Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tout Court

By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court upheld a law that makes it a crime to give material support to foreign terrorists. That may seem like the right decision, but as far as I can tell, this "material support" could include pure speech where one tries to convince the terrorists to become peaceful. The Court's majority seems to be saying that activities where you support a recognized terrrorist organization, even if you believe you're doing it for positive reasons, still makes it easier for them to continue being terrorists. The majority is thus willing to defer to the government, allowing them to determine how best to balance free speech and national security.

The six votes were the Court's five conservatives plus the always questionable Justice Stevens, who's capable of voting wrong on either side. In dissent, Justice Breyer wrote the case involved "the communication and advocacy of political ideas and lawful means of achieving political ends. [...T]his speech and association for political purposes is the kind of activity to which the First Amendment ordinarily offers its strongest protection.” I agree. If only he'd extend such rights not only to those who aid terrorists, but to those who form corporations.

The goverment's case was argued by Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Wonder if she'd be on the same side if she were on the bench.

Meanwhile, the Court, 7-1, lifted a ban on selling genetically modified alfalfa seeds. The majority believed (and I agree) the ban was a drastic remedy--let's get some more research. Good old Justice Stevens was the lone dissenter--whether the government wants to limit your speech or your business, he's always ready to help out.

Justice Breyer sat this one out. He likes this sort of case, but his brother worked on the lower court decision. Wonder how that family dynamic is working out?


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