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Judge grants injunction for judicial candidates

January 1, 2008
For the time being, Hoosier judicial candidates can't be sanctioned for answering a questionnaire about their views because of a federal judge's decision today.

U.S. District Judge Theresa L. Springmann in Fort Wayne issued a preliminary injunction earlier this afternoon, stopping Indiana from enforcing rules that prohibit judicial candidates from responding to surveys on their views.

The 36-page order came in Torrey Bauer et. al. v. Randall T. Shepard et al., No. 3:08-CV-196-TLS. The non-profit Indiana Right to Life Committee filed the suit April 18 on behalf of Bauer, a candidate for Kosciusko Superior Court, and Marion Superior Judge David Certo, who is running for the court for the first time after being appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy last year. The judicial speech case stems from a survey the organization sent out in March requesting candidates state their views on policies and court decisions related to abortion, euthanasia, and other issues prior to the 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" since that could run the risk of violating the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct, the suit states.

In her ruling today, Judge Springmann found the plaintiffs showed that a preliminary injunction is warranted in this case.

"The Plaintiffs have demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of succeeding on the merits and that they will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not issued," she wrote. "The harm to the Plaintiffs in denying the request outweighs the harm to the Defendants in granting it."

Judge Springmann pointed out that at this stage, the plaintiffs haven't been required to prove their full case and that this injunction is merely meant to "maintain the relative positions of the parties until the case is resolved on the merits." This injunction doesn't require candidates to answer the questionnaire, but stops them from being disciplined for participating, she noted.

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 Circuit Court 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.
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