Amicus Briefs

Amicus Briefs

Featured Amicus Briefs

Carpenter v. United States

When it accepted the case in June, the Supreme Court ordered that it would rule “whether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cell phone records revealing the location and movements of a cell phone user” violates the Fourth Amendment. The Institute’s brief argues that the answer to that question also has grave implications for the First Amendment. The technological ability to precisely locate citizens over time – 127 days in Carpenter’s case – could allow the government to determine a person’s associations with advocacy groups opposing government policies. Requiring a warrant for accessing this information would provide the best check against unreasonable or politically-motivated inquiries into individuals’ private associations. The Institute is joined on this brief by the Center for Media Justice, Color of Change, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, and Tea Party Patriots.

State of Washington v. Grocery Manufacturers Association

Can a group be fined $18 million for not properly filing campaign finance reports? The Institute’s brief says no. Such a massive penalty is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution that bars “excessive fines.” Large fines like this also harm the First Amendment right to free speech.

This case started in 2013 when the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a national trade group, opposed a ballot measure. The State of Washington, pursuing a complaint filed by supporters of the ballot measure, thought the group had acted improperly – despite clear conduct to the contrary. The state demanded that GMA file as a political committee and disclose all of its donors. GMA promptly complied, filed the appropriate paperwork, and disclosed all of its contributions and spending involving the Washington ballot measure. Despite this, the court fined GMA an unprecedented $18 million.

Minnesota Voters Alliance, et al. v. Joe Mansky, et al.

The Institute has urged the Supreme Court to take a case involving speech restrictions at the voting booth in Minnesota. In the case, Minnesota Voters Alliance, et al. v. Mansky, et al., the Eighth Circuit upheld a law prohibiting a voter from wearing a T-shirt that depicted the Gadsden flag, the historic American emblem depicting a coiled rattlesnake and the words, “don’t tread on me.” Minnesota argued, and the Eighth Circuit agreed, that apparel displaying a political message would cause chaos at the polling place. The Institute for Free Speech has asked the Supreme Court to correct this error. As the brief argues, “[the Supreme Court’s] storied precedents have long preserved and celebrated the right of Americans to wear political messages.”

All Amicus Briefs

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.