Friday, April 25, 2003

commercial free speech and sneakers

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday in a case involving the world's largest sneaker manufacturer, Nike. It's been characterized as a case involving questions of whether a corporation has a right to free speech, or a right to lie to the public.

Will the case be a landmark decision involving a clear cut definition of the constitutionality of commercial speech? What roles does the Supreme Court, the State Court, and the court of public opinion have in the case? Will the Court base their decision on a right to free speech, or as the U.S. Solicitor General argued, whether or not the plaintiff should have standing to sue under the law since he wasn't directly harmed.
The free-speech cause of Nike and other corporations got a major boost from the Bush administration, as Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson urged the court to strike down the California fraud law because it allows private individuals to sue to enforce it.

''California has transferred governmental authority to regulate marketplace speech to anyone with a grievance who can pay the [court] filing fee,'' Olson argued. ''That gives an individual the power to enhance his own agenda, unaccountable to anyone, with no proof that he has suffered any harm.''
If I had to guess, I'd say the later.

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