CCP Asks Supreme Court to Refute “Welcome Restraint” Speech Doctrine in Trump “Travel Ban” Case

The lower court’s ruling was unnecessary and will chill vital campaign speech, argues brief

Alexandria, VA – The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) and the Public Policy Legal Institute (PPLI) today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of neither party in Int’l Refugee Assistance Project, et al. v. Trump, et al., commonly known as the “travel ban” case. The groups asked the Supreme Court to resolve a free speech dilemma created by a lower court ruling.

The dilemma? The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reviewed campaign statements to infer the motivations behind the “travel ban,” despite the fact that doing so was unnecessary. Making matters worse, the majority brushed off the chilling effect this would create as a “welcome restraint” on candidate speech.

As the brief filed by CCP and PPLI explains, the Supreme Court has never directed lower courts to review campaign statements in similar contexts. Moreover, candidate speech generally enjoys a high level of protection due to its importance to voters. For example, controversial, offensive, and false speech is protected in campaigns.

“The Supreme Court should reiterate its longstanding protection of robust campaign speech by rejecting the Fourth Circuit’s analysis,” said CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson. “The majority’s hopeful prediction that this case is ‘highly unique’ and unlikely to apply in other circumstances ignores the contentious reality of political campaigns. The potential applications of the ‘welcome restraint’ analysis extend far broader than the majority realizes,” Dickerson added.

The brief explains, “today’s supercharged and contentious political atmosphere almost guarantees that the Fourth Circuit’s ‘welcome restraint’ analysis will resurface unless this Court speaks strongly against it… A wide variety of candidates, from presidential to local specialty districts, make statements that some may find offensive to religious sensitivities.”

The Supreme Court can set things right “by clearly stating that such ‘restraint’ is neither a proper function of the judicial branch, nor an appropriate remedy for speech, regardless of how offensive or false,” says the brief.

CCP and PPLI first became involved in the case when the two groups filed an amicus brief on June 9 asking the Supreme Court to review the Fourth Circuit’s ruling. The Court agreed to hear the case on June 26.

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) is America’s largest nonprofit working solely to promote and defend First Amendment rights to free political speech, press, assembly, and petition. The Public Policy Legal Institute is a national nonprofit educational organization dedicated to protecting the right of Americans to advocate for and against public policies.

The brief can be read here. To read the Fourth Circuit’s opinion, click here.