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SCOTUS green-lights pro-life group's challenge of campaign speech law

By David Yates | Jun 17, 2014

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the green light to an anti-abortion group seeking to challenge an Ohio law prohibiting false campaign statements.

Although the court did not deem the law unconstitutional, justices unanimously ruled that the Susan B. Anthony List could press on with a lawsuit claiming the law infringes on the First Amendment.

The case, Susan B. Anthony List et al vs. Driehaus, stems from a complaint brought by former U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus against the anti-abortion group in which Driehaus alleged that SBA violated the law when it advertised publically that his vote for the Affordable Care Act was a vote in favor of "taxpayer funded abortion," court records show.

Driehaus lost his quest for re-election in 2010 and ultimately dropped the complaint, even though the Ohio Elections Commission found probable cause that the ads violated the law.

SBA subsequently challenged the law as unconstitutional. However, two lower federal courts found the group did not have the right to sue, since Driehaus withdrew his complaint, court records show.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the justices found that SBA "demonstrated an injury," reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The author of the court's opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas, voiced concerns on Ohio's law and the effect it has on groups wishing to run political ads.

"The credibility of that threat is bolstered by the fact that authority to file a complaint with the Commission is not limited to a prosecutor or an agency," wrote Thomas. "Instead, the false statement statute allows 'any person' with knowledge of the purported violation to file a complaint."

Case No. 13-193

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