In recent weeks, law professors at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law have played major roles in three victories at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Catholic University law school professor Mark Rienzi argued before the Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley, a First Amendment case that asked the high court to review the constitutionality of a Massachusetts law that created a space outside abortion clinics within which pro-life sidewalk counselors were prohibited from speaking with those entering the facilities. The restriction was signed into law in 2007 by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, but the Supreme Court unanimously overturned it last week.
Professor Rienzi reportedly said of his work on that case that “I represent peaceful pro-life grandmothers who want to stand on the sidewalk and offer alternative options to women going to the clinic.”
Rienzi was also one of the attorneys for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty representing Hobby Lobby in its lawsuit against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate. The Cardinal Newman Society summarized the reactions of several Catholic organizations yesterday to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in favor of religious freedom as “[o]ptimistic but cautious.”
Catholic University law school professor Mary Leary wrote briefly of Rienzi’s winning streak at the Mirror of Justice blog, saying, “it is a great honor for a lawyer to advocate and win in the Supreme Court once in one’s career. To win 9-0 is even more impressive. To win twice in two weeks, well that is something.”
On top of Rienzi’s efforts, Robert Destro, professor of law and founding director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, recently received a favorable decision from the Supreme Court that allows his client the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) to proceed with an important lawsuit.
“The Susan B. Anthony case raises an important free speech issue: Whether a state elections commission, in this case, Ohio, has the authority to decide whether political speech during a campaign is false,” said Destro in a release.
The issue centered around events which occurred during the 2010 Congressional election when SBA criticized then congressman Steve Driehaus in an advertisement for voting for taxpayer funded abortion. Driehaus complained to the Ohio Elections Commission and alleged that the ad violated Ohio's false statement law, but SBA filed suit in federal court arguing that the law is unconstitutional.
Driehaus proceeded to lose his next election and he withdrew his complaint. SBA's lawsuit against the Ohio law continued, but the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio dismissed it, arguing that SBA did not face substantial injury.
In dismissing on this procedural matter, the district court never reached the First Amendment issue. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal on the procedural question, holding that the commission’s probable-cause finding that authorized the investigation, then dropping it once withdrawn, meant SBA was not injured by the law, and that SBA had not actually received an adverse ruling.
In Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed in a unanimous decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas.
... So without dissent, a 9-to-0 Court sent the case back to the lower court for consideration of another procedural matter, and if that is satisfied, for the lower court to also rule on the constitutionality of Ohio’s law.
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