High Court Leaves Limits on Judicial Speech Intact

The Supreme Court declined on Monday two requests to appeal limits on campaign speech for judicial candidates. The cases came from Wisconsin and Indiana.

Scholar Rick Hasen wrote in his Election Law blog about the high court’s action:

“The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear these cases has no precedential value. However, the Court’s decision to decline to hear them, especially given the strong First Amendment jurisprudence of this Court, will no doubt lead those supporting special judicial campaign rules in judicial elections a reason to breathe a sigh of relief.”

In Siefert v. Alexander, an appeals panel ruled that Wisconsin judicial candidates may not endorse partisan candidates for office or directly solicit campaign cash (see Gavel Grab for background). The ruling allowed judges to declare party allegiances, according to a Wisconsin State Bar article.

In Bauer v. Shepard, Indiana Right to Life Inc. unsuccessfully challenged an Indiana ethics rule effectively barring judges from telling their views about abortions (click here for Gavel Grab post.)

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit had written in the Bauer case, “Allowing judges to participate in politics would poison the reputation of the whole judiciary and seriously impair public confidence, without which the judiciary cannot function.” He added, “Preserving that confidence is a compelling interest.”

Indiana-based lawyer James Bopp, acting on behalf of some state judges, judicial candidates and an anti-abortion group, had petitioned the high court to review the decisions contained in Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rulings.

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