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Americans for Prosperity

First Amendment News 303.1: 6-3 Court strikes down California donor disclosure law

July 1, 2021

This morning the Court handed down its ruling in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Rodriguez.

The issue in the case was whether the exacting scrutiny the Supreme Court “has long required of laws that abridge the freedoms of speech and association outside the election context — as called for by NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson 357 U.S. 449 (1958), and its progeny — can be satisfied absent any showing that a blanket governmental demand for the individual identities and addresses of major donors to private nonprofit organizations is narrowly tailored to an asserted law-enforcement interest.”

Holding: The Court holds that the California donor “disclosure requirement is facially invalid [that is, in every case] because it burdens donors’ First Amendment rights and is not narrowly tailored to an important government interest.”

Vote: 6-3

Majority Opinion: Roberts (delivered the opinion of the Court except as to Part II–B–1. Kavanaugh and Barrett, JJ., joined that opinion in full, Alito and Gorsuch joined except as to Part II–B–1, and Thomas joined except as to Parts II–B–1 and III–B)

Section Part II-B-1: From the Robert opinion: “NAACP v. Alabama did not phrase in precise terms the standard of review that applies to First Amendment challenges to compelled disclosure. We have since settled on a standard referred to as ‘exacting scrutiny.’” (Alito, Gorsuch & Thomas dissent)

Section Part III-B: From the Roberts opinion: “a facial challenge is appropriate in these cases.” (Thomas dissents)

Concurring Opinions: Thomas (concurring in part and concurring in the judgment), Alito (concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, Gorsuch joined)

Dissenting Opinion: Sotomayor (joined by Breyer and Kagan)

Audio of Oral Arguments: Via C-SPAN

Lawyer for Petitioner: Derek L. Shaffer (brief here)

Lawyer for Respondent: Aimee Feinberg (CA Deputy Solicitor General) (brief here)

Lawyer for the United States as Amicus: Jeffrey Wall (brief here)

Ninth Circuit Opinion: (here)

2020-2021 SCOTUS term: Free expression & related cases

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This article is part of First Amendment News, an editorially independent publication edited by Professor Ronald K. L. Collins and hosted by FIRE as part of our mission to educate the public about First Amendment issues. Opinions expressed are those of the article's author(s) and may not reflect the opinions of FIRE or of Professor Collins.