UF Law gets supreme sneak peek
By Andrew Steadman (2L)
University of Florida law students got a week-early sneak peek at a United States Supreme Court oral argument.
On Thursday, James “Jim” Bopp, Jr. (JD 73), a regular before the high court and advocate for conservative causes, delivered a moot court oral argument before a bench of five Florida judges and legal experts in the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center. Bopp is a member of the legal team that will argue for the appellant, Shaun McCutcheon, et al., in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.
McCutcheon will be argued before the Supreme Court on Oct. 8. Students at UF Law were treated to a preview of the actual argument, complete with passionate repartee between Bopp and the justices.
The University of Florida Moot Court Team and Federalist Society jointly organized the event.
UF was well represented on the bench. Stephen Grimes, a 1954 graduate of UF Law and former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice, served as chief justice for the event. Professor Clay Calvert of the UF College of Journalism and Claudia Murray Edenfield (JD 11) also served as justices. They were joined by former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ken Bell and former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Major B. Harding.
McCutcheon is the successor to the landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In the earlier case, the Supreme Court ruled that federal limits on campaign donations by corporations violated the First Amendment. Bopp served as legal advisor to Citizens United leading up to the Citizens United case.
In McCutcheon, the court will consider whether federal limits on campaign contributions to non-candidate committees – like the Republican National Committee – are constitutional.
Bopp presented a brief introduction, which the justices critiqued, then launched into the meat of his argument. At the heart of the appellant’s argument is the First Amendment right to contribute freely to political causes without government intervention.
“Contributing is a form of political speech,” Bopp said.
At various points during the argument, the justices asked Bopp how the government could check corruption in political contributions if the limits were lifted. In response, Bopp distinguished garden-variety gratitude from the fear of political committees accepting contributions as a tacit agreement of political loyalty.
Bopp said limits on contributions would only be reasonable if the federal government could show evidence that corruption had actually occurred in campaign contributions. He said instances of the media inventing political contribution scandals were meaningless without hard evidence that such corruption had occurred.
“Appearance of corruption cannot be tied to the real world,” Bopp said. “The best evidence would be that it has happened before.”