Two Constitutional Law Developments To Close Out February
As February comes to a close (one day later than usual), I wanted to post on a couple constitutional law developments this month that both happen to pit the American Civil Liberties Union against Barack Obama on questions about how much to balance legitimate government interests with the Bill of Rights.
The first one is that on February 17, the Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to take a case it lost on standing grounds. In Amnesty International v. Clapper, plaintiffs including lawyers and journalists, challenged the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a surveillance law designed to facilitate antiterrorism efforts. The Second Circuit said plaintiffs who reasonably believed they were being surveilled and incurred expenses to fulfill their professional duties protecting their sources had standing to challenge the law. The merits of the case were not reached by the majority and a rehearing en banc was denied on a six-to-six split. It’s a particularly interesting case because in a very similar case from 2007, ACLU v. NSA, the Sixth Circuit ruled plaintiffs did not have standing and the Supreme Court declined to take the case.
The other development I want to post on is the formation of a Boston College student-run blog concerning the controversial Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled a law limiting contributions to political causes by corporations, unions and wealthy individuals was a violation of their free speech rights. A group of students, including myself, is working on a project concerning the two-year-old decision, which provoked many strong reactions. We’ll be hosting a forum in April on Citizens United and its effects featuring Senator Jamie Eldridge (sponsor of this bill asking Congress for a constitutional amendment) and some legal professionals who will represent the differing viewpoints. Before then we’ll be providing links, updates and commentary on the blog which you can find here.