September 9, 2007

2000 - Who really won ?

Only three times in American history has the presidential election been won by the Electoral College and not the popular vote counts. The 2000 Election was one of these cases where George Bush won 271 electoral votes and Al Gore, 266. Yet the popular vote went for Gore with 50,156,783 votes to 49,819,600 for Bush. Ultimately the tight race came down to Florida, with the press first calling for Gore, then for Bush, as the victor. The count on November 8, 2000, had Bush winning by under 2000 votes and receiving Florida's electoral votes.

When Gore called for a manual recount of the votes in four Florida counties, it set off arguments over the constitutionality of the recount based on the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause states that no state "shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". As counties counted the votes differently, was this a violation of the law? The final decision on the constitutionality of the Florida vote count went to the United States Supreme Court with Bush v. Gore. The Supreme Court sided with Bush and the vote count stood with Bush winning the state and the election.

August 28, 2007

1988 - Hustler Magazine v. Falwell

The 1980's saw the growth of a new form of religious movement, televangelism. One of the key members of this front was Jerry Falwell, founder of the the Moral Majority, a political Christian lobbyist group. In 1983 Hustler Magazine featured a parady of a recent ad campaign entitled "Jerry Falwell talks about his first time." Falwell sued Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, and the magazine itself for libel, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Lower courts awarded Falweel $150,000 for the last count but dismissed the first two. Larry Flynt appealed the case up to the United States Supreme Court and on February 24, 1988, the court overturned the lower courts decision. The main question of the case, does the 1st amendment's freedom of speech extend to making offensive statements about public figures? Because the parady did not contain a false statement made with "actual malice," nor was it written in such a way that construed actual fact, it fell under freedom of speech and damages could not be awarded to Falwell. The case has set the standard for statements about public figures ever since.

Hustler Magazine v. Falwell - 485 U.S. 46 (1988)