In two of the last three opinions of its term, the Supreme Court struck down both the D.C. handgun ban and portions of the “Millionaire’s amendment” to federal campaign financing laws, both by 5-4 votes.
“[T]he enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy options off the table,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the five-judge majority in the handgun ban case, D.C. v. Heller. “These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.”
In one of two dissents, Justice John Paul Stevens expressed disbelief that “over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons.” (For more quotes from Heller, see our sister blog, D.C. Dicta.)
In the second case, Davis v. Federal Election Commission, the court sided with Jack Davis, who’s spent millions of his own money in two unsuccessful bids for a Congressional seat and hopes to make a third run. Davis claimed it’s unconstitutional to triple the limit his opponents can raise from individual donors once he spends $350,000 of his own money. The majority agreed, noting that the limit was not lifted on Davis’ outside donors.
“This Court has never upheld the constitutionality of a law that imposes different contribution limits for candidates competing against each other,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “and it agrees with Davis that this scheme impermissibly bur¬dens his First Amendment right to spend his own money for cam¬paign speech.”
In the third case, Morgan Stanley Capital Group v. Public Utility District 1 the justices agreed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should reconsider the validity of power contracts purchased by utilities in California, Nevada and Washington state during the energy crisis of 2000 and 2001.
However, contrary to the 9th Circuit, it found the Mobile-Sierra doctrine does apply in this case. That means FERC must presume the contractual rate is “just and reasonable” unless it finds that the contract “seriously harms the public interest.”
Morgan Stanley was decided by a 5-2 vote; Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Stephen Breyer recused themselves.
BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor/Law