Skip to main content

View more from News & Articles or Primerus Weekly

By: Abbott Marie Jones, Esq.
Christian & Small LLP
Birmingham, Alabama

SCOTUS Protester

Sketch Credit: Art Lien, A little excitement in the usually staid courtroom, SCOTUSblog (Feb. 26, 2014, 1:46 p.m.),

On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases involving attorney’s fees in patent cases. The most extraordinary news out of the Court, however, was a man named Noah “Kai” Newkirk who interrupted oral arguments to protest the Court’s 2010 decision in Citzens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The Court held in Citizens United that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or oppose individual candidates in elections. In October, the Supreme Court heard arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case dubbed by some as “Citizens United 2.” McCutcheon, a suit filed by Alabama resident, mining industry executive, and conservative activist Shaun McCutcheon, challenges the federal limits on campaign contributions.

On Wednesday, shortly before the end of oral arguments in the patent cases, Kai Newkirk stood in the back of the courtroom to deliver his message: “Corporations are not people. Money is not speech. Overturn Citzens United. Keep the [campaign contribution] cap in McCutcheon.” Defying longstanding Court rules prohibiting recording devices in the courtroom, a companion of Newkirk’s managed to sneak into the courtroom a video camera and catch the protest on film. The video, which appears to contain footage not only of Newkirk’s protest Wednesday but also of the McCutcheon oral argument in October, marks an unprecedented security breach at the Court and is the first known video footage of a Supreme Court proceeding to be made public. Newkirk, no stranger to protesting, was arrested for making “a harangue or oration, or utter[ing] loud or threatening or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building.”

Abbott Marie Jones is an attorney with Christian & Small LLP in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is a member of the appellate litigation practice group.

For more information about Ms. Abbott Marie Jones and the law firm of Christian & Small, please visit the International Society of Primerus Law Firms.