ILNews

Judicial free speech before 7th Circuit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will consider arguments Friday on whether sitting and prospective judges should be barred from responding to questionnaires or giving personal views about legal or political issues, and whether state judicial canons can be allowed to restrict that speech.

Circuit judges will hear arguments at 9:30 a.m. Central Time in Indiana Right to Life v. Shepard, et al., No. 4:04-CV-0071, which U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp in Hammond ruled on Nov. 14. Judge Sharp granted a permanent injunction against provisions of the state's Code of Judicial Conduct.

Specifically, the suit involves segments of Canon 3 and 5 that forbid judicial candidates from making "pledges or promises" of conduct in office or statements that "commit or appear to commit" candidates on issues likely to come before them.

Indiana Right to Life had sent a questionnaire to candidates for judicial office in the November 2004 election requesting that they state their views on policies and court decisions related to issues such as assisted suicide and abortion. Several candidates refused, citing advice from the Indiana Judicial Commission on Qualifications that judicial candidates could be disciplined for expressing their views in a response.

The organization later sued, naming Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard as one of 16 defendants in the case - all were members of the state's Commission on Judicial Qualifications and Disciplinary Commission.

The commissions want the 7th Circuit to reverse Judge Sharp's decision. A statement of issues from the appellant's briefs questions whether a political interest group or voter has the standing to challenge the state judicial canons, and whether under First Amendment standards a state can protect due process rights of litigants by prohibiting the judicial speech.

Arguments can viewed online here through the 7th Circuit's Web site, and appellate briefs can be accessed here.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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