Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus

134 S. Ct. 2334, 573 U.S. 149 (2014)

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Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus

United States Supreme Court
134 S. Ct. 2334, 573 U.S. 149 (2014)

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Facts

During the 2010 election cycle, pro-life advocacy organization Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) (plaintiff) publicly criticized members of Congress who voted for the Affordable Care Act, claiming they supported taxpayer-funded abortion. SBA planned to display a billboard claiming then-congressman Steve Driehaus (defendant) “voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion.” After Driehaus threatened legal action, the billboard company refused to display SBA’s message. Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission claiming SBA had violated an Ohio law that prohibits disseminating false statements during political campaigns. A commission panel found probable cause that SBA had violated the law. SBA sued seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on free-speech grounds. Specifically, SBA alleged that the Ohio law was unconstitutional facially and as applied, that SBA’s speech about Driehaus had been chilled, that SBA planned to engage in similar future speech, and that it faced having its speech and associational rights restricted in the future. When Driehaus lost the election, he withdrew his complaint against SBA. The district court consolidated SBA’s suit with a similar suit brought by Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) (plaintiff) challenging the Ohio statute on essentially the same grounds. COAST had intended to disseminate materials criticizing Driehaus for allegedly voting “to fund abortions with tax dollars,” but COAST did not do so because of his complaint against SBA. The district court dismissed both suits as nonjusticiable, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

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