ILNews

Judicial free-speech cases dismissed

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, which ruled the "pledges" and "commitments" clauses of Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct were unconstitutional.

In Indiana Right to Life, et al. v. Randall T. Shepard, et al., 06-4333, the Circuit Court dismissed Indiana Right to Life's complaint against the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications and the Indiana Disciplinary Commission that Canon 5A(3)(d)(i) and (ii) is unconstitutional, stating the group had no standing to bring the complaint.

Indiana Right to Life sent questionnaires in 2002 and 2004 to judicial candidates seeking their answers to questions on topics such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide. In 2002, nine candidates answered; in 2004, eight candidates responded and only two provided substantive answers.

The six responses contained various explanations as to why the judges declined to answer the questions, but all mentioned their reasons for declining to answer were their own decisions and not influenced by potential discipline from the Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

Right to Life argues the "pledges" and "commitments" canon inhibits judicial candidates from stating their views on the issues and violates Right to Life's First Amendment right to receive and publish protected free speech.

Circuit Judge Terence Evans wrote in the opinion that in order for Right to Life to bring the complaint, they must have "a cognizable injury that is causally connected to the alleged conduct and is capable of being redressed." Right to Life claims they have the "right to listen," but there is no willing speaker nor is there a speaker who has been subjected to sanctions based on the code, so Right to Life does not have standing.

There were no judges who wanted to speak but were constrained because of the Judicial Code or who feared being disciplined, nor were any judges disciplined for a violation of the canon.
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  1. The $320,000 is the amount the school spent in litigating two lawsuits: One to release the report involving John Trimble (as noted in the story above) and one defending the discrimination lawsuit. The story above does not mention the amount spent to defend the discrimination suit, that's why the numbers don't match. Thanks for reading.

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  4. I'm currently seeing someone who has a charge of child pornography possession, he didn't know he had it because it was attached to a music video file he downloaded when he was 19/20 yrs old and fought it for years until he couldn't handle it and plead guilty of possession. He's been convicted in Illinois and now lives in Indiana. Wouldn't it be better to give them a chance to prove to the community and their families that they pose no threat? He's so young and now because he was being a kid and downloaded music at a younger age, he has to pay for it the rest of his life? It's unfair, he can't live a normal life, and has to live in fear of what people can say and do to him because of something that happened 10 years ago? No one deserves that, and no one deserves to be labeled for one mistake, he got labeled even though there was no intent to obtain and use the said content. It makes me so sad to see someone I love go through this and it makes me holds me back a lot because I don't know how people around me will accept him...second chances should be given to those under the age of 21 at least so they can be given a chance to live a normal life as a productive member of society.

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