NEW YORK — Nike is hustling to get more court play — the U.S. Supreme Court, that is.
The sportswear giant has hired two high-profile lawyers to file an appeal this fall asking the nation’s highest court to review a California Supreme Court decision that the company claims “sharply reduced the free-speech rights of businesses and other groups.”
In May, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Marc Kasky, an environmental activist who charged that Nike’s public disclaimers about working conditions in overseas factories amounted to false advertising under the state’s consumer-protection laws. Nike’s defense was that it was exercising free speech.
Enter legal eagles Laurence Tribe of Harvard University and Walter Dellinger, head of the Supreme Court practice at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, tapped for their expertise in dealing with Constitutional issues.
A Nike spokesman said Thursday the company was not surprised by the California court’s ruling to uphold its earlier decision. Nike said the ruling “effectively eliminates First Amendment protection for businesses or organizations that speak out on public issues related to their business. Because a company’s public statements about its operations might persuade more people to buy its products, the California court equated all such statements with run-of-the-mill commercial advertising. In doing so, it authorized the suppression of those public statements and the seizure of the speaker’s profits, whenever a jury deems the statements potentially incomplete or otherwise misleading.”