Judicial Ethics on the Campaign Trail
Posted by judicialethicsforum on Monday, June, 21, 2010
The Seventh Circuit weighed in last week on three common judicial ethics rules governing campaigns. Readers may recall that the Seventh Circuit is not shy about shaking things up in this area. [See Buckley v. Ill. Jud. Inquiry Bd., 997 F.2d 224, 230 (7th Cir. 1993) (striking down announce clause well before White came along).] To misappropriate Monroe Freedman’s famous term from another context, this new opinion is the latest in the growing “trilemma” of reconciling the First Amendment, Judicial Elections, and Impartiality (including its due process element). The rules at issue this time around had prohibited three campaign practices: (1) joining a party; (2) endorsing partisan candidates; and (3) directly soliciting campaign contributions. According to the court, this is how each rule fares, respectively: (1) unconstitutional; (2) constitutional; and (3) constitutional. The full opinion, with dissent, can be found here (Siefert v. Alexander). Readers may recall that the district court in early 2009 struck down all three prohibitions under First Amendment strict scrutiny analysis.