From The Columbus Dispatch
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a Cincinnati case that could decide whether it is constitutional for Ohio election law to prohibit false statements made with malice during an election campaign.
Although the justices have yet to schedule oral arguments on the Ohio law, by accepting the case they rejected arguments by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine that there was no reason for the high court to review two lower federal court dismissals of the lawsuit.
“I think this is further evidence that the court sees serious problems with state laws that regulate electoral speech,’’ said Paul Sherman, an attorney for the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, which urged the justices to hear the case. “They have recently shown a lot of hostility to these kinds of laws, and with very good reason.’’
The dispute emerged from the 2010 re-election campaign of Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Cincinnati. Susan B. Anthony List, a nonprofit organization, wanted to put up a billboard criticizing Driehaus’s vote for the 2010 health-care law, saying “Shame on Steve Driehaus. Driehaus voted for taxpayer-funded abortion.’’
When Driehaus’s attorney threatened to sue, the billboard’s owner declined to put up the advertisement. Driehaus then complained to the Ohio Elections Commission, saying the planned ad violated a law that prohibits false statements about a candidate.
Driehaus dropped the complaint after he was defeated by Republican Steve Chabot. But the Susan B. Anthony organization asked a federal judge to intervene, arguing that Driehaus’s complaint hampered its right to free speech.