Friday, October 05, 2007

Washington Supreme Court--Government Should Not Be Truth Police

In an unusual case where the ACLU and one Liberal sided with 3 Conservative justices and took on 4 Left leaning judges defending a Republican thinking Democratic Legislator, the
Washington Supreme Court struck down a 1999 law that prohibits candidates for public office from intentionally lying.
Conservative Tim Sheldon invoked the law when his opponent, Green Party candidate Marilou Rickert sent out a pamphlet which allegedly falsified his voting record. Rickert appealed the ruling. The ACLU argued that the law was an abridgement of the first amendment. That point is debatable. Laws requiring truth in advertising seem to withstand legal scrutiny.
I really think that this should motivate the public to do their own homework. Study the candidates and find out what they really are saying. I think voters as a whole, vote on emotion for the most part and that is too bad.

1 comment:

Danny Barer said...

I agree.

The free speech protection clause of the US Constitution's First Amendment has generally been viewed as not protecting speech that misrepresents facts in a way that injures someone else. That's why conduct by government employees that might support a common-law suit for libel or defamation generally won't support a suit under the federal civil rights statute for violation of the constitution, unless it's accompanied by some other conduct that violates the victim's constitutional rights -- "defamation plus," as the courts call it.

The problem in election cases is avoiding squabbles between politicians as to whether what one candidate says about another is accurate. Election battles should be waged in voting booths, not courtrooms.