07.14.12

Richard Posner Bashes Supreme Court’s Citizens United Ruling

Richard Posner is the most influential conservative judge outside the Supreme Court. And he thinks its campaign-finance ruling encourages bribery. James Warren on Posner's latest shot—and Scalia's gun love.

The American political system is marked by legal corruption in which “wealthy people essential bribe legislators” with campaign contributions, according to one of the nation’s most influential federal judges.

Speaking to foreign educators, Judge Richard Posner told the assembled that the wealthy give lots of money to legislators and that an individual legislator “knows that if he doesn’t promote the interests of the donor,” he won’t get any more money.

Posner is a renowned member of the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He is not only the nation’s most prolific jurist-academic, he is seen by some as the most influential judge outside of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Posner is intellectually fearless and, increasingly, far from the reflexively conservative thinker that he’s been long seen to be. In a recent National Public Radio interview, he spoke of the “real deterioration in conservative thinking” in recent years. “I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.”

Posner has taken a poke at the high court’s controversial ruling before. But he’s taking his disdain for the decision to a broader audience. His latest comments came at a post-luncheon appearance Thursday before visiting Asian legal academics at the University of Chicago Law School, where he remains a faculty member.

“Our political system is pervasively corrupt due to our Supreme Court taking away campaign-contribution restrictions on the basis of the First Amendment,” Posner said.

Posner left no doubt about his criticism of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United campaign-finance decision. He said, “Our political system is pervasively corrupt due to our Supreme Court taking away campaign-contribution restrictions on the basis of the First Amendment.”

He also didn’t mind naming some names, in particular that of Justice Antonin Scalia, a onetime member of the law school faculty who lectured and taught at the school in February. Posner brought up the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, affirming the right of individuals to have handguns at home for self-defense.

Posner doesn’t think the Second Amendment has anything to do with an individual’s right to bear arms, a basis of the decision for which Scalia wrote the majority opinion.

“That didn’t slow down Scalia,” Posner told his Asian listeners. "He loves guns. He’s a hunter.”