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Case Championed by Professor Robert Destro to be Heard by U.S. Supreme Court

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A free speech case from Ohio that has drawn the pro bono assistance of Catholic University law school Professor Robert Destro for the past few years will get its day in the nation’s highest court sometime in April.
 
Late last week, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari for Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, a case that arose from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

“The Susan B. Anthony case raises an important free speech issue: Whether a state elections commission, in this case, Ohio, has the authority to decide whether political speech during a campaign is false,” said Destro.
 
The conflict arose during the 2010 Congressional election, when Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), a national pro-life advocacy group which Destro represents as co-counsel, purchased space on Cincinnati area billboards attacking the voting record of then-Democratic Congressman Steven Driehaus.
 
The billboard messages pulled no punches: “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion,” the ads blared.  
 
Though the ads never did appear on public billboards in the end, SBA List found other ways to disseminate its criticism of the incumbent congressman. The organization always maintained that its broadsides against Driehaus were not merely campaign rhetoric, but were factually and demonstrably accurate.
 
Rep. Driehaus disagreed and filed a complaint against SBA List with the Ohio Elections Commission, alleging that the publication of the ad violated two of Ohio's false statement laws.
 
The commission found probable cause to determine that Driehaus' complaints should be referred to the full commission.
 
At that point, SBA List filed a federal lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order to enjoin the Commission proceeding, arguing that its speech was “chilled” because of the Commission plans to proceed. Its effort was eventually rejected by the Sixth Circuit.
 
Driehaus went on to lose his bid for reelection and then formally withdrew his complaint, which prompted the Ohio Elections Commission to terminate the planned hearing and drop the entire matter.
 
But for Destro and the Susan B. Anthony List, the larger issue hasn’t gone away even if the threat of legal action has dissolved. Now, the Supreme Court will decide whether any state may adopt speech-suppressive law campaign laws, whether or not they are actually used to prosecute anyone.