Today’s Supreme Court Opinions

The health care cases were not issued today. They are expected on Thursday. But there are plenty of other significant opinions. Two that are of particular interest to me are America Tradition, Inc. v. Bullock, the Montana campaign finance case, and Arizona v. United States, the Arizona immigration case.

The Montana decision is a per curiam opinion summarily reversing the Montana Supreme Court’s decision upholding a state law restricting campaign-related speech by corporations. I think the 5-4 majority opinion is pretty obviously correct in holding that this law is inconsistent with the Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United:

A Montana state law provides that a “corporation may not make . . . an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party….” The Montana Supreme Court rejected petitioners’ claim that this statute violates the First Amendment…. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that “political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation….” The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. See U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Montana’s arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.

In dissent, the four liberal justices argue that Citizens United should be overruled.

In the Arizona decision, a 5-3 majority, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy joining three liberal justices (Justice Kagan was recused), ruled that three out of the four challenged provisions of the Arizona immigration law are preempted by federal law. The fourth – the controversial provision requiring state police to check the immigration status of some people arrested for other reasons – is remanded to state courts so that they can construe the state law in order to determine more fully whether it conflicts with federal law. I am no fan of the Arizona law. But I don’t know enough about the relevant federal immigration law to have any strong opinion on whether today’s decision is correct.

UPDATE: In the original version of this post, I accidentally got the lineup of justices in the Arizona case wrong. I noticed the error almost immediately, but was unable to correct it for some time due to technical problems with the VC website. I have now fixed the mistake, and apologize for the annoyance.

UPDATE #2: It is perhaps worth noting that, in the immigration case, Justice Alito agree with the majority on one of the three provisions of the Arizona law that they ruled were preempted.