U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case Against Ohio Law Criminalizing False Statements in Election Campaigns

On April 22, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Susan B. Anthony List v Driehaus, 13-193. The issue is the constitutionality of an Ohio law that makes it a criminal offense for anyone to spend money on a statement about a candidate or ballot measure that the state considers false. The lower federal courts had refused to rule on the constitutionality of the law, citing procedural reasons. There have been several separate challenges to the law, but so far none of the lawsuits has resulted in any court deciding whether the law is constitutional.

Virtually every comment and question made by any Justice was critical of the lower court decision. It is extremely likely that the Supreme Court will remand the case back to a lower court and ask it to decide the constitutional issue. If that happens, it is somewhat likely that the precedent will help in other election law cases, and First Amendment cases, to overcome standing problems.

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