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Supreme Court hears final oral arguments for 2010 term

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Wednesday in Nevada Commission on Ethics v. Carrigan [oral argument transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on whether the First Amendment allows states to prevent government officials from voting on matters in which they have or appear to have a personal conflict. The Nevada Supreme Court, citing Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], held [opinion, PDF] that preventing an official from casting such a vote violates the First Amendment because voting by an elected public officer on public issues is protected speech. Counsel for the petitioner, the Nevada Commission on Ethics, argued, "[n]eutral laws requiring official recusal for conflict of interest do not abridge free speech because a legislator's vote, however expressive, is not protected speech. It is, rather, a legally binding exercise of State power that he wields as an incident of public office." Counsel for the respondent, City Councilman Michael Carrigan, argued that a ruling for the petitioner would have a chilling effect on political activity.

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