The U.S. Supreme Court rarely votes with unanimity. So, when it decides a case unanimously, the very fact of that unanimity causes even a typically captious observer to reflexively conclude that the result was correct.

On June 13, 2011, the Supreme Court did just that — in Nevada Com’n on Ethics v Carrigan. Ah yes, there were two separate opinions (from Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito) that concurred in the result reached in Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion for the Court. Still, no one disagreed with one fundamental precept: A legislator has no First Amendment “free speech” right when he votes on a particular matter; his vote belongs to his constituency, which he exercises solely in his capacity as their representative. There is nothing new about that. The requirement that American legislators recuse themselves — Justice Scalia reminds us — actually began when Thomas Jefferson adopted such a provision for U.S. senators when he served as president of the Senate.

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