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Solicitor General Requests Early Start on CFR by Supreme Court

The U.S. solicitor general and Congressional sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act have asked the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in the landmark campaign finance case in September — a month earlier than the high court normally begins its fall term.

The expedited schedule requested by the Solicitor General Ted Olsen, who made the request on behalf of the Federal Election Commission, calls for oral arguments on either Sept. 5 or Sept. 8, or during the week of Sept. 29.

The Supreme Court has not yet laid out a timetable for hearing the case.

In a press release, Democracy 21, a group headed by Fred Wertheimer that supports the law as written by Congress, noted that if the high court hears oral arguments that first week in September, it would “set the stage for a decision in this case during 2003.”

Most court observers agree that a 2003 ruling is essential to ensure fundraising chaos does not ensue when the presidential election season gets under way early next year.

Specifically, the proposal suggests that opening briefs for plaintiffs be limited to 100 pages and filed by June 27, and that opening brief sets by defendants also be limited to 100 pages and filed by July 18.

The proposal then suggests that 40-page reply briefs could be filed by plaintiffs Aug. 5 and by defendants Aug. 22, with oral arguments commencing on Sept. 5 or 8.

Alternatively, the solicitor general’s proposal suggests that a scheduling of oral arguments the week of Sept. 29 could be accomplished with opening briefs filed July 2 and July 29 by plaintiffs and defendants, respectively, with reply briefs due Aug. 22 and Sept. 15.

“Given the number and complexity of the questions presented, and the length of the district court opinions, the brief lengths proposed above are reasonable,” the solicitor general’s motion states.

The motion also noted that the proposed “briefing scheme” would likely lead to a decrease “in the total volume of briefing.”

In other news related to the case, Chief Justice William Rehnquist late last week denied a request by some plaintiffs to vacate the blanket stay of the three-judge panel’s decision as well as a request for an injunction pending appeal.

James Bopp, who represents the Club for Growth, the National Right to Life Committee and other groups, had asked the Supreme Court for relief, claiming that the statute’s electioneering provisions and the District Court panel’s alternative definition of electioneering communications were causing irreparable harm to his clients.

Rehnquist, however, tersely rejected that claim.

“An act of Congress is presumed to be constitutional, and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act should remain in effect until the disposition of this case by the Supreme Court,” the chief justice wrote. “The application to vacate the stay is denied, and the application for an injunction pending appeal, which was contingent on my vacating the District Court’s stay, is thereby rendered moot.”

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