The Catholic University of America





CUA Law Professor and Recent Alumnus Help Secure Supreme Court Victory


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Catholic University law school Professor Robert Destro (top left), working with recent alumnus Austin Lipari, 2013, helped lead the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life advocacy organization, to a unanimous victory at the United States Supreme Court on June 16.  Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus is a challenge to Ohio laws that make it a crime for any person to “[m]ake a false statement concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official” or to “[p]ost, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing [it] to be false or with reckless disregard” for the truth. 
Writing for the Court, Justice Clarence Thomas held that the SBA List had standing to challenge to the laws.  Led by veteran Supreme Court advocate Mike Carvin of Jones Day, the litigation team included Professor Destro, veteran Cincinnati elections lawyer, David Langdon, Lipari, and several others.
Professor Destro said that he was “thrilled” that the Supreme Court voted 9-0 to overturn the Sixth Circuit.  “Electioneering speech is at the core of the First Amendment,” said Destro.  “Citizens need access to the federal courts whenever election laws operate to chill or suppress speech.”  “These laws,” he explained, “allow any citizen to use Ohio Elections Commission proceedings to tie up a candidate’s time and money in the critical closing days of a hard-fought elections campaign.  Ohio voters neither want nor need a ‘Ministry of Truth’ to protect them from candidates seeking their votes.” 
In addition to their work in the Supreme Court on the merits brief, Professor Destro and Mr. Lipari worked to organize a coalition of amici curiae that included the ACLU, the American Booksellers Association, political satirist P.J. O’Rourke, and many other groups and individuals who urged the Court to send the case back to the District Court for trial.
Lipari’s involvement in the case began in 2012 when he was a student in Professor Destro’s First Amendment Seminar.  “We used the case in class as a real time example of how to litigate a First Amendment case,” said Lipari.  “He later asked me to work on discovery and the successful summary judgment motion in the companion libel case filed by former Congressman Driehaus, which is now pending in the Sixth Circuit.” 

Lipari said that he “was pleasantly surprised” in January when the Supreme Court granted certiorari on the constitutional challenge and Professor Destro invited him to work on the litigation team.  “He shouldn’t have been,” said Destro, “I always get my students involved in ‘real’ cases. That’s the best way to teach them.”