Nike, Inc. v. Kasky

PETITIONER: Nike, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Marc Kasky
LOCATION: Harris County Sheriff’s Department

DOCKET NO.: 02-575
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of California

CITATION: 539 US 654 (2003)
ARGUED: Apr 23, 2003
DECIDED: Jun 26, 2003

ADVOCATES:
Laurence H. Tribe - for the petitioners
Paul R. Hoeber - Argued the cause for the respondent
Theodore B. Olson - Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the petitioners

Facts of the case

Beginning in 1996, a number of allegations arose that Nike was mistreating and underpaying workers at foreign facilities. Nike responded to the charges in numerous ways, such as by issuing press releases. In 1998, Marc Kasky, a California resident, sued Nike for unfair and deceptive practices under California's Unfair Competition Law. Kasky alleged that Nike made "false statements and/or material omissions of fact" concerning the working conditions under which its products are manufactured. Nike filed a demurrer, contending that Kasky's suit was absolutely barred by the First Amendment. The trial court dismissed the case and the California Court of Appeal affirmed. In reversing, the California Supreme Court found that Nike's messages were commercial speech, but that the suit was at such a preliminary stage that the issue whether any false representations had been made had yet to be resolved.

Question

May a corporation participating in a public debate be subjected to liability for factual inaccuracies on the theory that its statements are commercial speech because they might affect consumers' opinions about the business as a good corporate citizen and thereby affect their purchasing decisions?

Media for Nike, Inc. v. Kasky

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 23, 2003 in Nike, Inc. v. Kasky

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 26, 2003 in Nike, Inc. v. Kasky

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the Court to announce in No. 02-575, Nike, Inc. versus Kasky.

The writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted.

Justice Stevens filed a concurring opinion in which Justice Ginsburg joined and in which Justice Souter joined as to part three; Justice Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion; Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice O'Connor joined.