Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is fond of blasting Supreme Court decisions even before reading them. In his eyes, its decisions are all part of a diabolical plot to enrich corporations (even though the Court often rules against business, and some of its supposedly pro-business decisions are rulings for small businesspeople who make much less money than Senator Leahy and his wealthy trial lawyer pals).
Recently, he did it again, baldly mistating the facts of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (2010). In that case, the Supreme Court largely upheld the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, rejecting a challenge to an agency it created (the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board) under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, and merely striking down (and severing) an unconstitutional removal provision, to save as much of the law as possible.
The day of the Supreme Court’s decision, Pat Leahy rushed to the press to falsely denounce the Court for supposedly ACCEPTING the very Appointments-Clause challenge that it actually REJECTED: “the Supreme Court held that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board violated the Appointments Clause of the Constitution,” he claimed, going on to argue that the Court did so in response to the bidding of “powerful corporate interests” and “corporate conservatives.” (The challengers in the case were actually a non-profit advocacy group and a tiny Nevada accounting firm that decried the challenged law for enriching big accounting firms at the expense of small ones and small businesses.) See June 28 Press Release, “Comment On The Supreme Court Decision In Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board,” available in U.S. Federal News and in Westlaw’s News Database at 2010 WLNR 13063107 (June 29, 2010).
Relevant portions of Senator Leahy’s press release are below (a Web page that once reproduced it was recently changed, weeks after the court’s decision):
“Comment On The Supreme Court Decision In Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, June 28, 2010
The Supreme Court today issued a ruling in Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court found unconstitutional a key provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act . . . Overturning decisions by the D.C. District Court and the D.C. Circuit Court, the Supreme Court held that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board violated the Appointments Clause of the Constitution because its members are not under the direct control of the President. Senator Leahy was a co-sponsor of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 . . .’ the Supreme Court has once again turned its back on its own precedents and disregarded the longstanding judgments of Congress and our efforts to protect Americans from abuses by powerful corporate interests. . . .A slim majority of the Supreme Court agreed with these corporate interests that the law violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause . . .”