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Supreme Court hears dispute over Vermont campaign finance caps

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday heard oral arguments in Randall v. Sorrell [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs] to decide whether Vermont's Act 64 campaign law [text], which places strict caps on campaign contributions and spending, should be upheld. The justices appeared skeptical of the state's limits with Justice Antonin Scalia [OYEZ biography] calling the strict law "very unusual in an American democracy." Vermont currently only allows contributions in the amount of $200 for state House races, $300 for state Senate campaigns, and $400 for statewide offices. The Vermont Republican State Committee [party website] and the Vermont Right to Life Committee [advocacy website] have led opposition to the law, while the Democratic National Committee [party website] led by chairman Howard Dean [party profile] is the law's biggest supporter. The case allows the Court to reconsider its decision in Buckley v. Valeo [opinion text], a 1976 case in which the Court allowed federal caps on campaign contributions while eliminating spending limits in order to promote political expression. Bloomberg has more.

The high court also heard oral arguments in Marshall v. Marshall [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], a case involving model Anna Nicole Smith's attempt to gain half of her late husband's estate. Oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II died at the age of 89, one year after marrying 26-year-old Smith, and one of Marshall's sons claims he is the only heir to his father's fortune. The justices seemed sympathetic to Smith's case as they considered when federal courts should hear claims that involve state probate proceedings. AP has more.

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