Supreme Court to rule on campaign finance case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] granted the first two cases [order list, PDF] of the 2013 term on Tuesday, including one on campaign finance [JURIST backgrounder]. In McCutcheon v. FEC [notice of appeal, PDF; case materials] the court will consider whether the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) [text] limit on individual contributions should be found unconstitutional as unsupported by a sufficient government interest. The court previously held in Buckley v. Valeo [opinion] that limits on contributions implicate First Amendment interests, but that limits may be imposed as long as they are closely drawn to match a sufficiently important governmental interest. Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee (RNC) [advocacy website] argue that the limit—up to $2,500 per election to federal candidates, up to $30,800 per calendar year to a national party committee, up to $5,000 per calendar year to any non-party political committee, with an aggregate limit of $117,000—is too low and not supported by a sufficient governmental interest because the Federal Election Commission (FEC) [official website] failed to show a specific, rather than generalized, risk of constitutional interference. The US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled [opinion, PDF] for the FEC suggesting the limits on spending were a purely legislative issue. In this case, the Supreme Court did not grant certiorari but accepted appeal under probable jurisdiction.

The court granted certiorari in Sandifer v. United States Steel Corporation [cert. petition, PDF] on the limited question: What constitutes "changing clothes" within the meaning of Section 203(o) [text] of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) [materials]? The law, under the definition for "hours worked," states that employers should "exclude any time spent in changing clothes." A class action of 800 employees from US Steel argue that they should be compensated for the time they spend changing in and out of safety equipment, because that is not what was intended by "clothes" under the act. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled [opinion] that changing into work clothes is not excluded by the act: "From a worker's standpoint any time spent on the factory grounds is time 'at work' in the sense of time away from home or some other place where he might prefer to be if he weren't at work. But it is not time during which he is making steel, and so it is not time for which the company will willingly pay."

Also Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied stays in two cases. The full court denied a temporary stay in Hedges v. Obama [JURIST news archive], which sought to temporarily block enforcement of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) [text, PDF]. Justice Clarence Thomas denied a stay of execution [order, PDF] for Warren Lee Hill [JURIST news archive] and rejected his petition for certiorari. Hill has an IQ of 70 and his execution has been stayed several times due to courts disagreeing on the nature of his mental disability. Despite Thomas' denial, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit stayed the execution to consider the issue minutes [Huffington Post report] before Hill was to be executed.

 

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