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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Nevada Commission on Ethics
Michael A. Carrigan
Decided By 
(for the petitioner)
(for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

Nevada law requires elected officials to disqualify themselves when they are asked to vote on matters that touch on ''commitments in a private capacity.'' In 2006, a member of the Sparks City, Nevada Council, Michael A. Carrigan, disclosed that his campaign manager was a consultant to a business seeking to develop a casino, before voting its way in a land-use matter. The Nevada Commission on Ethics later ruled that the vote was improper and censured Carrigan.

The Nevada Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying it violated the First Amendment and citing the Supreme Court's decision last year in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. ''Voting by an elected public officer on public issues is protected speech under the First Amendment, '' Justice Michael Douglas wrote for the majority.


Does the First Amendment subject state restrictions on voting by elected officials to strict scrutiny?

Decision: 9 votes for Nevada Commission on Ethics, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: First Amendment

No. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court order in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia. "The Nevada Ethics in Government Law is not unconstitutionally overbroad," Scalia wrote for the unanimous court. Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a concurring opinion in which he noted: "the opinion does not, and on this record should not, consider a free speech contention that would have presented issues of considerable import, were it to have been a proper part of the case." Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito concurred in part and concurred in the judgment, writing: "I concur in the judgment, but I do not agree with the opinion of the Court insofar as it suggests that restrictions upon legislators' voting are not restrictions upon legislators' speech."

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NEVADA COMMISSION ON ETHICS v. CARRIGAN. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
NEVADA COMMISSION ON ETHICS v. CARRIGAN, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"NEVADA COMMISSION ON ETHICS v. CARRIGAN," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,