Supreme Court justices across the ideological spectrum seemed deeply suspicious Tuesday of an Ohio law that criminalizes the spreading of false information about a political candidate during a campaign. Now they have to find a way for someone to bring them the proper challenge. Technically, the court was reviewing a decision by a lower court that an antiabortion group did not have the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of Ohio’s law, which is similar to ones in more than a dozen other states. But the justices couldn’t resist giving a preview of their skepticism about what Michael A. Carvin, the Washington lawyer representing the group Susan B. Anthony List, called Ohio’s “ministry of truth” during oral arguments.
“Don’t you think there’s a serious First Amendment concern with a state law that requires you to come before a commission to justify what you are going to say and which gives the commission discovery power to find out who’s involved in your association, what research you’ve made, et cetera?” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked Ohio State Solicitor Eric E. Murphy.
Added Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., “You have a system that goes on and on, year after year, where arguably there’s a great chilling of core First Amendment speech, and yet you’re saying that basically you can’t get into federal court” to challenge it.