So You Can’t Lie When You Buy a Gun

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Bruce Abramski bought a handgun for his uncle, hoping to use his expired police officer ID to get a discount. When the seller asked, as required by law, if the gun was for him, Abramski said yes. C’mon, wouldn’t you have done the same for a bargain? Next time, don’t. Abramski was convicted for making a false statement “material to the lawfulness of the sale” and a false statement with respect to information required for the dealer’s records — and today a divided U.S. Supreme Court upheld the convictions.

Does Supreme Court Want Truthier Elections?

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Was a vote for the Affordable Care Act a vote for “taxpayer-funded abortion”? Sounds like a question of opinion, doesn’t it? But when a pro-life advocacy group called the Susan B. Anthony List said as much about then-Congressman Steve Driehaus’s vote during the 2010 election cycle, Driehaus filed an action charging them with making a false statement about his voting record, a crime under Ohio law. Driehaus lost the election, and the case was never decided. But the SBA folks still wanted the federal court to strike down the Ohio law as unconstitutional. Yesterday, the Supreme Court allowed their challenge case to go forward — and that tells us something important about the future of election law.

Fighting the IRS Just Got Harder

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. What do you dread more than a summons from the IRS? The tax authority is the closest thing to Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor that our democracy allows. And today the U.S. Supreme Court made the Internal Revenue Service just a little bit stronger, overturning an appeals court opinion that would have allowed you to examine the IRS agents who summon you to find out if they have improper motives. The court established a reasonable-sounding rule: You can question the agents only if you can point to specific circumstances plausibly raising the inference of bad faith. In reality, however, it’ll be hard to pass this bar unless the courts share the skepticism of the IRS that is natural to most taxpayers.

Justices Side With Free Speech and Common Sense

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Since 1968, when the U.S. Supreme Court first announced some protection for government employees’ free-speech rights against the risk of retaliation, the trend in its decisions has been to cabin and limit that right almost to nothingness. Today the court gently reversed that trend. Its holding — that a government employee can’t be sanctioned for testimony given in court outside his job responsibilities — sounds intuitive and obvious. But under past case law, it wasn’t. The decision is therefore not only a victory for common sense, but also a modest win for the First Amendment in the government workplace.

Bond Vultures’ Bet Against Argentina Pays Off

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Score two for the gamblers. Today the Supreme Court handed a double defeat to the Republic of Argentina in its effort to default on sovereign bonds issued in 1994. That means a double win for NML Capital, that so-called vulture fund that holds $1.33 billion of those bonds bought for pennies on the dollar in the hopes that the U.S. courts would eventually try to make Argentina pay.

Why Care If the Court Splits 5-4?

An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. In many of its most important cases, the modern U.S. Supreme Court has divided 5-4. By a single vote, the court guaranteed the presidency to George W. Bush, upheld the Affordable Care Act and affirmative action in university admissions, and ruled that government cannot prevent corporations from spending money in political campaigns. As the court prepares to issue this year’s most significant decisions, it’s a good bet that several of them will show 5-4 divisions as well. Is this a problem?

Campaign-Finance Reform Has to Be Cross-Partisan

An op-ed by Lawrence Lessig. The vast majority of Americans—more than 90 percent in recent polls—believe it “important” to “reduce the influence of money in politics.” But is the business model of the reformers actually consistent with winning reform? This is the fair but hard question raised by the strategy planned by Senate Democrats this summer to force a vote on New Mexico Senator Tom Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment to give Congress the power “to regulate the raising and spending of money” in elections.

How to Cope With Credit Card Bills After a Family Member Dies

Whether you’re rich or poor, famous or obscure, if you have a will, chances are it says something to the effect of, “pay my debts before you pay my heirs.”…State law offers some protection with what’s called a creditor period – a certain length of time (ranging from two months after the start of probate to five years from the date of death) after which the executor can pay beneficiaries without worrying about creditors’ claims, explains Harvard Law professor Robert H. Sitkoff.

Cronies, corruption and cash: Lawrence Lessig on why we need a super PAC to end all super PACs

This past May, center-right GOP strategist Mark McKinnon and Harvard Law School professor, author and activist Lawrence Lessig announced the launch of what sounded like a real contradiction — a super PAC to end all super PACs. Called “the Mayday PAC,” McKinnon and Lessig’s creation was something of an experiment, an attempt to see if the power of big money in post-Citizens United American politics could be wielded in order to, well, end the post-Citizens United era of big money in American politics…This week, Salon called up Lessig in order to discuss some of the details of the Mayday PAC and the vexing problem of money and democracy in America more generally.