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Citizens United Overruled, Court Announces Via New Cameras

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on April 01, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In what court watchers called an "unexpected move," Chief Justice John Roberts announced this morning that a majority of the Supreme Court had voted sua sponte at a private conference yesterday to overturn its 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that corporations had a First Amendment right to spend as much as they wanted during elections.

"After five years of debates, it has become clear that our earlier position was untenable and led to both corruption and the appearance of corruption," Roberts said from the bench, echoing the language of Justice Kennedy's opinion in that case.

Court Reverses Course, Announces Cameras in the Courtroom

The world was shocked to see the announcement live, via C-SPAN, on the Court's new television cameras. Though the Court has vociferously resisted courtroom cameras, Justice Clarence Thomas said the time was near for the Court to move into the 21st century. "Many courts, including federal courts of appeals, film proceedings as a matter of course and make that video available to the public," he said, announcing the new camera system.

Choosing Thomas to make the announcement was particularly noteworthy, given that he (with one exception) hasn't uttered a word during oral arguments in over nine years. "Rather than adversely affect court proceedings, cameras demonstrably have little to no effect on decorum, and, indeed, further public participation in our institution," Thomas said, adding that the presence of cameras would probably cause him to interject more often, as he is perhaps most comfortable speaking to large audiences(provided they already agree with him).

Justice Ginsburg Announces Retirement

The red-letter day continued as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood up to announce her retirement from the Court, effective immediately. "I have proudly served this Court for the last 22 years, but the divisiveness in our legislature has caused me great concern over the ability to appoint a replacement who will maintain this Court's integrity," she said.

The Obama administration confirmed that it had received Ginsburg's resignation earlier in the day and was searching for qualified candidates to fill Ginsburg's considerable jurisprudential shoes. "At this time, we are scouring the nation to find the best legal minds," said a harried White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, still reeling from the Court's earlier announcements. "Our short list includes such legal luminaries as Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan, California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, and even Senator Elizabeth Warren. The president is confident that, based on their outstanding credentials, each of them would have no problem whatsoever being approved by the Senate," he said.

That sentiment was echoed by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who confirmed in a press conference that he would be proud to appoint any of them to a seat on the High Court. "After all, it's about merit, not politics," McConnell said.

Editor's Note, April 2, 2015: Before you celebrate any great changes in our revered Supreme Court, please do take note of the date on which this post was published.

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