New judicial speech rights suit filed

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A federal lawsuit challenging Indiana's rules prohibiting judicial candidates from responding to a survey about their views is picking up where a similar suit left off late last year.

The nonprofit Indiana Right to Life Inc. filed a suit April 18 on behalf of Marion Superior Judge David Certo, who is running for the court for the first time after being appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels to fill a vacancy last year, and Torrey Bauer, a candidate for Kosciusko Superior Court. The case stems from a survey the organization sent March 22, 2008, requesting that candidates state their views about policies and court decisions related to abortion, euthanasia, and other related issues prior to May's primary election.

Most declined to reply to the survey, citing an advisory opinion from the Judicial Qualifications Commission warning judicial candidates against making "broad statements on disputed social and legal issues" because of the potential risk of violating the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct, the suit states.

Terre Haute attorney James Bopp Jr., lead counsel for the co-plaintiffs, notes in the suit that the state rules contradict precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court, which states that judicial candidates have a right to respond to surveys and voters should have the right to hear what they say. Caselaw on that point is Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002). The suit states that Indiana's rules and policy are being interpreted to suppress the same sort of free speech that Minnesota had tried to punish.

The suit, Torrey Bauer, et al. v. Randall T. Shepard, et al., No. 08-CV-196, filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division also asks the court to grant a motion for a temporary restraining order blocking the state from enforcing the rule. A copy of the suit and the motion for a temporary restraining order can be found through the James Madison Center for Free Speech.

This suit is similar to one dismissed by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2007; that suit also came from the Northern District, where the trial judge had ruled the "pledges" and "commitments" clauses of the state's judicial conduct code were unconstitutional. In Indiana Right to Life, et al. v. Randall T. Shepard, et al., No. 06-4333, the 7th Circuit dismissed Indiana Right to Life's complaint against the state judicial and disciplinary commissions that Canon 5A(3)(d)(i) and (ii) is unconstitutional, stating the group had no standing to bring the complaint because no candidates had come forward to challenge it and none had been disciplined for a violation of the canon.

Indiana Right to Life sent questionnaires in 2002 and 2004 to judicial candidates seeking their answers to similar questions. Few responded, 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.

Circuit Judge Terence Evans wrote in his opinion that Right to Life needed more than a "right to listen"; it must have "a cognizable injury that is causally connected to the alleged conduct and is capable of being redressed."

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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.