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Commercials freespeech nike sweatshops { June 26 2003 }

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   http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35392-2003Jun26.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35392-2003Jun26.html

Supreme Court Dismisses Case Against Nike

By ANNE GEARAN
The Associated Press
Thursday, June 26, 2003; 11:08 AM


WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a case against sneaker giant Nike Inc. and whether free speech protections extend to corporate advertising. The court said it never should have take on the dispute.

The action is not a ruling on the merits of Nike's claims, but it apparently means a California antiglobalization activist can continue a lawsuit against the company. Nike had argued that private individuals cannot use the courts to police what companies say about themselves.

The Nike case was the last announced for the current term. Six justices agreed to dismiss the case, and three said they would have ruled on it.

The court issued a one-sentence, unsigned order dismissing the case. Justice John Paul Stevens explained some of the reasons in a separate opinion. Stevens said the court did not need to delve into the complex free speech issues raised by the case now.

"This case presents novel First Amendment questions because the speech at issue represents a blending of commercial speech and debate on issues of public importance," Stevens wrote for himself and Justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen Breyer went on record saying the court could have resolved the case.

A ruling in the case had been eagerly anticipated by big business, media companies and the public relations industry. The case arose from Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike's vigorous defense against allegations that it used Third World sweatshops to manufacture its athletic products.

Nike defended wages and conditions at Asian plants, run by subcontractors, where workers make tennis shoes and athletic wear with the distinctive Nike swoosh logo.

Nike wrote letters and issued press releases and fact sheets about its overseas labor conditions. It said such statements are part of the marketplace of ideas protected by the First Amendment and that it must be free to explain itself to customers, potential customers, or anyone else.


2003 The Associated Press



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