Conan v. NBC, Google v. China, and Citizens United v. FEC
Happy Friday Dear Readers:
Although this was a short week for most, there was certainly no dearth in legal news. Some of the highlights in legal news this week include:
Conan O’Brien and NBC finally resolved their public dispute over the broadcasting giant’s plans to push “The Tonight Show” time slot back to 12:05 a.m. so that Jay Leno’s late night show could air at 11:35 pm. The resolution came in the form of a deal that, as the Wall Street Journal reported, includes a $32.5 million payout for O’Brien, approximately $12 million for his staff, and a release allowing O’Brien to pursue other opportunities starting September 1, 2010.
Tensions between Google and China continued to rise as Google threatened to stop censoring search results and pull its operations out of China following an attack on its servers there. So far, the Chinese government is not backing down from its censorship requirements and has rebuffed international criticism of its policies. For a helpful timeline of Google/China relations check out this PC World .
But the biggest story of all is surely the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205 handed down on Thursday. In this decision, the Supreme Court struck down existing limits on corporate and union spending in elections declaring these limits a violation of the corporate entities’ First Amendment rights.
The reason this decision has garnered so much attention is that it represents a serious departure from the Court’s past precedents. Specifically, the Supreme Court overruled two prior decisions: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, which upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (“McCain-Feingold”) that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.
Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court was bitterly divided on the issue and the 5:4 vote ultimately tracked the ideological split between the 9 justices.
The full text of the opinion is available here: