Bloggers on the Supreme Court's free speech cases.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
June 26 2007 6:32 PM

Bong Show

Bong Show: The Supreme Court handed down rulings on two free speech cases yesterday, first dealing a blow to the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance act in a decision that protects corporations' right to air targeted political ads in the lead-up to elections, and then curtailing certain types of student speech in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case. Bloggers are divided on the first case and disappointed about the second.

The legal eagles at SCOTUSblog highlight the significance of the first case, FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life. NYU professor Richard H. Pildes calls it "a constitutional sea change." He explains the import: "This takes the permissible regulation of campaign financing very close to back to what it was before the McCain-Feingold law. … [I]t means Congress' efforts to employ a simple, bright-line rule are effectively overruled." Loyola professor Rick Hasen adds that FEC v. WRTL "has revealed the Roberts Court … as moving firmly into the deregulationist camp, with the Chief Justice and Justice Alito dressing up the opinion as a minimalist, incremental decision." And Georgetown law prof Marty Lederman sums it up: "This is a very good day for the speech rights of corporations."

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At Redstate, California Conservative whoops that the decision "is cause for a little celebration," arguing that, "For over thirty years, incumbent politicians have been building a wall of campaign finance regulations around Washington in an effort to shield themselves from the brickbats of their political opponents; and in this effort they have been supported by left-wing academics and groups who will not see their sources of political influence limited by the restrictions they would put on the rest of us. This morning's decision, like last year's decision in Randall, is a positive step towards dismantling a portion of that wall." Dodd at Outside the Beltway also approves but warns that it "continues a regrettable trend in the last couple of decades of SupCt jurisprudence: "Devising 'tests' that can only be resolved by judges rather than setting down bright line rules that can be applied by anyone. That necessarily means that the the long-term effect will be more litigation, not less." Adam B at liberal DailyKos reluctantly supports the decision "because I just don't see how one can create a clear, workable test to distinguish the legitimate advocacy ads from the 'loophole' ones within the timeframe of an election cycle."

More bloggers disagree with the court's "Bong Hits" decision. Radley Balko explains his fears at libertarian Reason's Hit & Run blog: "The danger is that school districts will interpret Roberts' opinion too broadly, and behave as if Supreme Court has given its okay to step on drug-related political speech, too—for example, an essay condoning the legalization of marijuana." Chris Weigant at The Huffington Post is less concerned. He writes: "So there you have it, kids. If you want to (a) get on national television with a stunt, (b) have a message guaranteed to annoy people, and most importantly, (c) really enrage your school's principal -- then you've got to word the message carefully. So remember, don't say 'BONG HiTS 4 JESUS,' say instead: LEGALIZE BONG HiTS 4 JESUS"

Still, all in all a day disheartening to liberals. As Wonkette puts it: "Try to guess the vote split in each case. No, try to guess. You might be surprised! J/k no you won't."

Read more about FEC v. WRTK here and "Bong Hits" here. Click here for Walter Dellinger and Dahlia Lithwick's SCOTUS postgame in Slate.

Spoiling Harry: A hacker known as Gabriel claims to have snuck into J.K. Rowling's U.K. publisher's servers to get an early look at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—and posted spoilers online. (WARNING: Spoilers. Duh.) Bloggers have been debating whether the story is legitimate, as well as the pros and cons of spoilers in general.

Mike Nizza has a pretty good primer in the New York Times' The Lede. The gist: "The publishers declined to dismiss Gabriel as a hoax, further raising eyebrows. Potter's U.S. publisher, Scholastic, told everyone to 'consider this one more theory.' "

Meanwhile, Harry Potter fan site The Leaky Cauldron is content to write Gabriel off as a hoax. And Jim Downey at Unscrewing the Inscrutable pooh-poohs the idea that knowing the ending will ruin the book: "It's not the ending that counts - it's the journey. … I don't know how the final Harry Potter book will end, and I don't trust any spoilers posted by someone with an agenda. I do know that I will read the book, probably many times, to enjoy how a talented writer resolves the story she tells."

Related: Click here for news on physical security for the first printing of the book.