Viveca Novak

Viveca Novak, a writer based in Washington, D.C., is a former correspondent for Time, The Wall Street Journal, and National Journal.

Recent Articles

Citizen Bopp

Wedged up against the Illinois border on the banks of the Wabash River, Terre Haute, Indiana, has seen better days. Many factories have closed, and downtown has too many vacant storefronts. But there are signs of activity: Indiana State University has grown, the federal prison still provides reliable jobs—and the ten-lawyer litigation machine that occupies the offices of attorney James Bopp Jr. at the corner of 6th and Wabash is going full tilt. Bopp is best known as the lawyer behind a case involving a 90-minute film made in 2008 attacking then–presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Bopp’s suit ultimately resulted in the landmark 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, in which the Supreme Court held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts such as the movie and its promotional ads were legitimate expressions of free speech and couldn’t be limited by campaign-finance laws. The ruling overturned key restrictions on the...

Under the Influence

Over the last decade, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent a huge amount to tilt state courts its way.

Early in 2008, supporters of Wisconsin Justice Louis Butler heard that someone was looking for mug shots of his former clients, the accused criminals whom Butler had represented as a public defender back in the 1980s. Attack ads were brewing against Butler, who hoped to hold his state supreme court seat that April in an election against a well-financed opponent. But one person from that era whom Butler's campaign never expected to see in hostile ads was defendant Reuben Lee Mitchell. Butler had lost that case, after all. Mitchell had been convicted of raping a young girl when Butler was assigned to represent him on appeal. Butler convinced the appellate court in 1987 to order a new trial on the grounds that the jury shouldn't have heard certain evidence. The prosecution, however, appealed to the state supreme court, where a majority held that though the evidence shouldn't have been admitted, "there is no reasonable possibility that the error contributed to the conviction." Mitchell...