McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission

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McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 12, 1994
Decided April 19, 1995
Full case name Joseph McIntyre, executor of Estate of Margaret McIntyre, deceased, petitioner v. Ohio Elections Commission, et al.
Citations 514 U.S. 334 (more)
Holding
An Ohio statute that prohibits anonymous political or campaign literature is unconstitutional.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Stevens, joined by O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer
Concurrence Ginsburg
Concurrence Thomas
Dissent Scalia, joined by Rehnquist
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I
Ohio Code § 3599.09 (A)

McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that an Ohio statute that prohibits anonymous political or campaign literature is unconstitutional. Writing for the Court, Justice Stevens asserted that such action is protected by the First Amendment, and therefore violated the constitutional principle of freedom of speech. Justice Scalia dissented, to which Chief Justice Rehnquist joined. Justice Ginsburg also concurred. Justice Thomas wrote what was, for him, a very rare concurrence, but he is known to support free speech.

Background[edit]

Margaret McIntyre, a taxpayer, passed out pamphlets that opposed a proposed school tax. The Ohio Elections Commission found her guilty of violating Ohio Code § 3599.09(A), which forbade "the distribution of campaign literature that does not contain the name and address of the person or campaign official issuing the literature."[1] The Board fined her.[1]

McIntyre appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, which reversed. The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed that court, putting back the fine. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court. She petitioned to the Supreme Court of the United States, which granted writ of certiorari. Extensive amici briefs were filed in the case. In the meanwhile, the plaintiff had died, but her executor continued the litigation.[1]

On September 11, 2014 federal judge Black struck down Ohio’s campaign truth, issuing a decision that disallows government unfit to decide about truth in political advertising on the basis of the First Amendment's right to free speech. Such interference would according to Black's ruling remove the power to decide about truth and credibility of advertisements from the voters in favor of the government with no sufficient safeguards against political abuse. [2]

Subsequent law[edit]

Fifteen years later, the Supreme Court distinguished the McIntyre rule in Doe v. Reed, 130 S. Ct. 2811 (2010). In Doe, they held that the disclosure of signatures on a referendum does not violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[3] This holding came out of the Washington Referendum 71 (2009), in which the people of Washington state confirmed Senate Bill 5688, a law extending the rights and obligations of domestic partnership in Washington.

A defendant in a defamation lawsuit attempted to use this case as a precedent that "sources have the right of anonymous speech under the First Amendment", but in 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the argument, distinguishing that case from McIntyre.[4] In that case, the defendant was held not to be a journalist for the purposes of privilege, but was she also not anonymous, as she had posted her identity.[5]

During the Albany, New York 2011 school budget campaign, anonymous flyers were mailed and telephones called that (unsuccessfully) aimed to defeat the Albany City School District budget.[6] It was later revealed that it was funded by "a charter-affiliated group ... connected to Tom Carroll," who was "founder of the Brighter Choice Foundation, which supports all of the city's 11 charter schools."[6] The opponents of the public schools spent $6,766 on postage for the mailings, while "the total cost of the professionally-produced postcards, as well as a telephone push poll, likely far exceeded $10,000."[6] This led to a bill being introduced into the New York State Legislature to require disclosure for political mailings that cost over $1,000.[6] The bill was written by majority legislators Member of the Assembly Sam Hoyt and Senator Kenneth LaValle.[6] That bill is pending as of June 2011.

The importance of anonymous speech[edit]

In striking down the law, the court considered some important reasons to allow anonymous speech that weighed in their decision.

  1. Enhance authority - "Anonymity thereby provides a way for a writer who may be personally unpopular to ensure that readers will not prejudge her message simply because they do not like its proponent."[7]
  2. Encourage open discourse - "The interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry."[8]
  3. Safety from retaliation - "The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic of official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one's privacy as possible."[9]

Further reading[edit]

See Also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Full text of the opinion courtesy of Findlaw.com
  2. ^ Stephen, Dinan. "Federal judge rejects Ohio law requiring truth in campaign advertising". Washington Times. Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Doe v. Reed courtesy of the Supreme Court website. Accessed June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale (N.J. 2011), slip. op. at 37, fn. 5, citing McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 341-43, 115 S. Ct. 1511, 1516-17, 131 L. Ed. 2d 426, 436-37 (1995). Accessed June 7, 2011.
  5. ^ Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale,, supra, slip. op. at 38, fn. 5.
  6. ^ a b c d e Scott Waldman (May 31, 2011). "Proposed law: Blast a school budget, attach your name; Legislators want more disclosure on efforts to sway school votes". Times Union. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  7. ^ McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 342.
  8. ^ McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 374.
  9. ^ McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 341.

External links[edit]