In recognition of the extraordinary circumstances, the Supreme Court has agreed to release the audio from the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission argument soon after it is completed. It will be worth a listen, for the hearing is not only a highly unusual four-way argument involving the brand-new Solicitor General, two former Solicitors General and a legendary First Amendment lawyer:
The Court’s Day Call shows this sequence for the argument: Theodore B. Olson of Washington, arguing for Citizens United, 30 minutes [some of that time will be saved for rebuttal after all others have argued]; Floyd Abrams of New York, arguing for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, 10 minutes; Solicitor General Kagan, for the FEC, 30 minutes, and Seth P. Waxman of Washington (a former Solicitor General), for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other present and former congressional sponsors of campaign finance legislation.
But also because it is a rare special session re-argument requested by the Court to address a decades-old principle of constitutional law that most people today take for granted:
The large stakes of this case were not really apparent when the Court first agreed to hear it last Nov. 14 — ten days after Americans had cast their ballots in the most recent federal elections. At that time, Citizens United, a politically active group with strong conservative views, pressed the case primarily as a test of whether federal campaign finance restrictions applied to what it called “a broadcast feature-length documentary movie.” There was some constitutional argument involved, but the case was primarily statutory in scope. At the center of the case was Citizens United’s sharply critical portrayal of the presidential candidacy last year of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The feature-length film was titled “Hillary: The Movie.” The contents of that film have been all but obscured by the profound shift in the shape of the case that has since occurred.
After the Court heard oral argument on the case last March 24, and began debating in private how to decide it, some members of the Court — the public does not know who, or exactly why — apparently began viewing the case as a more fundamental inquiry into constitutional questions about corporations’ rights of political speech. On the final day of the Term, the Court ordered the case reargued, and set the date for Sept. 9. Lawyers were told to come back to debate whether the Court should overrule two of its most important precedents that had upheld curbs on campaign finance by corporations.