October always means one thing for court-watchers: the start of a new U.S. Supreme Court term.  On the first Monday of that month (when the Term traditionally begins), the Supreme Court typically releases an Orders List denying many of the thousands of petitions for certiorari that have piled up over the summer.  This Term’s list, which ran a mere 88 pages, contained at least 2 denials relating to political law:

  • FreeEats.com, Inc. v. Indiana, No. 11-1513, concerned a company that provides prerecorded telephone messages using an “artificially intelligent calling” system.  After FreeEats disseminated a political message for a client, the State brought suit alleging that FreeEats violated the Indiana Autodialer Law, which prohibits the making of “robocalls” without obtaining consent prior to the call or at the call’s outset via live operator.  The Supreme Court of Indiana upheld the law under the State Constitution, reasoning that the added expense of obtaining consent was not likely to be a “substantial obstacle” that inhibited FreeEats’ right to engage in political expression.  It also noted (but did not decide for procedural reasons) that the law would likely pass muster under the First Amendment because it was narrowly tailored to serve the interest of “residential privacy.”
  • National Organization for Marriage v. McKee, No. 11-1426, concerned Maine’s campaign finance disclosure laws.  NOM had donated $1.9 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, a ballot question committee, and sued when the State Ethics Commission determined that NOM was required to disclose its donors.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected the broad First Amendment challenge, finding that the three “modest” and “simple obligations” of registration, quarterly reporting, and recordkeeping were not so onerous as to be unconstitutional and furthered the State’s interest in disclosure.

Campaign finance cases implicating the First Amendment have increasingly become a staple of the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket.  But it looks like this Term’s blockbuster—if there is to be one—has yet to emerge.