[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments Wednesday in the consolidated case [transcript, PDF; Duke Law backgrounder] of Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life [merit briefs], 06-969, and McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life [merit briefs], 06-970, in which the Court must decide whether the restrictions on pre-election issue ads imposed by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law [text] unfairly restrict freedom of speech. Under the law, interest groups cannot run corporate-sponsored radio or TV advertisements that mention a candidate's name within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. In 2004, anti-abortion group Wisconsin Right to Life [advocacy website] was prevented from running ads urging people to ask state Senator Russ Feingold [official website] not to filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees, because Feingold was up for re-election that year. Wisconsin Right to Life argues it was not trying to influence an election, but was merely trying to rally support on an unrelated issue. The Federal Election Commission [official website] and a group of lawmakers led by Senator John McCain [official website] argued in favor of the law, saying that such issue ads can still influence voters. Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito appeared skeptical of the law, noting that many interest groups have said that the restrictions are impractical. The court is expected to rule this summer. AP has more.
The Court also heard arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in the case of Watson v. Philip Morris [merit briefs], 05-1284, in which the Court must decide whether a private corporation can claim the benefit of the federal officer removal statute [text] and have a case against it moved to federal court simply on the basis of the fact that it is complying with federal regulations.