ATP reviewing legal options after Montana SC rules against speech
By a 5-2 vote, a split Montana Supreme Court ruled Friday citizens may not engage in political speech while freely organized as a corporation.
“The Montana Supreme Court, through this decision, has shown contempt for the overriding law of the land and has thumbed its nose at the United States Supreme Court, which has specifically held that the State of Montana has no interest in prohibiting people who associate together from speaking,” said American Tradition Partnership Executive Director Donald Ferguson.
“Regardless of whether one believes corporations have the right to spend their money to do independent political ads, the Supreme Court has specifically addressed this question as a matter of constitutional law and the Montana Supreme Court has no authority or basis to tell the Supreme Court it is wrong.”
“I respect the Montana Supreme Court I feel Judge Sherlock and Justices Baker and Nelson, along with the U.S. Supreme Court and the plain language of the First Amendment are correct in stating employers have a right to free speech and free association. We feel Montanans do not forfeit their freedoms of speech and association simply because they associate as a corporation.”
In his dissent, Justice James Nelson wrote:
I disagree with the Court’s decision to parse Citizens United in a fashion so as to “send a message” to, or be the next “test case” before, the Supreme Court. In my view, this approach is disingenuous. Montana is in the same First Amendment swimming pool as every other state, and the Supreme Court has dictated that its waters are expansive and deep when it comes to corporate political speech. Citizens United is the law of the land, and this Court is duty-bound to follow it.
When this case is appealed to the Supreme Court, as I expect it will be, a summary reversal on the merits would not surprise me in the least. [emphasis added]
In my opinion, District Court Judge Sherlock’s well-reasoned and courageous—though politically unpopular—decision should be affirmed. I cannot agree with this Court’s determination not to do so.
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