Taking Constitutional Day Seriously- And A New Challenge to Citizens United

Constitution Day commemorates the anniversary on September 17, 1787 of the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The Constitution was not ratified without vigorous national debate and the addition of the first ten Amendments, our BilThe US Constitutionl of Rights.  And,  of course, with the addition of seventeen more amendments (including a new one in every decade of the 20th Century, except the 1940s and 1980s), the Constitution continues to be written by every generation of Americans.

Here’s a piece that Bob Monks and I have on the American Constitution Society blog, Let’s Take Constitution Day Seriously. We note the contingency of the republican form of government, and the challenge for our generation to “keep it”, as Ben Franklin put it 226 years ago after the Convention.

At Free Speech For People on Constitution Day, we rolled out a promising new initiative to overturn Citizens United and to challenge the increasing tendency of activist courts in recent years to fabricate new corporate rights. Check out the Legal Advisory Committee coming together in this work— an impressive group, including a former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and former Justice of the Montana Supreme Court.

Here’s the announcement from Free Speech For People:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 17, 2013

Contact: Ryan O’Donnell

(413) 335-9824

rodonnell@freespeechforpeople.org

New Legal Initiative, Advised By National Network of Law Professors, Former Judges & Attorneys, To Fight Citizens United

Includes Fmr State Supreme Court Justices James Exum, Jr. (North Carolina) and James Nelson (Montana)

Free Speech For People, a national non-partisan organization working to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, has launched a new Legal Advocacy Program, backed by an advisory committee of respected law professors, former judges and attorneys from across the country. The initiative seeks to restore Constitutional jurisprudence based on human, rather than corporate rights, and republican citizenship rather than unlimited money in politics.

Free Speech For People announced the new program on Constitution Day (September 17th) which commemorates the two hundred and twenty sixth anniversary of the signing of the Constitution at the conclusion of the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia.

Advisory Committee member James Nelson, who recently retired as a Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, says: “Citizens United embraces a right found nowhere in the Constitution:  a right to use institutional mega-money to influence elections and silence voices of individual small contributors and voters.” “Worse,” he added, “this kind of jurisprudence presents a clear and present danger for the majority of states, like Montana, where voters elect their judges and justices. Make no mistake — the effects of Citizens United will dominate judicial elections.”

James Exum, Jr., former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and another Advisory Committee member says:Citizens United was wrongly decided and weights the electoral process far too heavily in favor of corporations, which have the ability to amass huge sums of money, at the expense of the vast majority of citizens without that ability.  For those states, like mine, which subject judges to periodic popular elections, the ruling threatens the integrity of our courts.”

The Advisory Committee will work with Free Speech For People co-founders John Bonifaz, who serves as Executive Director, and Jeff Clements, who serves as Board Chair and President and is the author of Corporations Are Not People (with a foreword by Bill Moyers) (Berrett-Koehler, 2012).

“Americans across the political spectrum know that “corporate rights” and unlimited money in our elections are wrong, and are coming together to ensure that Citizens United will not stand. We are grateful to see so many outstanding legal experts and jurists join in this work to renew our democracy of free and equal citizens,” says Clements.

Bonifaz added: “In the face of new efforts by global corporations since Citizens United to strike down public interest laws on ‘corporate speech’ grounds, we look forward to defending in court that fundamental principle of American self-government: of, by, and for the people.”

The new initiative will engage in advocacy and public education to push back in the courts against the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and the fabricated doctrine of corporate constitutional rights and to advance corporate charter reform in the states. The program also will serve as a legal resource for the growing movement for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United.

The Free Speech For People Legal Advocacy Program is the latest addition to the expanding challenges to the 2010 Citizens United decision, the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that struck down longstanding campaign finance laws and opened the door to unlimited spending by corporations, unions, and the super-wealthy.

Members of the Legal Advocacy Committee include:

  • Lawrence Anderson, Montana trial attorney and member of the Board of Governors of the American Association of Justice
  • David Ciepley, Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow, Princeton University, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Denver
  • John Coates, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Lisa Danetz, Senior Counsel, Demos
  • James Exum, Jr, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court
  • Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society
  • Lisa Graves, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy
  • Daniel Greenwood, Professor of Law, Hofstra Law School
  • Thomas Joo, Professor of Law, University of California, Davis, School of Law
  • Cyrus Mehri, Founding Partner, Mehri & Skalet, PLLC.
  • Robert A.G. Monks, Author, Founder, Lens Governance Advisors
  • James Nelson, former Justice of the Montana Supreme Court
  • Eva Paterson, Co-Founder and President, Equal Justice Society
  • Peter Pease, Founder, Law Offices of Peter Pease
  • Tamara Piety, the Phyllis Hurley Frey Professor of Law, University of Tulsa College of Law
  • Jamie Raskin, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
  • Katie Redford, Co-Founder and Director, EarthRights International
  • Dale Rubin, Professor of Law, Appalachian School of Law
  • Steven Shiffrin, Professor of Law, Cornell University Law School
  • Jennifer Taub, Associate Professor of Law, Vermont Law School
  • Gerald Torres, Bryant Smith Chair in Law, The University of Texas at Austin, School of Law

About Free Speech For People

Free Speech For People is a national non-partisan organization, launched on the day of the US Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United, which works to challenge the misuse of corporate power and restore republican democracy to the people.  Free Speech For People has served as a catalyzing and leading force in the growing movement across the country for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and reclaim our democracy.  The organization has also played a leadership role in the courts by helping to defend Montana’s century-old law barring corporate money in elections, resulting in a victory before the Montana Supreme Court and the first test case on Citizens United to reach the US Supreme Court.

About the Movement to Overturn Citizens United

Sixteen states have formally called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and to restore democracy to the people.  In addition, nearly 500 cities, towns, and counties, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia have called for an amendment, and more than 2,000 elected officials nationwide are on record supporting one.

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About Jeff Clements

Jeff Clements is co-founder and chair of the board of Free Speech for People, a national non-partisan campaign to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, challenge excessive corporate power, and strengthen American democracy and republican self-government. He co-founded Free Speech For People in 2010, after representing several public interest organizations with a Supreme Court amicus brief in the Citizens United case. Jeff has served as Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Public Protection Bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. As Bureau Chief, he led more than 100 staff in the enforcement of environmental, healthcare, financial services, civil rights, antitrust and consumer protection laws. In private practice, Jeff has been a partner at Mintz Levin in Boston, and in his own firm. Jeff also has served in leadership capacities on numerous boards, including that of the Portland Water District, a public agency responsible for protecting and delivering safe drinking water and ensuring proper treatment of wastewater for 160,000 people; Friends of Casco Bay, an environmental organization he co-founded with others to protect and enhance stewardship of Maine’s Casco Bay; and The Waldorf School in Lexington, Massachusetts. In 2012, Jeff co-founded Whaleback Partners LLC, which provides cost-effective capital to farmers and businesses engaged in local, sustainable agriculture. Jeff graduated with distinction in History and Government from Colby College in 1984, and magna cum laude from the Cornell Law School in 1988. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts with his wife and three children. Jeff Clements Twitter: @ClementsJeff Email: jclements@freespeechforpeople.org
This entry was posted in Action in the States, Constitution, Legal Challenges to Citizens United & Corporate Rights. Bookmark the permalink.

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