A Conspiracy to Commit Speech?

By March 25, 2010Briefly Legal, General

From the Washington Legal Foundation, a news release about an amicus brief the WLF and National Association of Manufacturers have filed, “Court Urged to Reverse RICO Decision that Threatens to Chill Speech“:

The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) this week urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review (and ultimately overturn) an appeals court decision that imposes liability under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) on major corporations based on their efforts to speak up on issues of public importance. WLF and NAM argued that the lower courts imposed liability without regard to the defendants’ First Amendment rights to speak freely and that their decisions threaten to chill speech by the business community.

In a brief filed in support of three certiorari petitions filed by tobacco companies, WLF argued that the speech at issue is fully protected by the First Amendment, even if, as the federal government alleges, the speech was false. …

“This case concerns the extent to which corporate speakers are entitled to full First Amendment protection,” said WLF Chief Counsel Richard Samp after filing WLF’s brief. “The Supreme Court agreed to decide that issue several years ago in a case involving Nike but ended up scrapping the case for procedural reasons. If corporate speech is to have necessary breathing room, the government cannot be allowed to declare that corporations have forfeited all First Amendment rights the moment it determines that something included in the speech is misleading. Such a standard may be acceptable for advertising; it is totally unacceptable in the context of speech on issues of public importance,” Samp said.

There’s more background in WLF’s “Litigation Update” from 2009 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the judgment the federal government had won against the major cigarette manufacturers in United States v. Philip Morris USA Inc.

Thanks to Andrew G. McBride, Thomas R. McCarthy, and Megan L. Brown of the D.C. law firm of Wiley Rein LLP, who provided bono assistance to the WLF in preparing the brief.

Leave a Reply