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The First Amendment, Freedom Of Speech, And Plutocracy: Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission And Friedrichs V. California Teachers Association

Author: EDWARD J. MARTIN, JEFFREY A. MARTIN and MICHAEL J. MARTIN
Published in IJED, Vol. 10 No. 2

This analysis will address the free speech issues related to the legal controversy in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), and Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (2016). The legal interpretation argued by the Supreme Court both in favor of Citizens United and Friedrichs, deviates from past legal precedents. In Citizens United the Supreme Court has argued that free speech rights extents to corporations while at the same time the free speech of non-union members in Friedrichs is violated since it is a form of coerced speech. The Supreme Court has ruled in the past that it is illegal to allow free riders not to pay union dues in the collective bargaining process. Historically, the Supreme Court has argued that political advocacy is inherent to labor negotiations on behalf of union and non-union members. As such, necessary fees in the form of union dues, or reduced dues, is legally acceptable and not a violation of free speech or a form of political coercion. Nevertheless, the difficulty remains in separating free speech from coercing speech through union dues. We argue for a clearer legal understanding of free speech based on the legal hermeneutics of John Stuart Mill, Thomas Emerson, and other legal theorists within this tradition. We further argue that Citizens United and Friedrichs, as argued by the current Supreme Court, distorts and weakens the notion of free speech and thus results in elitist plutocratic formations within society, undermining democratic rule as cited by legal scholars Richard Hasen and Erwin Chemerinsky.

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