Newspaper column: Democratic lawmakers trying to ration free speech

Nevada’s Democratic lawmakers in Carson City are seeking to enforce their egalitarian philosophy on everyone: All people are equal and deserve equal rights — and only equal amounts of those rights. You have the right to free speech, but no more than anyone else.

This past week an Assembly committee heard testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 4, which would urge Congress to amend the Constitution to strike the free speech portion of the First Amendment. SJR4, sponsored by Las Vegas Democratic state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, would erase the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that it was unconstitutional to forbid the broadcast of a movie critical of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just because it was paid for by a corporation.

But SJR4 goes even further. It limits spending by individuals as well. The summary reads: “Urges Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution to allow the reasonable regulation of political contributions and expenditures by corporations, unions and individuals to protect the integrity of elections and the equal right of all Americans to effective representation.”

It basically declares democracy is dead because the citizens are too stupid to hear vigorous and boisterous debate and make rational decisions.

The resolution argues that large political donations corrupt candidates and dilute the power of individuals. Pay no heed to the fact that in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was outspent by Hillary Clinton by two-to-one — $600 million to $1.2 billion.

The resolution would not only overturn Citizens United but also McCutcheon v. FEC.

Democrats think all money belongs to the state except what the state allows you to keep, and now they demand to take control of how you spend that.

In addressing an Assembly committee on her bill Cannizzaro said it “addresses a growing and rather troubling influence of large donations by corporations and other organizations in our sacred policymaking process as a result of significant and uncontrolled political contributions.”

Jeff Clements, president of American Promise, an organization pressing for such a constitutional amendment, testified to the Assembly committee by phone.

He said we need to get back our constitutional foundation that “really has gone back in a non-partisan and cross-partisan way for over a century. It is not to say there is anything bad about corporations and unions or the very, very wealthy … If we allow unlimited deployment of the financial resources from those and other sources, it overwhelms the rights we have as Americans and the duties we have to participate in our self-governing republic, as equal citizens with equal representation.”

He argued that politics is not a marketplace to be bought and sold.

Yes, it is a marketplace — one of ideas. But no matter how much someone spends trying to persuade us to buy, we don’t have to buy.

As for it being a non-partisan issue as Clements claimed, the vote on SJR4 in the state Senate was on a party-line vote of 12 Democrats for and nine Republicans against.

Let’s hear what the court had to say about free speech in McCutcheon: “The Government has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combatting corruption and its appearance. We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption — quid pro quo corruption — in order to ensure that the Government’s efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them.”

In Citizens United, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “The (First) Amendment is written in terms of ‘speech,’ not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals — and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is ‘speech’ covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise. A documentary film critical of a potential Presidential candidate is core political speech, and its nature as such does not change simply because it was funded by a corporation. Nor does the character of that funding produce any reduction whatever in the ‘inherent worth of the speech’ and ‘its capacity for informing the public,’ … Indeed, to exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy.”

I’ll put those words up against the Democrats’ bleating about money corrupting.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

 

Newspaper column: New senator wants to shred First Amendment

Nevada’s newly elected U.S. senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, has already taken up the cudgel against the First Amendment previously wielded by her predecessor, Harry Reid.

She put out a press release recently announcing that she has joined with other congressional Democrats to reintroduce a constitutional amendment that would overturn Supreme Court rulings that have held that it is a violation of the First Amendment to restrict the amount of money corporations, nonprofits, unions and other groups may spend on political campaigns and when they may spend it.

In its current incarnation it is being called the Democracy for All Amendment. In previous years it bore the unwieldy acronym DISCLOSE Act — Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections. Reid frequently took to the floor of the Senate to pound the table for the amendment and disparage the Koch brothers’ political spending as the embodiment of evil.

“The U.S. Constitution puts democratic power in the hands of the American people — not corporations or private companies,” the press release quotes Cortez Masto as saying“Since the Citizens United decision, big corporations have gained unprecedented influence over elections and our country’s political process. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation; it’s critical that we end unlimited corporate contributions if we are going to have a democratic process and government that will truly work for all Americans.”

In the 2010 Citizens United decision, a 5-4 Supreme Court struck down the part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that prohibited organizations such as Citizens United, a political action committee, from expending funds for electioneering immediately prior to an election. In this case the Federal Election Commission blocked the 2008 broadcast of “Hillary: The Movie,” which was critical of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

During the arguments in the case, the Justice Department attorney defending the law admitted the law also would censor books critical of candidates, though newspapers and other media, most owned by large corporations, were exempted from the law and may criticize, editorialize and endorse or oppose candidates freely. Some corporations are more equal than others.

Cortez Masto’s statement concluded, “The Democracy for All Amendment returns the right to regulate elections to the people by clarifying that Congress and the states can set reasonable regulations on campaign finance and distinguish between individuals and corporations in the law.”

The problem is that free speech is not free if the incumbent government satrapy can curtail its dissemination.

Justice Anthony Kennedy explained this in his majority opinion in Citizens United v. FEC: “As a ‘restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign,’ that statute ‘necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached.’ … Were the Court to uphold these restrictions, the Government could repress speech by silencing certain voices at any of the various points in the speech process. (Government could repress speech by ‘attacking all levels of the production and dissemination of ideas,’ for ‘effective public communication requires the speaker to make use of the services of others’).”

The fact the expenditure is coming from a group instead of an individual does not negate the First Amendment guarantee of the “freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely,” because it “also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.”

An assembly is not just a crowd of people on the street, it is also an organization.

Reid in one of his many diatribes on the subject said: “But the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced. Let’s keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy and put a stop to the hostile takeover of our democratic system by a couple of billionaire oil barons. It is time that we revive our constituents’ faith in the electoral system, and let them know that their voices are being heard.”

This implies the voters are too stupid to hear an open and free-wheeling debate and not be influenced by the volume or frequency of the message.

Lest we forget, in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was outspent by Hillary Clinton by two-to-one — $600 million to $1.2 billion.

Censorship is unAmerican and unnecessary. Cortez Masto should abandon this assault on free speech.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Bundy case remains shrouded in secrecy

Cliven Bundy, center, holds his grandson. (AP photo by John Locher)

Cliven Bundy, center, holds his grandson. (AP file photo by John Locher)

In order to maintain public confidence in a civil society, not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done.

This past week Nevada’s Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro upheld a sweeping protective order by a federal magistrate that seals documents and gags participants in the pending trial of Cliven Bundy, four of his sons and a dozen co-defendants on charges resulting from the April 2014 standoff at Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch, because that information might be used to intimidate witnesses. (navarroruling)

The protective order was challenged by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, this newspaper and The Associated Press, which argued the order was overly broad and would prevent public scrutiny of a high-profile and significant case.

In upholding the secrecy, Navarro noted that case law dictates, “The district judge ‘may not simply substitute its judgment’ for that of the magistrate judge.”

But she later declared in the 10-page ruling, “The Intervenors proffer nothing but assumptions and conjecture about whether true threats were made as opposed to idle threats. This speculation does not refute (U.S. Magistrate) Judge (Peggy) Leen’s finding of good cause, let alone demonstrate clear error,” though the original order was based largely on assumptions and conjecture about largely anonymous Internet rants.

Navarro also dismissed as inefficient and impractical suggestions that certain information could be selectively redacted, instead of everything being sealed in its entirety as soon as it is filed, due to the fact the case involves 1.4 terabytes of digital information.

Freeing court personnel from a little paperwork trumps the unfettered ability of the defendants to have the public spot flaws in the documents and testimony that will determine whether they are to be incarcerated or freed?

Leen wrote in her order this past summer, “All materials produced by the government in discovery in this case, including, but not limited to: grand jury transcripts, agency reports, witness statements, memoranda of interviews, and any documents and tangible objects produced by the government shall be treated as confidential documents.”

The judge warned that defense attorneys may not even share notes relating to the contents of discovery with anyone not employed to assist the defense, and anything filed in court relating to the discovery must be filed under seal.

Leen reasoned that victims and witnesses could be vulnerable to “cyberbullying, threatening communications, and intimidation from Bundy supporters,” which could have a chilling effect on witnesses. She determined this even though almost all of the 22 allegations of intimidation are more than two years old and nothing substantive has come of any of them.

The defendants face felony charges that include conspiracy, obstruction, extortion and assault, which carry penalties of up to 50 years in prison. The standoff occurred after armed Bureau of Land Management law enforcement agents attempted to roundup Bundy’s cattle after he had refused for 20 years to pay grazing fees in the Gold Butte area. The BLM said he owed $1 million in fees and penalties.

Faced with armed protesters the BLM agents eventually released the cattle and left to avoid potential bloodshed.

Attorney Maggie McLetchie, who represents the media in this case, had argued to the court, “One of the most critical aspects of news reporting is to inform the public of justice being carried out in the courts. In this regard, the press is vital to the health of a democracy. … This right is anchored in the value of keeping ‘a watchful eye on the workings of public agencies,’ and in publishing ‘information concerning the operation of government.’ … ‘In short, justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.’”

McLetchie told the Las Vegas newspaper after the recent ruling, “We are disappointed because an overly broad protective order limits how much access the media, and therefore the public, has to information about this high-profile case. … As the case progresses, it will be a challenge to litigate matters in open court when so much is hidden from the public. The order can also have a chill on litigants’ willingness to speak to the press because, with such a broad order, it is hard to know if you can say anything.”

The lack of public scrutiny means that any extenuating or mitigating circumstances that the public might shed light on will not come until the time of trial, when it might be too late.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

News update: Family members say Cliven Bundy and his wife Carol were injured in accidents recently. He due to a fall in prison and she in a rollover car accident near Mesquite.

 

Media object to sweeping Bundy secrecy order

Bundy standoff. (Reuters photo)

Three media organizations have filed an objection to a federal judge’s order to veil in sweeping secrecy documents and evidence in the Bundy case. Intervenor objects

Earlier, U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen ordered all materials produced by the government in discovery in the case — grand jury transcripts, agency reports, witness statements, memoranda of interviews, documents and objects produced by the government — are to be confidential and anything filed court relating to these are to be automatically filed under seal.

She said this was being done to protect witnesses, victims, law enforcement, prosecutors and other government officials from being intimidated — mostly based on vague 2-year-old Internet postings that suggested certain people might come to harm.

Attorney Maggie McLetchie — who represents the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper, The Associated Press and Battle Born Media, which publishes a half dozen weekly newspapers across the state — on Friday filed the 22-page objection, saying the secrecy order is excessive and unnecessary.

The Bundy case grows out of the April 2014 standoff between Bureau of Land Management law enforcement and armed supporters of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy. Bundy had failed to pay grazing fees for 20 years and the BLM was attempting to roundup his cattle. The 19 defendants face felony charges that include conspiracy, obstruction, extortion and assault, which carry penalties of up to 50 years in prison.

The BLM eventually released the cattle rather than risk bloodshed.

McLetchie argues (specific cites omitted):

The Magistrate Judge noted that public access to discovery materials is more limited than to court proceedings. … However, in allowing the materials deemed “Confidential” to be automatically filed under seal, the Court’s Protective Order essentially misapplied the lesser standard for access to criminal discovery to judicial filing. The law of this circuit and the common law “start with a strong presumption in favor of access to court records.” … Given this presumption of public access, the Ninth Circuit “requires a party to make a particularized showing of good cause for each document it seeks to file under seal.”

McLetchie notes that the rambling and ranting social media postings cited by the government as a rationale for secrecy are free speech, protected expression of frustration and not actual threats.

These included: “EVERYONE PLEASE CALL … They need to know that they are doing is NOT right and that we notices [sic] it and we are a shamed [sic] of them!” and “Sounds like to solve the problem a lqnd [sic] owner will, have to take out an AR 10 and put a bullet in -head to save the other land owners to stop this, if I had land. i will now, kniw [sic] who to shoot first….”

Rather than close off everything, the attorney suggests identifying information could be redacted.

McLetchie concludes:

Indeed, the magistrate judge’s protective order subverts longstanding presumptions that (1) court records are presumptively public, and (2) depriving the public of access to public records requires a careful balancing of the private and public interests at stake. Instead, with little in the way of good cause to support a protective order, the magistrate judge has mandated that all confidential documents attached to motions and pleadings must be filed under seal without requiring the filing party to show why sealing is necessary. This runs contrary to the Ninth Circuit and this Court’s law, and should not be the standard for filing documents and supporting discovery in this case. Instead, this Court should follow the guidance of the Ninth Circuit and require parties to establish that submitting discovery documents in a public filing will result in a specific, particularized harm. In addition, the party seeking to file discovery documents under seal should be required to demonstrate that alternatives to sealing such as redacting identifying information would not suffice to address the government and the magistrate judge’s concerns.

She also notes that in a recent Nevada case Magistrate Judge George Foley recently ruled that the party seeking a protective order in a criminal case must bear the burden of showing good cause and a showing of specific harm.

The public has a right to see whether justice is done from now until and through the trial scheduled for next February. Meanwhile, all the defendants are being held without bail.

Newspaper column: Resignation offers a glimpse into the state of newspapering in Nevada

The newspaper community in Nevada is a rather small clique of writers and editors, competing against each other for the hot news scoops and heart-tugging feature stories and precious pearls of political punditry. It is the competition that makes all the papers just a little better than they otherwise would be.

Writers and readers are a little poorer when one of the stars of the journalism craft in the state feels he must walk away in order to maintain his integrity and creditability.

A month ago, John L. Smith, who has written a general interest column four or five days a week for more than 30 years at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, resigned.

The situation offers readers a rare glimpse inside the nuanced world of Nevada newspaper journalism, which seldom gets any coverage and where credibility is often a matter of perspective, motives are suspect and excuses can replace sound judgment and diligent editing.

Smith was among a handful of writers at the Las Vegas newspaper who unearthed the identity of the paper’s new ownership in December — Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner and generous donor to Republican political candidates. All have since left the paper.

In a December column, Smith commented that Adelson is “precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper.”

John L. Smith doing commentary at KNPR.

In January, shortly after Adelson named a new publisher for the newspaper, Smith was told he could no longer write about Adelson because the casino owner had once unsuccessfully sued Smith over a couple of sentences in a book about casino executives called “Sharks in the Desert.” Smith protested but reluctantly followed orders, though he had written often about Adelson over the years since the suit was thrown out in 2008 as baseless.

Then a month ago, the newly ensconced editor of the paper, Keith Moyer, appeared at a weekend meeting of the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to talk about the future of the paper. According to Twitter feeds posted during the meeting, Moyer publicly declared, “I personally think it was a conflict for John to write about Sheldon,” and, “As long as I’m editor, John won’t write about Sheldon Adelson.”

Smith replied with a Tweet: “Wasn’t I also sued by Wynn?” referring to a lawsuit by casino executive Steve Wynn over an ad for a book about Wynn called “Running Scared” that was dismissed by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2001.

The following Monday, Moyer told Smith he could not write about Wynn either. The next day Smith resigned, leaving a letter on desks in the newsroom saying in part: “I learned many years ago about the importance of not punching down in weight class. You don’t hit ‘little people’ in this craft, you defend them. In Las Vegas, a quintessential company town, it’s the blowhard billionaires and their political toadies who are worth punching. And if you don’t have the freedom to call the community’s heavyweights to account, then that ‘commentary’ tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed. … If a Las Vegas columnist is considered ‘conflicted’ because he’s been unsuccessfully sued by two of the most powerful and outspoken players in the gaming industry, then it’s time to move on.”

One man’s conflict is another man’s job well done.

Adelson’s suit said “Sharks” made false implications that he “was associated with unsavory characters and unsavory activities.”

Adelson asked that the case be dismissed when Smith’s attorney, Don Campbell, obtained confidential Gaming Control Board records. “In short, Adelson’s claims were about to be exposed for what they were … false and vindictive,” Campbell said at the time.

Wynn sued when an ad for “Running Scared,” an ad Smith did not write, said the book ”details why a confidential Scotland Yard report calls Wynn a front man for the Genovese crime family.”

The book itself reported that the New Scotland Yard report was “not entirely accurate” and was politically motivated and largely based on investigative efforts of U.S. authorities who did not reach the same conclusion.

I’ve always lectured reporters that every story should have a WSIGAD — why should I give a damn.

You may have never read the Las Vegas newspaper and never heard of John L. Smith, but all the journalists in the state know of his plight, and, when they contemplate covering the rich and powerful, there will be a hitch in their gait that will affect the news you get. That’s why you should give a damn.

Disclosure: I edited Smith’s columns for more than 20 years.

A version of this column appears this week many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Obama has the nerve to lecture journalists

President Obama lecturing journalists on how to do their jobs is like Goldfinger lecturing James Bond.

This past week Obama presented a journalism award along with a 30-minute speech at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. In it he bemoaned the vulgar rhetoric and circus atmosphere of the current political campaign and talked about how important it is for professional journalists to do their jobs.

“Part of the independence of the Fourth Estate is that it is not government-controlled, and media companies thereby have an obligation to pursue profits on behalf of their shareholders, their owners, and also has an obligation to invest a good chunk of that profit back into news and back into public affairs, and to maintain certain standards and to not dumb down the news, and to have higher aspirations for what effective news can do,” Obama said. “Because a well-informed electorate depends on you. And our democracy depends on a well-informed

Obama lectures journalists

electorate.”

This is from a man, who as a candidate promised the most transparent administration in the history of the world, but, according to a recent Associated Press analysis, has delivered the most secretive and stonewalling administration on record.

The AP reports the Obama administration has set a record for rejecting Freedom of Information Act requests.

The story recounts that in more than one in six requests, or 129,825 times, FOIA requests resulted in federal searchers finding not a single page of records. “People who asked for records under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, also a record,” the AP report states.

The FBI couldn’t find any records in 39 percent of requests. U.S. Customs and Border Protection couldn’t find any records 34 percent of the time.

The administration rarely provides any detailed description of just how diligent their search efforts are.

Obama seldom holds press conferences and frequently refuses to answer questions or equivocates.

But in his admonition to reporters at the Syracuse award ceremony, Obama declared, “Good reporters like the ones in this room all too frequently find yourselves caught between competing forces, I’m aware of that. You believe in the importance of a well-informed electorate. You’ve staked your careers on it. Our democracy needs you more than ever.”

But his administration has blocked access to the information that would keep the electorate informed.

Not only has the Obama administration blocked access, it has blatantly gone after journalists’ sources and prosecuted people for daring to talk to reporters.

In 2013 it was revealed that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of cellular, office and home telephone records of AP reporters and editors in Washington, New York and Connecticut, as well as the number for AP reporters covering Congress.

“The aggressive investigation into the possible disclosure of classified information to the AP is part of a pattern in which the Obama administration has pursued current and former government officials suspected of releasing secret material,” the Washington Post reported at the time. “Six officials have been prosecuted, more than under all previous administrations combined.” Charges against leaker Edward Snowden brought that to seven. Prior to that there had been only three indictments for leaks under the World War I Espionage Act.

AP’s president and chief executive, Gary Pruitt, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters.These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

Before relenting in 2014, the administration for years threatened to jail New York Times reporter James Risen for refusing to reveal a confidential news source.

“As I believe that that for all the sideshows of the political season, Americans are still hungry for truth, it’s just hard to find,” Obama lectured.

Why is it hard to find, Mr. President?

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record. It ran as a column in the Elko Daily Free Press.

How do you solve a problem like Scalia? … redux

Justice Antonin Scalia (Getty Images via WSJ)

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia has ignited a political firestorm over how and when and who should be appointed to replace this irreplaceable conservative legal scholar. There has also been a torrent of articles about the man’s legacy. The Wall Street Journal alone has a dozen pieces recounting his effluence on the law and his “greatest hits.”

The one thing he should most be remembered for, perhaps, is his ardent defense of the First Amendment.

In July 2002 I wrote a column for the Las Vegas newspaper under the headline: “How do you solve a problem like Scalia?” It has long since disappeared from the ether.

The headline was lifted from a lyric by a liberal/satirical Washington, D.C.-based singing and dancing group who called themselves the Capitol Steps. It, of course, is a parody of the “Sound of Music” song about Maria.

The ditty includes these lines:

How do you solve a problem like Scalia?
How do you fix the mess Scalia made?
How do you find a legal panacea?
If he doesn’t go, we’ll overturn Roe v. Wade

Oh, maybe now Bush owes Antonin a favor
Maybe our reputation isn’t sound
Remember when they’d report
The president picks the court
It’s gotten to be the other way around

My column’s solution to the problem was: cloning, because there aren’t enough like him on the court.

The specific topic was the court’s ruling and Scalia’s 5-4 majority opinion in the case of Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, which had been handed down a couple of weeks earlier.

It upheld the free speech rights of state judicial candidates. A number of states, including Nevada, had laws on the books that basically gagged elected judges from speaking out about matters they might someday have to rule on.

Nevada had fined two judges for answering a radio host’s question about their political party affiliation.

The American Bar Association had a conniption fit over the ruling, saying it would turn judicial elections into unseemly free-for-alls. Of course, the Bar didn’t and doesn’t think voters are smart enough to elect judges.

Scalia quoted an earlier dissent by Justice Thurgood Marshall: “[T]he greater power to dispense with elections altogether does not include the lesser power to conduct elections under conditions of state-imposed voter ignorance. If the State chooses to tap the energy and the legitimizing power of the democratic process, it must accord the participants in that process … the First Amendment rights that attach to their roles.”

Scalia went on to reason: “Moreover, the notion that the special context of electioneering justifies an abridgment of the right to speak out on disputed issues sets our First Amendment jurisprudence on its head. ‘[D]ebate on the qualifications of candidates’ is ‘at the core of our electoral process and of the First Amendment freedoms,’  not at the edges. … ‘The role that elected officials play in our society makes it all the more imperative that they be allowed freely to express themselves on matters of current public importance.’ … ‘It is simply not the function of government to select which issues are worth discussing or debating in the course of a political campaign.’  … We have never allowed the government to prohibit candidates from communicating relevant information to voters during an election.”

Of course, such matters are never truly settled and judges find ways to dance around those “edges.”

Just a couple of weeks ago the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sitting en banc managed to uphold an Arizona law that limits judges’ right to free speech about judicial elections.

One of the judges supporting this free speech restriction was Nevada’s own Johnnie B. Rawlinson, who was appointed to the court by Bill Clinton at the urging of Sen. Harry Reid.

A story in today’s Review-Journal quotes a law professor as saying Reid had once touted Rawlinson as a potential candidate for the Supreme Court.

Not exactly someone who could fill Scalia’s shoes.

scalia