, "Hubris is a fit word for today's demolition of the VRA."
OnTheIssues explanation: This ruling led to a spate of "Voter ID" laws, which proponents claim is needed to protect the
integrity of the vote, and which opponents say discriminates against youth & minority voters.
Opinions:Majority: Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, & Alito; concurrence: Thomas; dissent: Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, & Kagan.
Source: InfoPlease.com on 2013 SCOTUS docket #12-96
, Jun 25, 2013
Constitution, and 4th amendment, must change over time
"What happens when a helicopter is above your house searching for marijuana, without actually searching the home?" Ginsburg asked her audience at Northwestern Law School. "The Fourth Amendment has to apply to new circumstances.
The Constitution is the oldest in the world, and the expectation was that it would govern us through the ages and through change in time."
Source: Speech at American Constitution Society
, Sep 22, 2009
Campaign finance reform should level candidate playing field
Justices Ginsburg and Breyer embraced the principle was EQUALITY: Leveling the playing field was an important characteristic of campaign finance reform, they maintained, and the political branches should be given ample room to decide how to handle the
difficult issues it presents. They embraced the idea that a donor's contribution to a political campaign triggers the First Amendment: "A decision to contribute money to a campaign is a matter of First Amendment concern--not because money is speech
(it is not) but because it enables speech." On the other hand, contribution limits reflect an effort to "protect the integrity of the electoral process--the means through which a free society democratically translates political speech into concrete
governmental action." Invoking the equality principle, they added: "Moreover, by limiting the size of the largest contributions, such restrictions aim to democratize the influence that money itself may bring upon the electoral process."
Source: First Among Equals, by Kenneth Starr, p. 84-85
, Oct 10, 2002
Votes with liberal bloc against states’ rights
The nine court members can be divided into three general alliances, but all of the justices have crossed ideological lines. The three conservative justices and two of the swing justices usually support states’ rights [while the liberal bloc,
including Ginsburg, do not].
Ginsburg is considered liberal but has voted with the conservative wing, most notably in a dissenting opinion that states have broad powers to limit jury awards.
Source: Reuters article in Boston Globe, p. A45
, Dec 1, 2000
Corporate speech can be restricted but not banned.
Justice Ginsburg joined the dissent on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on Jan 21, 2010:
Prior to the 2008 primary elections, Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to educating the American public about their rights and the government, produced a politically conservative 90-minute documentary entitled Hillary: The Movie. This documentary covers Hillary Clinton's record while in the Senate & the White House. However, The Movie falls within the definition of "electioneering communications" under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 ("BCRA")--a federal enactment designed to prevent "big money" from unfairly influencing federal elections--which, among other things, prohibits corporate financing of electioneering communications. The FEC [enforced the provision] of BCRA prohibiting corporations from broadcasting electioneering communications within 60 days of a general election. [The Supreme Court rules that this] violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
Justice Kennedy , Opinion of the Court (Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and
Some members of the public might consider "Hillary: The Movie" to be insightful and instructive; some might find it to be neither high art nor a fair discussion on how to set the Nation's course; still others simply might suspend judgment on these points but decide to think more about issues and candidates. Those choices and assessments, however, are not for the Government to make.
Justice Stevens (dissent joined by Ginsburg , Breyer, and Sotomayor)
Neither Citizens United's nor any other corporation's speech has been "banned." All that the parties dispute is whether Citizens United had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period. The notion that the First Amendment [allows that] is, in my judgment, profoundly misguided. Although I concur in the Court's decision to sustain BCRA's disclosure provisions, I emphatically dissent from its principal holding.
Source: Supreme Court case 08_CU_FEC argued on Mar 24, 2009
Public campaign finance can fund based on opponent spending.
Justice Ginsburg joined the dissent on AZ FREEDOM CLUB PAC v. BENNETT on Jun 27, 2011:
An Arizona public campaign financing law allowed a person who agreed to the restrictions of a publicly financed campaign to receive an initial allotment from the state. That initial allotment was increased when the spending of a privately financed opponent together with the spending of any independent group exceeded that initial allotment. The public funds to match opponent expenditures topped out at two times the initial allotment.
HELD: Delivered by Roberts; joined by Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas & AlitoArizona's public financing law places a burden on privately financed candidates. If privately financed candidates spend money above a certain level, they necessarily entitle their publicly financed opponents to greater funding. Their First Amendment right to free speech in a political matter--which includes spending money on their campaigns--is inhibited. Independent groups do not qualify for public financing at all, but their spending still may lead to a funding
increase for the candidates the independent groups oppose. Leveling the playing is not a compelling state interest justifying a burden on a First Amendment right, nor is combating corruption. Arizona would be free to give the maximum amount to all public candidates, but that does not justify inhibiting the free speech of candidates and independent groups.
DISSENT: Kagan dissents; joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, and SotomayorThe First Amendment's core purpose is to foster a political system full of robust discussion and debate. Arizona's public campaign finance did not restrict speech, it increased speech through public subsidy with the goal of decreasing the corruption of both quid pro quo campaign payments made in exchange for official acts or an office seeker feeling beholden to his great financial supporters. Any burden on free speech, the burden could hardly be more substantial than what the Court announces would be legal: a larger, up-front allotment to a public candida
Source: Supreme Court case 11-AZ-PAC argued on Mar 28, 2011
Page last updated: Sep 27, 2016